In Illinois, our sports teams are more tricks than treats

This week’s Wisch List newspaper column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

Atlanta Falcons v Chicago BearsBy Dave Wischnowsky


It’s still almost a week until Halloween, but here in the Land of Lincoln, we hardly need to wait until Oct. 31 to experience a scare.

After all, our local sports teams have been doing that all year long.

(Don’t even get me started on our local politicians.)

And as we approach All Hallow’s Eve with hollow records for both the Chicago Bears (0-3 at home) and Fighting Illini football (0-3 in the Big Ten), here are some of the individuals, teams and ballparks that have me the most spooked.

Jay Cutler

If Jay Cutler was a football coach instead of a quarterback, wouldn’t he have been fired by now?

After nearly a decade in the NFL, Cutler has still played in only two playoff games, and won just one (reaching another this year isn’t looking promising). Just as frightening for Bears fans – if not more so – in 10 career games against Green Bay, Cutler is 1-9 with 19 interceptions and a 67.0 QB rating that’s the lowest against any team he’s faced more than twice.

If you’re looking to scare somebody next week, forget the costume. Just wear those statistics on a sign around your neck.

Tim Beckman

In seven seasons at Illinois, Ron Zook went 18-38 in the Big Ten. Tim Beckman was supposed to come in and fix that. But instead, as the Illini’s third-year coach prepares to face Minnesota for Homecoming in Champaign today, he’s posted a terrifying 1-18 record in conference.

So bad are things right now in Champaign, where Illinois has lost 24 of its last 25 Big Ten games, that one can’t help but wonder if the Illini might fare better if Beckman simply rolled orange pumpkins out onto the field instead of his orange-clad players.

The Gophers, however, may eat them up either way.

Wrigley Field

With the revered ballpark’s 100th birthday celebration now complete – thanks to the Cubs’ 73-89 record, the candles were a dud – Wrigley Field’s long-discussed, much-debated renovation is now underway.

So far, the demolition work has turned the historic bleachers into a jarring pile of rubble that looks like some kind of post-apocalyptic scene.

Or the aftermath of one of Edwin Jackson’s starts.

Illini basketball

A Facebook friend of mine calls them “Hat on the Table” announcements. And of late for Illini basketball, the public spectacles during which superstar high school athletes declare their college choice by picking from an array of team caps have been quite rocky.

And something of a horror picture show.

This week, Texas power forward Elijah Thomas donned a Texas A&M hat instead of the Illini’s. Prior to that, Lincolnshire Stevenson guard Jalen Brunson (Villanova) and Dallas guard Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State) both chose non-Illini head gear during their press conferences.

Soon, five-star Cleveland big man Carlton Bragg will sit at a table with Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and Illinois caps in front of him. Like a slasher flick, I’ll probably only be able to watch with my fingers covering my eyes.

U.S. Cellular Field

You can find haunted houses all over Chicagoland, but the White Sox’s ballpark remains the area’s biggest ghost town. With just 20,896 fans per game, this season’s average attendance at U.S. Cellular was the smallest since 1999.

Come 2015, the Sox really need to do something to scare up some crowds.

Derrick Rose

When the Bulls host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Halloween night during their home opener at the United Center, my hope is that Derrick Rose takes the court dressed up as DERRICK ROSE.

And that it isn’t just a costume, as he scares the dickens out LeBron James & Co.

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