EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is an important part of something bigger, something special, known as “The ChicagoSide Sports Almanac of Significance, Vol. 1,” which offers you, dear reader, a content series as-yet unavailable on the Web: A unchallengeable compendium of iron-clad analyses of Chicago sports topics of consequence, e.g. Top 25 Chicago Sports Legends, Best Chicago Team Ever, Best Facial Hair. For a full index of all 15 stories, click here.
Bill Swerski’s Superfans: Da Best
Da Bulls, Da Bears and Da Fans were almost too good to be true. Former Saturday Night Live writer and Chicago native Robert Smigel penned the now-legendary band of Chicago superfans based on his experience living in Chicago, and it’s no small coincidence that sports mania distinguished itself in the mind of Smigel. Seems obvious enough, but it’s the former appearance of Cheers alum George Wendt that sold everyone on the idea that these guys existed in a downtown tavern, complete with Ditka stache and aviators, bragging about the next great wave of Chicago dynasties.
Bob Gertenrich: Home Is Where The Heart Is
One of the better Chicago sports streaks began when Bob Gertenrich was just 19-years-old. Now in his mid-60s, Gertenrich has managed to make every Hawks home game since 1966, amassing more than 2,100 games in the process. Gertenrich’s streak earns distinction as one of the longest streaks in Chicago sports history, and one that has come with its fair share of adversity, including ominous blizzards, a broken wrist, and the death of his mother. Gertenrich persevered through them all, and the streak goes on. And on and on and on…
Gene Siskel: Two (Sports) Thumbs Up
The former Tribune film critic and native North Sider was an avid lover of all Chicago sports, notably the Bulls. He held season tickets starting in the ’70s, and later bought courtside seats during the Jordan heyday, a fact that his colleague Roger Ebert described as “more important to Gene than a car.” Siskel interviewed Jordan after the 1996 NBA Finals and also had an encounter with former Bulls coach Phil Jackson. He once prodded the Zen master for details about Dennis Rodman’s free throw shooting. Though Jackson never gave a direct answer, we’re guessing it was two thumbs down.
Ronnie “Woo-Woo” Wickers: Lungs Of Leather
Almost as famous as the Wrigley Ivy, Ronnie “Woo-Woo” Wickers is a Cubs mainstay. Born on the South Side of Chicago, Wickers’ story is a remarkable tale of Chicago sports fandom. Wickers was homeless for an eight-year stretch, yet managed to charm his way into Cubs games, chanting his signature “Woo’s” in the process. For his staunch dedication and enthusiasim, Wickers earned the nickname “leather lungs” from legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray.
Jeff Platt: Weight Watcher
Before Jared was losing weight via Subway sandwiches, Jeff Platt managed to cheer himself down to fighting size by high-fiving Bulls fans in between the bench seats and the first row of spectator seats during the ’70s. The Bulls were not nearly at a level of dominance, but Platt consistently jazzed the crowd at Chicago Stadium with his eccentric ritual. Platt was so enthusiastic the crowd dubbed him “Super Fan.” It’s sometimes easiest to state the obvious.