Hard Time: What Happens in 14 Years

To give you an idea of how long Rod Blagojevich’s 14-year sentence will be, and how much the world will have changed by the time he gets out, Ward Room takes you on a journey back to the world of 1998.

  • Only salesmen, contractors and physicians had cell phones, which they carried in holsters on their belts.
  • Cell phones didn’t take photographs or surf the Internet; they made phone calls. If you wanted a baseball score, you had to watch the ESPN crawl or log on to the Internet. As a result, people didn't walk around staring at small hand-held devices.
  • You logged on to the Internet through your phone line and heard the dial-up tone.
  • Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest did not exist.
  • At 7-Eleven, everyone paid in cash.
  • A news story wasn’t considered “out there” until it appeared on paper.
  • Barack Obama was a first-term state senator; Rod Blagojevich was a first-term congressman.
  • The #1 song was “Getting Jiggy Wit It,” by Will Smith.
  • Seinfeld was the #1 show on television. Reality TV did not exist.
  • If you saw a suit with narrow lapels, you were probably watching a Dragnet re-run. 
  • If you saw a skinny tie, you were probably watching a Tommy Tutone video on VH1.
  • Kevin Costner got top billing.
  • Tracy Morgan didn’t play an actor on a late-night sketch comedy show, he was an actor on a late-night sketch comedy show.
  • Your friends returned phone calls by calling you back, not by texting you.
  • Smoking in bars was legal.
  • Michael Jordan played for the Bulls.
  • Caller ID cost $5.95 a month.
  • Steve Harvey wore a hairpiece.
  • Starbucks was considered a sign of gentrification.
  • Gentrification had only reached as far west as Wicker Park. Humboldt Park and Logan Square were the barrio.
  • Gentrification, not foreclosure, was the most pressing real estate issue.
  • People thought of their condominiums as investments, expecting to double their money in five years.
  • The Chicago Reader came in four sections, and young women in Lake View referred to it as "my Bible."
  • GeoCities!
  • It was cool to wear a baseball cap backwards, instead of forward, with the sticker showing.
  • Portable music players required cassettes or compact discs.
  • WXRT played the Dave Matthews Band, the Beatles, John Prine, Patti Smith, the Rolling Stones, R.E.M., the Clash and The Smashing Pumpkins.
  • (O.K., some things haven’t changed.)

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President, is available on Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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