Doug Bruno should have been dismayed to see me walk into the gym.
All right, the DePaul women's basketball coach doesn't actually know who I am. But if he did, my arrival just before tipoff against number-three-ranked UConn a couple weeks ago—wearing Blue Demon royal and scarlet no less—could only have inspired a sense of doom. As in, with fans like this, who needs opponents?
I only cheer for losers.
It's not something I set out to do, though I do it well. The truth is that I'd really like to root for a winner—and I mean a winner. One would be nice.
I blame my father for this situation. He had two faults as a parent: he taught me to be loyal, and he loves the Cubs. I developed similar values.
Suffice to say, I was at the Bartman game. Even worse, I've been at dozens of others.
But enough about the Cubs—no need to touch that matter until a few months from now, when they're squaring off with my second-favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, in the 2012 World Series. I can almost see it now . . .
Actually, I can't. The Royals have a young team that should be getting better but probably won't. The Cubs still have Alfonso Soriano.
As a wise man once said: enough about the Cubs.
Unfortunately, my allegiance to losers doesn't end with baseball, since I went to college at Northwestern. Shocking as it may seem, my reasons had nothing to do with athletics. Still, I am true to my school, though the football team hasn't won a bowl game since 1945 and the basketball team has never made the NCAA tournament.
It's looked at times like this could be a breakout year for NU in hoops, such as when the Cats upset sixth-ranked Michigan State a few weeks ago. Riding the momentum from that huge win, they dropped their next three games.
On the bright side, I cheer for the Bears, and sometimes they don't lose to Green Bay. I also favor the Bulls. But while I admire the artistry of Derrick Rose, I generally find the NBA snooze inducing until playoff time. Believe me, Bulls fans, it's better this way.
When the college basketball season started this year I thought I'd follow one of the great local teams that doesn't get all the attention it deserves—the DePaul women's squad. A perennial force in the Big East conference, the Demons made the NCAA Sweet 16 a year ago and started this season ranked 19th in the country.
All was going according to plan as Coach Bruno's team opened the season 14-2. So of course in December, as I really started to get into it, a succession of key players got hurt. The biggest setback came when All-America candidate Keisha Hampton had to undergo knee surgery, ending her senior season.
Yet Bruno is a fine coach, and the Demons were 15-4 and ranked number 21 when they hosted powerhouse UConn on January 21. The gym was sold out, the band was rocking, the fans were clad in blue and ready to cheer their resilient squad to a spirited upset.
And then, with less than a minute before game time, I showed up.
The Demons lost 88 to 44. Sorry, Coach Bruno.
When they lost again three days later, I decided it was time to do the right thing and focus on watching Northwestern lose. The gods looked kindly upon this decision. DePaul returned home and blew out 12th-ranked Louisville by 25 points.
I would say "Go Demons!," but it's probably not a good idea.
While we're on the subject of basketball, there is some truly good news: last month Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District announced that they're going to spend $25 million renovating a hundred outdoor basketball courts by August. Overseeing the effort will be former Bulls and University of Iowa guard B.J. Armstrong.
I may cheer for losers (and let's not even talk about what happens when I start rooting for someone in politics), but at least I usually have the good sense not to get too worked up over press releases until they've turned into something concrete—in this case, something literally concrete.
Even so, this is promising, especially considering it's not necessarily an expedient thing to do. Outdoor hoops are often blamed for gangs, drugs, and violence in neighborhoods grappling with economic and racial change, and many politicians find it advantageous to pander. It's refreshing to hear some of the guys in charge declare that the city needs places to play.