Stunned silence……that’s all that remained in the wonderful, grand, beautiful city of Chicago this morning. Another first round exit, Chicagoans and non-Chicagoans comparing the swift elimination to the Chicago Cubs post-season performances for the past two seasons. October 2, 2009 will be a maelstrom in the history of Chicago sports. Pundits will use it as fodder for endless metaphors to authors penning excruciating, unimaginative fairy tales of how Chicago will always be the “Second City”. But this time, it wasn’t even second today, at least in the eyes of the voting International Olympic Committee members.
The eyes of the world were on four cities today, all bidding for the chance to host the 2016 Olympics.
Rio de Janeiro.
Heavy hitters were brought out by each city’s bid team. Heads of states, kings, queens and prime ministers converged on the somewhat sleepy little Danish haven called Copenhagen. Chicago came out swinging with high profile Chicago natives President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey. The final presentations were made, the last remaining pleas for votes from the IOC members were conducted, the votes were cast.
Chicago didn’t survive the first round, not even surpassing the dark horse Tokyo bid, long considered the longest of long shots.
The day started unseasonably cold, rainy and gloomy, but a burst of sunshine broke through an hour before the vote began. Was it a sign that it was going to be Chicago’s day? It was a sign that reminded me about one of the final scenes of the movie “A Perfect Storm”. In the movie, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and crew risked everything, including their lives, to make it through a convergence of tropical storms and hurricanes to bring their catch to market and cash in on their swollen stash of fish. They fought dramatically high sea swells, flooding, voracious winds, their little fishing boat being tossed like a children’s toy.
At the point of their greatest exasperation, they crossed into the eye of the storm and for a moment, the sun appeared and the seas became calm. For a moment, the expressions on their faces led them to believe that through all their trials and tribulations, they had a chance……only Clooney knew better. He said the sea would not let them escape. Once again, the seas, winds, waves picked up with violent fury until one final giant wave sent their boat capsizing to the bottom of the ocean with all hands aboard. This is the summation of Chicago 2016 — A Candidate City.
The defining scene for that tragic movie is what immediately came to mind upon hearing the results of the first-round vote….the sun went away, the dark ran clouds reappeared and rain began falling. A steady, miserable, cold rain. Video from Copenhagen was broadcast mightily across all local news stations as the next round of voting continued. Down to Rio de Janeiro and Madrid, everyone in Chicago knew where it was going. Did anybody in Chicago care anymore?
The announcement was finally made and it was triumphant: Rio De Janeiro will be the 2016 Olympic host nation.
The sun was shining over 100,000 Brazilians who were partying like it was Carnival when the announcement was made. Chicagoans were forced to retreat to a Chicago Cubs-Arizona Diamondbacks game as the stunned local news stations brought in nearly everyone with any knowledge of failed Olympic bids past speculated on what went wrong for Chicago.
As the rain falls, the futile, wait until next year Cubs gave up 3 runs in the first inning and 4 more a few innings later. The game is now 8-0 Diamondbacks in the 6th inning of a meaningless season ending series. The soaked fans at Wrigley Field have yet another event in which to cry in their soggy cup of Old Style beer. Baseball can’t end soon enough for either side of town. The Cubs have second place sewed up, why keep playing now? The Chicago White Sox want to stick it to Detroit and will use Jake Peavy to do it. It doesn’t matter anymore where they end up in the standings, they know it’s not in first.
What’s next for Chicago? Chicago is a city that knows how to handle disappointment. The people of Chicago, especially sports fans, are resilient. Much more resilient than any sports city in the United States. The people of Chicago are passionate about their sports, win or lose. And they are loyal to a fault. The disappointment of not winning the bid to host the XXXI Games of the Olympiad will pass, just like the disappointments of other Chicago sports teams. What remains is the heart, soul, passion, and eternal optimism of each individual who lives, breathes, and understands the landscape of Chicago sports.
The lessons of deep seeded appreciation, endless passion and undying loyalty aren’t earned by winning everything that comes our way. It’s earned by extending our deep seeded pride to those that choose to compete on behalf of our beloved city, by always giving our very best effort, by enduring, by not taking for granted that our destiny is to always come out on top.
Being a Chicagoan is like being Notre Dame’s walk-on football player Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, or the exhausted, injured marathon runner whose father helped him cross the finish line. It’s like the autistic high school basketball player that scored 20 points in 3 minutes of a basketball game that had little meaning except for those who really understood the significance of the event. Or it’s like the girl who tries out and makes the freshmen boys football team as the team’s place kicker, facing constant ridicule and teasing from her peers, and yet does it because of her unbridled love of competition.
What’s next for Chicago, you might ask? What’s next is what’s always next for Chicago. It will pick itself back up on its feet, brush itself off, and try yet again. Because that’s how we roll in Chicago…..