Column: Chicago teams fill dead zone
By Mike Slodki
For being the shortest month, February has a way of stretching out as long as possible.
The NFL season is off until September, MLB doesnâ€™t hit both sides of town until April, and March Madness comes who-knows-when. What is a sports fan to do around here, especially with Kaneland winter sports coming to a halt soon?
Pro sports teams do go some of the way in filling the void, with the Hawks impressing sell-out crowds like they did the glory days and the Bulls looking to trade Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, and maybe some Elburn basketball kids if theyâ€™re willing.
When I watch TV during this month, I think back to what could have been on. Namely some in-your-face with a helmet-cam football.
The XFL kicked off eight years ago this month, and then was kicked out of the football landscape almost as quickly, but weâ€™ll always have the Chicago Enforcers-L.A. Xtreme rivalry. Iâ€™ll vouch that the Enforcers were the best team to play at Soldier Field from Feb.-April 2001. Rules like no fair catches, or extra points, and cool nicknames on the back of jerseys made for nice quirks, but the ratings tanked after one week. Thus, we can only dream how the black-and-purple clad Enforcers would have fared on their way to the Million Dollar Game.
One former Enforcer found his way back to the gridiron: QB Tim Lester calls the shots as head coach of Elmhurst College.
Another football team, the Rush, had an ArenaBowl title under its belt, but with the AFL suspending operations for 2009, the future is cloudy at best.
Before the Rush hit Rosemont in 2001, its predecessor was the Bruisers, one of the charter members of the AFL in 1987. With former Duke QB Ben Bennett and current New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton leading the charge, the Bruisers made the then-Rosemont Horizon their home and made it to ArenaBowl II in 1988 before succumbing to the hated Detroit Drive. The last season for the indoor outfit was 1989.
Before the Chicago Fire hit Soldier Field in the late-90s, and way after the devastating Chicago Fire of the early 1870s, the Chicago Fire of the World Football League hit the landscape in 1974 and were swept out of town, literally, by the Chicago Winds. The Winds were shelved after just five games and the league bottomed out after financial trouble before the â€˜75 season ended, much like this column has bottomed out before I can rattle off more dead teams. Iâ€™ll have more to come next week.
Mike Slodki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.