Introduction to Chicago Sports

You can't talk about Chicago for long without hearing the name of at least one of its storied sports legends: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Walter "Sweetness" Payton, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Ernie Banks, "Slammin'" Sammy Sosa, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Sports fandom runs through the city's veins, win or lose. One of the best ways to experience the true spirit of Chicago is to join its fiercely loyal fans at a game.

Chicago Bears

Even people who don't know the gridiron from a nine iron are familiar with "Da Bears," as immortalized in the famous Saturday Night Live sketch. Chicago's hard-fought, smash-mouth brand of football has made the Monsters of the Midway the winningest franchise in NFL history; they won their 700th game in 2010. The team made it to the Super Bowl in 2006, eventually losing to the Colts, but has not fared particularly well in the nearly decade since, and in 2015 overhauled its coaching and management staff.

Where They Play: Soldier Field, 1410 South Museum Campus Dr., Near South Side.

Season: August–December

How to Buy Tickets: Ticketmaster 312/559–1212

Most Notable Players: Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Sid Luckman, Bronko Nagurski, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers

Past Highlights: Jim McMahon's "statement" headbands and eventual Hall of Famer Richard Dent's stellar play helped the team shuffle right up to the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XX.

Chicago Bulls

Although the days of Air Jordan, three-peats, and Dennis Rodman in wedding dresses may be firmly in the rearview mirror, the legacy established by winning six championships in eight years has sustained the team's popularity, even through the leaner years that followed. Now, a new squad of fresh faces, led by consensus 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, is looking to put its stamp on the next Bulls dynasty. While Rose missed the entire 2012–13 season due to an injury, the team still made the Eastern Conference Finals. They lost to the Miami Heat. Rose then missed most of the 2013–14 season with another injury, but has since roared back to form, and but six consecutive years of playoff appearances indicate that the Bulls are back in the game for good.

Where They Play: United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., Near West Side.

Season: October–April

How to Buy Tickets: Ticket office 312/455–4000

Most Notable Players: Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc

Past Highlights: The Bulls owned the 1990s, becoming the only team in NBA history to win more than 70 games in a season in 1995–96 with an incredible 72–10 record.

Chicago Cubs

Cubbies fans are certainly loyal, sticking by their "boys in blue" for more than 100 championship-free years. Some blame the record losing streak on a curse made by Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, after he and his ticket-holding goat were booted from Wrigley during Game 4 of the 1945 Cubs–Tigers World Series. The ensuing years have had their share of goats; but with new ownership, a new manager in Joe Maddon, and several promising young players, hope springs eternal for the Lovable Losers.

Where They Play: Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison St., Lakeview.

Season: April–September

How to Buy Tickets: Ticket office 773/404–2827

Most Notable Players: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa

Past Highlights: "Slammin'" Sammy Sosa played a major role in reawakening Americans' interest in baseball in 1998 as he battled Mark McGwire in a historic chase for the home-run record, finishing with 66 home runs during the height of the steroid era.

Chicago White Sox

The South Side favorites won the World Series in 2005, sweeping the Astros in four games. Since then, though, the Sox have made the playoffs only once, when they won the AL Central in 2008. In 2011 manager Ozzie Guillen was replaced by former third baseman Robin Ventura, but so far performance has been uneven. Despite recent struggles, the Sox's young squad is expected to be in contention for the title sooner rather than later.

Where They Play: U.S. Cellular Field, 333 W. 35th St., South Side.

Season: April–September

How to Buy Tickets: Ticket office 312/674–1000

Most Notable Players: "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Harold Baines, Frank Thomas

Past Highlights: In July 2009 Mark Buehrle, a veteran pitcher who has spent his entire career with the White Sox, notched the second perfect game in the team's history, earning him a congratulatory phone call from President Obama (an avowed Sox fan).

Chicago Blackhawks

Though the Hawks have led the NHL in attendance for the last three seasons, they too were hit by the seemingly citywide championship drought, having failed to win a Stanley Cup since 1961. But that's all changed: seven straight years in the playoffs have seen three championships, with the Cup coming back to the Windy City in 2010, 2013, and 2015. Owner Rocky Wirtz, the son of much-maligned owner William "Dollar Bill" Wirtz, deserves credit for changing ownership policies to attract elite talent—and fans—back to the United Center.

Where They Play: United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., Near West Side.

Season: October–April

How to Buy Tickets: Ticket office 800/745–3000

Most Notable Players: Stan Mikita, Pierre Pilote, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Tony Esposito

Past Highlights: The Hawks brought the Cup home to Chicago in 2010 on a thrilling sudden-death overtime goal by Patrick Kane to beat the Flyers in Game 6. Even the Chicago Picasso donned a hockey mask in celebration.

Chicago Sky

The fledgling WNBA team's 2006 debut ended in last place in the Eastern Conference, but they've improved steadily since then with the help of standout center Sylvia Fowles. The Sky made the playoffs for the first time in 2013 and won it all in 2014, joining the ranks of Chicago teams with championships just eight years after their founding. The season runs from June to September at the Allstate Arena, outside Chicago in Rosemont. Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim Road, Rosemont 866/759–9622

Chicago Fire

The Chicago Fire S.C. (Soccer Club) ended its first season in 1998 by taking home the MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup. They were also champs in 2000, 2003, and 2006. Though the team has struggled at home since moving from Soldier Field to their own stadium, Toyota Park, in 2006, they have a distinctive and strong fan base and traditions. The Fire play from April to October. Toyota Park, 7300 W. 71st Street, Bridgeview, 888/657–3473

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