If you bet the Chicago trifecta on Sunday — Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks lose — it was your lucky day.
Not only did our teams all go down on the same bitterly cold day, while also setting new standards for unwatchability, they ran their combined losing streak to 18 games.
If you’re keeping score at home, the Bears and Hawks each have seven straight losses and the Bulls streak stands at four.
And it could be a while before any of our down-and-out teams snaps the streak.
The Bulls, who gave up 150 points in regulation Sunday for the first time since 1982 in a lethargic loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, have three road games in four days before Christmas. They’ve lost seven of nine, and NBC Sports Chicago analyst Stacey King called them out during Sunday’s telecast for excessive loitering on defense. No hot sauce for these guys.
The Hawks, who have one win in their last 16 games, host the Nashville Predators on Wednesday and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. That’s two teams the Hawks normally could compete with, even as bad as they’ve been. But they haven’t had a lead in 420 minutes over their seven straight losses and have yielded the first goal in 25 of 30 games this season.
The Bears, one defeat shy of tying the franchise record for consecutive losses after falling to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, head into their Christmas Eve game against the Buffalo Bills as nine-point underdogs. What are their chances? Bleak is putting it mildly.
So will we be looking at 24 in a row on Christmas Day?
Can a bad sports year get any worse?
Let’s look at the week ahead and see if there’s any chance of a “W” before Santa gets to town.
If any of the three has a shot this week it’s the Bulls, who have shown at times they’re capable of playing solid basketball. They scored a franchise-record 82 first-half points in a 144-115 romp over the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 10 at the United Center and nearly pulled out an overtime win in Atlanta two days later before a buzzer-beater by AJ Griffin on an inbounds pass into the post.
The Bulls play the Hawks again Wednesday in the second of a back-to-back after Tuesday’s game in Miami. They’ll end the week at Madison Square Garden on Friday against a New York Knicks team that beat them in back-to-back games last week at the UC.
Fans are getting antsy. A little more than six minutes remained in Friday night’s loss to the Knicks when one loud fan sitting behind the basket began yelling for Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to do something, then started a “Sell the team” chant that quickly fizzled out.
It was at least the second time this year Reinsdorf has been implored to sell one of his teams. White Sox fans held up a sign at Guaranteed Rate Field this summer sending the same message.
The Bulls seemingly are emulating the Sox, teasing fans with the potential of a playoff team only to falter out of the gate and rationalize it’s a long season while they try to climb out of the hole. The Sox made no major moves at the trade deadline and finished .500 and out of the playoffs.
Will the Bulls follow the same script?
What else is there to say about a team that Minnesota Star Tribune columnist La Velle E. Neal III last week referred to as the “Blah-hawks”?
At least the Hawks are living down to preseason expectations instead of getting anyone’s hopes up.
The low point may have come Nov. 23 in Dallas, when the Hawks gave up five goals to the Stars in the final 10 minutes, turning a 4-1 lead into a 6-4 loss. Before the next game, coach Luke Richardson said he wasn’t concerned about a residual effect after the mind-numbing loss.
“The best thing is you don’t have to wait too long,” Richardson said. “In football you’ve got to wait a whole week on it. Here at least you get a chance to get out and get back and get some redemption and get playing and get the nerves out and stop thinking about the last game.”
The Hawks lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Montreal Canadians, then lost two more games to extend their streak to eight before ending it in New York against the Rangers. But since then they’ve been outscored 36-7 in their seven consecutive losses, culminating in Sunday’s 7-1 loss to the Rangers at the United Center.
They’re 1-14-1 over their last 16 games and 3-17-4 in the last 24, while the chance of them scoring first is as remote as the chance of them winning.
“I don’t think anyone comes out and doesn’t try to score right off the bat, right?” center Andreas Athanasiou said after the loss to the Canadiens. “We’re all trying, so it’s kind of just bearing down and maybe keeping it a little simpler at the start of the game.”
If the Hawks can’t beat a mediocre Predators team Wednesday on the West Side, they have a decent chance of ending the streak Friday at home against the Blue Jackets, who are only slightly better with 22 points.
If you’re in search of moral victories, the Bears have been Chicago’s most successful team this year.
They do just enough most weeks to lose, and Justin Fields makes one or two unbelievable runs every game to make everyone feel better about the future.
It was a similar story in 1978, when the Bears set a franchise record with their eighth straight loss in a 17-14 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, in spite of Walter Payton’s efforts. Payton had only five rushes for 16 yards in the first half before coach Neill Armstrong woke up and finally called Payton’s number in the second half.
Payton finished with 127 yards, putting him at 1,019 for the season. “They finally figured out where their bread is buttered,” Vikings coach Bud Grant said.
Like Fields, Payton was a one-man show who helped Bears management by making fans overlook the pathetic cast surrounding him.
“His 19-yard run for his second touchdown was the kind of magnificent effort that keeps the ticket lines long,” the Tribune’s Don Pierson wrote that day. “Certainly not much else does.”
Fields has been a lot of fun to watch, but losing is losing and the Bears show no signs of being able to avoid tying the franchise record against the Bills, a potential Super Bowl team. That would mean they could set a new mark of nine straight losses on New Year’s Day against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
Might as well start 2023 on a new low.
That’s the Chicago Way.
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