By Paul M. Banks
When it comes to the Chicago Cubs, the "lovable losers" nickname has been outdated for quite some time. The irrelevance of that moniker has now taken on a new level, as the North-Siders are the only Chicago professional sports franchise that stands a chance of winning anything any time soon when it comes to professional Chicago sports franchises.
The Cubs are not the '27 Yankees by any means, but they did finish last season with a winning record, and they battled for a playoff spot up until the final weekend of the season. That is a lot more than you can say for the rest of the teams here in the windy city.
During my recent appearance on WGN News Now, the host asked me which local team has the best chance of competing for a championship again, any time soon.
He knew I was going to say the Cubs because it's the only way that you can answer that question right now.
Cubs: the bright and shining hope
The 2023 Cubs greatly exceeded expectations, and this eased a lot of doubts about the Ricketts rebuilding plan and the ability of Jed Hoyer to succeed independently of Theo Epstein. The Cody Bellinger signing went about as well as possible, and the addition of Dansby Swanson was very astute.
Many Cubs fans were pleasantly surprised to see their favorite team in a pennant race this fall, as they truly believed that it was not going to happen again for a very long time.
But it's the NL Central, as long you're competent you will be a division title contender. This plan works, especially in times like these when the St. Louis Cardinals are retooling. Once you're in the dance, come October, crazy things can happen.
If Hoyer finds a way to replace Belli and shore up the bullpen this winter, another NLCS may not be far away.
Current Status: Very likely to contend for the NL Central title, but must get moving soon on their offseason revamp. They will have plenty of new holes to fill.
White Sox: second-worst run organization in town
Chicago's second baseball team has never been more secondary than now. With Dan Snyder gone, Jerry Reinsdorf might just be the worst owner in all of sports. This ballclub will go nowhere as long as he's in charge. He hired Tony La Russa about 20 years too late, and mostly as a makeup call for firing him 35 years ago.
That move destroyed their competitive window, which ended as a three-year stretch that produced zero postseason series victories. In recent years, they have even, literally, cancelled their fan festival for fear of fan backlash.
Current Status: Coming off a 101-loss season that began with a 7-21 start. Thus far, the offseason has only provided more reason for fan angst. There is no end to the dregs in sight.
Bears: worst-run organization in all of sports?
It's pretty hard to be an NFL franchise and to have never had an elite passer. In a quarterback-driven league, Chicago is where the careers of quarterbacks go to die. It's an organization where the people in place are in way over their heads on all levels.
But don't take my word for it, former tight end Martellus Bennett, always known to have something insightful to say, made some tweets (I'm sorry, "postings on X") that said it all.
"Bears ownership lacks futurism," Bennett tweeted. "The entire business model is built on selling the past. The 85 Bears. They're always trying to recreate that old product instead of buying into and producing a new product.
"Their audience is a legacy audience and they're afraid of changing because they don't want to lose out on those legacy fans that make them money. Nostalgia is the greatest marketing tool. I'd be interested in seeing fan growth of the Bears."
Those are just two of the tweets in his seven-tweet thread, which you can see the rest of here.
Maybe there is hope for the Bears, if/when they get to Arlington Heights, but only if they can follow the lead of the Los Angeles NFL teams. It means taking land where a horse racing track once stood and building the following: a state-of-the-art stadium, high-end mixed-use real estate developments that include shopping, bars, restaurants, residences, hotels.....uhm, yeah, good luck getting a business this inept to accomplish something like this.
Current Status: last place in the NFC North, still in the mix to end up with the first overall pick in the next draft, a "status" they earned last season.
Chicago Bulls: fans keep showing up, so they just don't care about winning
It was thought that once the Bulls finally exorcised the GarPax (i.e. removing ex-GMs Gar Forman and John Paxson from any personnel decisions), things would finally turn around. Then they brought in Arturas Karnišovas to be an NBA answer to the Sporting Director role that we often see at top soccer clubs in Europe.
Nothing changed, as this franchise hasn't won a playoff series since 2015, and hasn't reached the conference finals since 2011. Considering how easy it is to make the playoffs in the NBA, this kind of futility is very hard to pull off.
Karnišovas is well aware of his dismal state:
“We see what everyone is seeing and are just as frustrated. We’re disappointed, but I’m not running from it. It’s my responsibility.”
Yet, despite all the losing and no cause for optimism, the Bulls led the NBA in attendance last season, the season before that, and for most of the seasons in recent memory. If you ran a business, and all your inventory moved, regardless of the quality of your product, how much would you truly care about trying to improve it?
Also, even since His Airness Michael Jordan left, and the dynasty days dissipated, this franchise just cannot sign a true star free agent, even if the lives of the front office depended on it.
Current Status: 6-14 on the season, third from last in the Eastern Conference, FAR outside the playoff picture.
Chicago Blackhawks: scandal-plagued again as rebuild starts
The first Stanley Cup title, won in 2010, is now tainted by the scandal involving the team's former video coach, Brad Aldrich. The organization is being sued for alleged sexual abuse and harassment of a former player during that specific season. The suit goes on to also claim that the Blackhawks covered up the player's complaint and put "Stanley Cup Championship aspirations ahead of the welfare of its players."'
This suit was filed in Cook County last month. The Hawks went on to win the Stanley Cup again in 2013 and 2015 but then went into a sharp decline. All of the core pieces from those Cup teams are now gone, and the team now rebuilds around #1 overall draft pick and super-prospect Conor Bedard.
Unfortunately, there is a new scandal within the team and it centers around the just-jettisoned Corey Perry, who publicly denied the rumors that he had a relationship with the mother of Bedard. They're just a total mess both on and off the ice.
Current Status: 7-14-0, dead last in the central division, tied for last in the Western Conference
Chicago Fire FC: if they disappeared, how many would even notice?
A local columnist for one of the major newspapers wrote a piece calling for their dissolution. And it did not seem like a hot take. 'Nuff said!
Current Status: In a league where almost everybody makes the playoffs, they missed out for the sixth straight year. They haven't even won a single postgame game in 14 years.
Paul M. Banks is the Founder and Publisher of TheSportsBank.net. He is also the author of "No, I Can't Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Sports Media" and "Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America".