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Good morning, frents!
It's been a year.
It's also been a year.
You'll be reminded of those two similar but distinct statements a few times today as we hit the first anniversary of the United States really coming to grips with coronavirus. It's been one trip around the sun since the night the president addressed the nation, Tom Hanks announced he'd contracted the virus and Rudy Gobert shut down the entire NBA.
I remember writing the next day's newsletter knowing the problem was serious and still having no earthly clue what we were in for. Even as we reached that weekend, I was still convinced that Opening Day would be sometime around May 1 and everything would be back to normal.
Let's just say my knowledge of epidemiology has grown since then.
Earlier this week, I asked you about the games you wish you'd seen in person over the past year.
A lot of you mentioned the games I have near the top of my list below. Which makes sense. Sox Park would've been rocking behind the rebuilt White Sox. The Cubs' hot start would've had Wrigley operating as normal.
But a few of you zagged in a way I didn't see coming. Mark said he wishes he would've been at Northwestern hoops' win over Michigan State, the program's first win over a top 5 team since beating Magic Johnson in 1979. Perrin would've liked to see David Bote's big three-run homer against the Cardinals in August. Dan said he would have liked the chance to boo Matt Nagy and the slumping Bears in person.
And then there was Laura, who had planned on 2020 being the first trip to Wrigley for her four-year-old son Alex. A rite of passage and an escape in almost any other year was delayed as we tried to cope with the uncertainty of it all.
"That seems like a loss," she wrote.
We will hopefully be able to make up for it in 2021. And if the past year has taught us anything, it's to never take an opportunity, however small or routine, for granted.
Here are the 10 games I would've loved to attend:
10. Northwestern vs. Wisconsin at Wrigley Field: These two teams met in Evanston on Nov. 20 with the Wildcats grinding out a 17-7 victory that put them on track for the Big Ten West title. But I'm talking about the novelty matchup that was originally scheduled for Wrigley Field two weeks earlier. A couple of hours at Murphy's beforehand would've softened the blow that was coming for me and my fellow Badgers fans.
9. Fire return to Soldier Field: The team's return to name-appropriate soil was long-awaited and over 30,000 tickets had been sold to that game at Soldier Field in mid-March. It would've been interesting to see how the crowds would've fared over the summer with the team back in the city.
8. Bears vs. Packers, Week 17: Yeah, the Bears lost. It still would've been fun to pack Soldier Field on the season's final week with a game against the Packers with a playoff spot on the line. And who knows? Maybe that game plays out differently with homefield advantage (though probably not).
7. Jon Lester's farewell: No one knew for sure that Lester's final start at Wrigley Field would come on September 16 against Cleveland, but the possibility wasn't lost on anyone at the time. Lester pitched five solid innings that night and that ended up being it. His six-year stint on the North Side deserved a better sendoff, though his farewell to the city — picking up $47,000 worth of bar tabs in November — was not only unique but particularly on-brand.
6. Zach LaVine drops 46 on Pelicans: It seems like there will still be a lot of great Bulls games at the United Center once we get back, but the February 10 win over the Pelicans would've been a trip with a full house. LaVine shot 17-of-25 from the field for a season-high 46 while the Bulls sank a franchise-record 25 three-pointers
5. Illinois beats Iowa: The Illini's return to the top of the sport has seemed a bit empty without the passion of college basketball fans serving as a backdrop. And while its early-season win over Duke at Cameron seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, the party in Champaign during a January win over rival Iowa would've been something.
4. Jose Abreu's 3-homer game against the Cubs: The AL MVP tied a major-league record by hitting six homers in three games against the Cubs. Three of them came during the game on Saturday, August 22, It's not often you can attend a single baseball game where an MVP award gets locked up, but this might have been one.
3. Alec Mills' no-hitter: Cubs fans making a trip to Wrigley North on a Bears gameday would've been rewarded with history. It's still funny that both no-hitters in Miller Park history were thrown by Cubs pitchers — and that only one came against the Brewers.
2. Bears beat the Buccaneers on Thursday night: I don't think anyone had Tampa Bay winning the Super Bowl the morning after this one. But even if had the Bucs fallen short the rest of the season, this probably would've still made the list. It was the Bears' only win over a winning team all year and the first victory over Tom Brady in six tries.
1. Lucas Giolito's no-hitter: The Sox have thrown an AL-record 19 no-hitters over their history yet this one stands alone as the most dominant. Giolito's game score of 99 was the highest in team history and his 13 strikeouts showed that Pirates batters didn't stand a chance against him. In a season full of big moments for the resurrected Sox, this was by far the biggest.
Plus, it led to the one tweet that summed up being a sports fan in 2020 better than any other.
Better luck this year.
Minnesota 51, N'Western 46
DePaul 70, Providence 62
N'Western 67, Illinois 42 (W)
Giants 7, Cubs 6
N'Western vs. Michigan (W) (Noon, FS2)
76ers at Bulls (7, NBCSCH)
Hawks at Stars (7:30, NBCSCH)
DePaul vs UConn (8, FS1)
Cubs at Rockies (2, no TV)
Sox at Reds (7, no TV)
Thursday thank yous!
Yep, it's time to shout out the 135 and counting readers who help produce Midway Minute by being paid members.
Today I'd like to thank Lorraine Fisher, TJ Mucha, Jedd Schultz, Kara Intrieri, Michael Dice and Eli Kaberon for their support!
If you're thinking about becoming a member, now's a good time. David Brown and I have a fun members-only post involving baseball cards scheduled for tomorrow and our second members-only mailbag is coming at the end of the month. A members-only community on a platform like Discord and Telegram is also on the way.
Plus, you'll be supporting an independent Chicago sports media outlet and helping it grow.
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No matter what your level of involvement, thank you to everyone who makes time each morning for Midway Minute!
- Kevin Fishbain weighs 22 quarterback options for the Bears. What, no return of Jay Cutler? The Athletic
- In praise of Billy Donovan's steady competence. Blogabull
- Rick Morrissey wasn't a fan of Josh Whitman's "sob story." Sun-Times
- The Fire got the date of their season opener: Saturday, April 17 against New England at Soldier Field. No word on if fans can attend. Hot Time In Old Town
- How a real-life horror story about the Chicago projects became part of Candyman. Chicago Reader