CHICAGO BULLS & BLACKHAWKS
I've always been all things Chicago. It's the place of my birth and my family roots are there. I feel at home in the city. So when basketball season and hockey season came around, the teams I followed were the Bulls and the Blackhawks. The Bulls of my youth weren't very good, but I liked Artis Gilmore and his massive afro. The Blackhawks had a really cool logo, and I knew all about Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito.
While I was at Purdue in the mid-1980s, I had the opportunity to take in several Bulls and Blackhawk games at the old Chicago Stadium, the "Madhouse on Madison." I fell in love with that old arena. It was kind of a dump, but it had character, the same way it was at the old Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field before it was remodeled. THen Michael Jordan arrived, and we could no longer find, or afford, tickets to games. THe new United Center replaced Chicago Stadium, and it didn't have teh same feel. We enjoyed the dynastic ride of the Jordan's Bulls, followed by the more recent championship runs of the Blackhawks.
The Bulls haven't been relevant since, and I've somewhat split my NBA allegiances and have a soft spot for the Pacers, who always seem to be the try-hard franchise since Reggie Miller lifted the team and the city. I've probably seen more Pacers games in the last 20 years than Bulls' games. I still follow the Blackhawks and keep the faith that they can get one more run out of Toews and Kane.
THis is all about the arena, old Chicago Stadium.
When we were going to games there, we sometimes could get tickets in the lower arena, and got to see Jordan as a rookie. For Blackhawks games, we found ourselves most times in the upper arena. In close games, the old stadium really got rocking — literally. You could almost feel the stands shaking and wondered if they coud hold up or come crashing down. The old pipe organ (played by the great Nancy Faust) was built into the arena and along with the massive horn that boomed on home goals, it gave the place a whole different vibe. The other tradition that started at that time was the crowd cheering through the singing of the National Anthem. Wayne Messmer, who sang a terrific, booming rendition, got the whole place worked up into a frenzy that lasted thoughout the contest.