Amazing how much in Chicago sports has changed since 2009 – Chicago Tribune
The byline on the story you’re reading last appeared in these pages in October 2009, before the Yankees-Phillies World Series. The odds of it ever appearing here again weren’t good at the time, but if a reality-show tycoon can be elected president, Northwestern can make the NCAA tournament and the Cubs can win the World Series, who is to doubt the existence of miracles?
Said byline ran above a story suggesting Yankees skipper Joe Girardi always would be welcome in Chicago, his Peoria background, Northwestern pedigree and two terms of Cubs service offsetting his ties to the dreaded House of Steinbrenner. But Joe was not coming to Chicago to manage the Cubs any time soon, despite the entreaties of Mr. Wanna-Be Cub David Kaplan.
Besides, Lou Piniella was still 10 months out from his Cubs walkabout, which opened the door to Mike Quade, who ranks behind only Milton Bradley as the worst mistake of the Jim Hendry era.
Yep, Jim Hendry. Theo Epstein was not even a gleam in Tom Ricketts’ eye in October 2009.
Jay Cutler was here then, six weeks into his first Bears season, with more certainty than speculation greeting the notion of Cutler as the long-sought answer to the team’s quest for a franchise quarterback. Numbers can make a case for him as best Bears QB ever, but given the team’s bleak history at the position, that’s like recognizing the best shortstop to come out of Greenland. Moreover, Cutler as best-ever is a tough sell to those who tired of his slouchy, pouty, I’m-so-put-upon-ness after maybe eight games, no matter what the numbers say.
The numbers also say he endured three general managers, three head coaches and 33 or so offensive coordinators during his mediocre run here, which may have been slightly confusing. No matter; he’s now someone else’s enigma, or will be. The best thing successor Mike Glennon has going for him, besides $18.5 million guaranteed, is that he’s not Jay Cutler.
He’s not Derrick Rose, either, though if he had been here in 2009, Glennon might have wished he were. Didn’t we all? Rose was coming off a Rookie of the Year debut season with the Bulls and was one year out from becoming the NBA’s youngest MVP ever at 22. The “from Chicago!” pregame introduction was a gimmick, but it also was an affirmation of hometown pride in a local kid who had escaped a scary environment and done well for himself.
What happened? First the bad knees, then some badly misguided statements. Then the sordid allegations of sexual misconduct, which he beat in civil court, followed by more clueless, goofy pronouncements. Meanwhile, the medical experts on talk radio were fueling the perception that Rose was a malingerer. Thus the enduring image of D-Rose is not his tearful acknowledgment of his mother during his MVP speech, but his nattily attired presence as a bench spectator while Nate Robinson was leaving his lunch in a trash can as the short-handed Bulls gutted out a victory over the Nets in a seven-game playoff series in 2013.
Rose could have owned Chicago if the same care that went into protecting him from the streets had gone into his personal development. Into saving him from himself, you might say. Instead, Chicago turned on him with a vengeance not seen since Sammy Sosa cut out early on the last day of work in 2004. We usually wait till our young grow old before we eat them.
Ozzie Guillen and Ken Williams might have eaten each other if left in a room together about five years ago, but their relationship was outwardly civil in 2009. The Blackhawks’ ascension was underway, with the first Cup hoist on the agenda 10 months hence. The two Cups that would follow suggest there was lots more to the Rocky Wirtz-John McDonough rebuild than televised home games and an olive branch to franchise icons. These things usually take time, but the speed of the Hawks’ transformation was as remarkable as the totality of it.
Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Pierce and Minnie Minoso have passed from our embrace since 2009, as have Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer and Gordie Howe … and Tiger Woods’ career. The NBA’s obsession with triple-doubles is a recent fad; LeBron James led the league with four in 2009-10, twice as many as runner-up Rajon Rondo.
WAR, UZR, BABIP: There’s a new language of baseball I’ll have to learn if I’m to resume typing about it. CTE, a lethal byproduct of football, boxing and quite possibly hockey, is a much more ominous acronym. Little was known and not much written of it in 2009, but a sobering lead on the 2002 obituary on one of CTE’s earliest known victims hinted at what was ahead: “Mike Webster,” it said, “died of football.”
A scary game, then as now. And now we know it.
Dan McGrath is a former Chicago Tribune associate managing editor for sports and senior writer.
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