In Richard M. Daley’s 22 years as mayor, Chicago sports teams have won a World Series, a Stanley Cup, and six NBA Finals. The one title he’s not going to get, thanks to the Bears’ 21-14 loss to the Packers on Sunday, is a Super Bowl.
Harold Washington will remain the only Chicago mayor to celebrate a Super Bowl. According to Washington’s corporation counsel, Judson Miner, the ’85 Bears taught the mayor how important sports were to Chicagoans, and may have contributed to keeping the White Sox here.
Washington took part in the Super Bowl festivities by posing with the Fridgettes -- William “Refrigerator” Perry’s hefty cheering squad -- and flying down to New Orleans for the game.
At the time, the White Sox were threatening to move to Florida if they didn’t get a new stadium. Washington’s initial attitude was “go ahead.” But after seeing how the Bears uplifted his divided city -- Chicago was still in the depths of Council Wars -- the mayor changed his mind.
“All the teams were threatening to move to the suburbs, and his initial reaction was ‘Let ’em go. We’re not going to spend a penny on them,’” Miner once recalled to me. “Right after the Super Bowl, he called me in and said, ‘I want you to have a meeting with the state folk about the financing on the stadium. I want you to go.’ I said, ‘Gosh, this is a dramatic change.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you, it never occurred to me to spend a penny on this stuff, but what has become so clear to me’ -- and he was a big Sox fan -- ‘is that there’s an incredibly large segment of the city whose lives rise and fall on these teams, and with the Super Bowl, the spirits were just so high, and it would destroy these people if these teams left.’”
A few months after Washington died, the legislature voted funding for a new Comiskey Park. Since then, the Bulls and the Blackhawks have moved from Chicago Stadium to the United Center, and the Bears modernized Soldier Field.
Even though Daley didn’t win a Super Bowl, you could argue that the Bulls’ six NBA titles were the most important championships Chicago has ever won. Of the four major sports, basketball has the largest international following. In the 1990s, Michael Jordan finally displaced Al Capone as the world’s most famous Chicagoan. Instead of hearing “rat-tat-tat” when they revealed their hometown to foreigners, Chicagoans heard “Cheecago Bulls.” The Bulls contributed to Chicago’s rise as a global city. When Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics, Jordan appeared in a promotional video.
Mike Ditka wasn’t asked.
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Published at 11:39 AM CST on Jan 24, 2011