The Meaning of Two Million: A City (sort of) Celebrates

By John Wilmes\n\nWhat is the meaning of two-million people, medical discount all wearing red, viagra remedy all aimed at the same thing in the Chicago Loop? It’s a number that trounces the figures of any previous Chicago championship celebration. It’s a number that is, cialis frankly, a bit hard to believe—it’s just an estimate, of course, but the estimate does speak volumes to how overwhelming, and surprising, this turnout was.\n\nIt should be noted, first of all, that a great many of those in and around Grant Park this past Friday were not registered Chicagoans. If they all were, that would mean about two thirds of all city-dwellers were present at Grant Park. I know this isn’t science, but I personally only know a grand total of one real Chicagoan who went to the rally—as Steve Bogira is want to remind us, this is not exactly Chicago’s team. Metra trains and cars, packed with puck fanatics, brought much of this mass from the suburbs to the Loop—and it’s a good bet that most of those already in the city were suburban transplants, themselves, as the facilities and culture for hockey in Chicago are thin, at best.\n\nAnd it should be noted that the radius of celebration, on the night of Stanley’s return to Illinois, was a further projection of this reality, as all was status quo on the southern and western fronts, while bedlam took life along the north coast of the lake. Horns honked in perpetuity, sculptures were subject to vandalism, arrests were made, puke was spilled in great public profusion. All of which, of course, was presented by local media with a chuckle and a slap of the knee—as was the profanity yelled from the stage of the parade.\n\nThe totality of which means the filling up of the negative space, of the indelible comments South-side native Kanye West made nearly a decade ago, regarding the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in New Orleans: “I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family it says they’re looting, if you see a white family it says they’re looking for food”; Corey Crawford can curse, Patrick Kane can assault a cabbie, and it’ll still be Chief Keef and Derrick Rose who get all the city’s bad rap in the media.\n\nIt’s been fifteen years, now, since the Bulls brought home the biggest of the bacon, and in that time America’s cultural perception of the NBA has turned from an MJ-infused utopia of post-racial corporate glitz, to an insidious, but pliable (for David Stern, anyway) skepticism of blackness, bathed in New Jim Crow-isms. The racial structure of American culture, in other words, has reinforced all its worst tendencies over the last couple of decades, while finding a way to mask them. The forceful cultural shifts in the NBA mark some of this larger change’s most revealing collateral damage.\n\nAnd so it would be interesting, to say the least, to compare Chicago’s reaction to a contemporary Bulls title to the recent triumphs of the Blackhawks. Because a crowd of two-million, in this instance, seems a clarion of many things (such numbers, necessarily, form in disparate fashion), but it’s hard not to believe that the city’s caucasian contingent, and its indomitable reach throughout the suburbs, isn’t all too pleased to be celebrating warriors more their own color. (The Bulls’ crowds never exceeded the area of 0.5 million, for any of their rallies).\n\nAnd almost uncannily, the invasion of white Chicagolanders for this parade mirrors the geo-political shifts Chicago’s currently undergoing. The city’s on the fast-track to re-gentrify from the inside out, paving affluent playgrounds and tech-centers (the kind of which are currently re-claiming San Francisco), pushing poor people further and further from the city’s nexus as it reappropriates the funding and land previously earmarked for schools and public housing. Now half of the south-side’s portion of the red line is disabled for much of the summer, essentially putting the right to move into question for many. So the rally seems, also, to be a telling image of the alienation between Chicago and “Chiraq.”\n\nAs national unemployment figures still hover at troubling levels, it should be noted, too, that many of those at the rally were there just because they could be. Or because they’d been waiting so long for good news—for any good news at all. This precipitous white mass can even be considered a portent of the rise of the marginal American classes—many, of course, came to the rally simply because they could never afford to attend a game, but still thirsted tremendously for the surrogate glory of professional sporting conquests.\n\nAnd it’s this glory that matters most, because, more than anything, this stunningly large exhibition of fandom shows that the \”Neoliberal Trojan Horse\” that is modern sports is more effective than ever. Blackhawks ownership is primed to continue to gouge ticket prices, quietly buy off the culture which their insignia mockingly appropriates, and generally act in private interest, against public concern. But the fans just keep on coming, because they need the love they feel from sports like it’s water.\n\nThis poses an unequivocally good sign for Tom Ricketts, in his attempt to convert a Chicago neighborhood into a for-profit amusement park, at the ultimate cost and inconvenience of Cubs fans and Chicago’s citizens. Because this Blackhawks rally goes to show just how docile we are as team-lovers, how eager we are for their victory, and how difficult it is—just how egregiously sports owners must over-step their powers—to lose the ultimate bargaining chip that is our love for the game.

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