Ode To Chicago

I typically plan out my blog posts weeks, if not months, in advance.  I knew I would write about social image and the NFL in September, and that the election and the NBA would be topics in October.  After October, though, I basically hit a wall—I had no idea what any possible topics could be, no one thing that I felt passionate enough about to churn out a post on it.  Even as this year moved into November, I still had no idea what to write about.

It eventually came to me from a very common source—sports.  For the first time since 201, I sat down to watch the final game of the World Series, a match-up between my hometown Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.  I’m a White Sox fan, so watching the Cubs play so deep in the post-season had me a little salty, but since I have a lot of friends back home that support the Cubs (and two that support the Indians) and can appreciate a good game of baseball, I settled in to watch the two teams battle for supremacy.

Of course, the game didn’t just end up being a good game of baseball—it was a legendary game that will go down in history as one of the best championship-deciders in the sport’s history, and possibly in the history of American athletics.  As you all know, the Cubs eventually pulled out an 8-7 victory after 10 innings, winning their first World Series in 108 years.  In the aftermath of the victory, Chicago went berserk—there were celebrations virtually everywhere, culminating in Friday’s parade, which was reported to be the 7th largest gathering in the history of humanity.  Taking all of that in from my dorm room, I finally knew what I would write about.  I’d write about how Chicago is the best damn city in the country.

To counter me, some people might try to hold up more populous cities, like New York or Los Angeles.  They might hold up cities with a more rich history, like the one where I currently attend school, Boston, or Philadelphia.  They might hold up some popular regional urban areas—Atlanta or Charlotte, Miami or New Orleans, Houston or Phoenix, Seattle or Portland, Denver or Salt Lake City.  None of them can hold a candle to Chicago.

We’ll start with athletics, because that’s what inspired me to write this post.  In the last 25 years, big-four Chicago teams have brought home 11 championships—two more than any of the closest competitors—and that’s not even including the title brought home by the Chicago Fire Soccer Club in the budding MLS.  And these just weren’t any championships, either—these were dominant ones, in which nobody stood a chance.  The Bulls were the dominant team of their era, hauling in six titles in eight years.  The White Sox went wire-to-wire in the American League and only lost one post-season game.  The Blackhawks won three championships in five years and established themselves as a hockey dynasty.  The Cubs were favored to win it all this year from day one, and win it all they did, breaking a 108 year curse in the process.

One of the highlights of watching a game at the Cubs’ legendary Wrigley Field is enjoying the breathtaking skyline of the city from the seats.  Chicago was one of the pioneers of the skyscraper, and it has among the best, and most architecturally appealing, collection of them in the country, headlined by the Willis (Sears) Tower and its world-famous Skydeck.  Of course, these tall towers aren’t the only notable pieces of architecture that the city features.  There’s also the Old Water Tower, one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  There’s the multiple residential structures designed by the incomparable Frank Lloyd Wright.  There’s the cathedrals that not only provide Chicagoans with a place to worship, but a place to at which to marvel at their beautiful designs.

There’s more entertainment than just athletics, too—you can head to the Field Museum and see the first complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex to ever be discovered or head across to street to one of the largest aquariums in the country.  There’s also the Adler Planetarium, a National Historic Landmark, or the Art Institute that features Seurat, Picasso, and American Gothic, one of the country’s most “mainstream” pieces of art.  If museums aren’t your thing, you can head to a theater and catch a performance of the smash hit Hamilton, or walk over a few blocks and laugh your head off to a performance of the Blue Man Group.  For more outdoorsy folk, you can walk around the massive Millennium Park, or the equally large Grant Park, checking out the popular Cloud Gate or utilizing the outdoor skating rink, or take a walk along Michigan Avenue and marvel at the wonder of Lake Michigan.  The Magnificent Mile is also a fantastic place to go shopping, as it is lined with every brand name store that you could possibly imagine to cater to your every desire.  For a more family friendly option, you can visit Navy Pier, or enjoy one of the city’s 24 beaches.

Any great city also has to have some great food, and Chicago is a phenomenal place for that, as well.  The city is the home of deep dish pizza, and fostered the growth of some of the country’s best foods, like Italian beef, Cracker Jacks, and brownies.  There’s more than that, though—Michelin starred a record 26 restaurants in the city for the upcoming year, indicating that the quality and uniqueness of the Chicago culinary scene is constantly improving.

Chicago’s education system is pretty fantastic, too.  43 colleges and universities are proud to call the city home, educating hundreds of thousands of this next great generation.  The city’s high schools, both public and private, old and new, are renowned throughout the country for both scholastic and athletic excellence, and the middle schools and elementary schools that are scattered within local communities set the baseline for these high performing institutions.

This city has its flaws, there is no doubt—the high-priced living that is a feature of virtually every city.  The violence that has gotten the city into the national spotlight, and the false perceptions of both minorities and the police that come along with it.  The political corruption, from the alderman to the people trying to make something of the Chicago Public School System and all the way up to the mayor’s office.  The stressed infrastructure of both city streets and municipal airports that comes from heavy usage and is enhanced by a lack of proper funding.  The weather, which can fluctuate between all four seasons in a matter of hours and leaves you more annoyed with some clouds than you ever thought you could be.  Chicago isn’t anywhere close to perfect, and everyone that knows anything about it will tell you that.

But the best part of the city, its people, make sure that these things aren’t what define Chicago.  If you took the time to take a closer look at the Cubs’ parade—or any of our championship parades, really—you’ll see what Chicago is all about.  The diversity among the population, and the compassion among all of the various communities throughout the city.  The kindness that is shown to everybody, whether they are from the city or not.  The joy that people exhibit—not just for big moments like World Series championships, but for the little things, like getting a smile from a random stranger.  The organized chaos that embodies the unmatched passion of each individual person.  The love that every person has for the amazing city that they get to call home.

Since I’m still in college, I don’t exactly know where my life is going to take me yet.  For all I know, my future could lead me to a place I could have never possibly imagined.  Wherever I go, I know that in my heart, that my only real home, my only true home, will forever be the great city of Chicago, the best there is and the best there ever will be.

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