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Chicago sports in 2021: A look back at the biggest stories of the year

Sure, it wasn’t as memorable as 2020, but 2021 was quite the year in Chicago sports. Here’s a look back, month by month, at the year’s events.

January

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Jan. 1:</mark> Northwestern beats Auburn 35-19 in the Citrus Bowl for its fourth straight bowl victory — and win No. 400 for retiring defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz

Led by quarterback Peyton Ramsey and a strong defense, No. 14 Northwestern (7-2) capped a special season with a 35-19 victory over Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. The Wildcats got Ramsey’s best game in a purple-and-white uniform, showing again how the quarterback stabilized the offense after transferring from Indiana. He earned the Citrus Bowl’s most outstanding player award after accounting for four of Northwestern’s five touchdowns.

Jan. 4: Jon “Boog” Sciambi is named the Cubs’ TV play-by-play voice on Marquee Sports Network

Marquee named Sciambi the Cubs’ new lead TV play-by-play voice. Recognized as one of the best announcers in the game and an ESPN TV and radio mainstay, Sciambi succeeded Len Kasper, who was let out of his Marquee contract after 16 seasons to become the radio announcer for the White Sox.

Jan. 6: Justin Fields wins the 2020 Chicago Tribune Silver Football

The Ohio State quarterback won the 2020 Chicago Tribune Silver Football. It was the seventh time in nine years a Buckeye won the 96-year-old award that goes to the Big Ten’s best player as selected by the conference’s head coaches.

Jan. 8: Fire formally ditch the “Fire Crown” logo — which means they’ll redesign their crest for a second time: “Fans have made their voices heard over the past year”

Fire owner Joe Mansueto said if fans didn’t like the club’s redesigned crest, the team would pull the plug and refresh. That’s exactly what the Fire did, ditching the maligned “Fire Crown” logo for the 2022 MLS season.

Jan 9: Goalie Corey Crawford, who helped bring the Blackhawks two Stanley Cup trophies, stuns the hockey world with his decision to retire

It turned out Crawford wouldn’t play for any team other than the Blackhawks. His retirement came less than a week before the goalie was set to begin the season with the New Jersey Devils, with whom he signed a two-year, $7.8 million contract in October after the Hawks decided not to re-sign the veteran.

Jan. 10: Bears lose 21-9 to the New Orleans Saints — and head into the offseason with questions about the future

The 8-8 Bears sneaked into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed. And in that playoff game against the Saints, the Bears lost 21-9 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It was an eventful game for not great reasons: Javon Wims’ drop, Anthony Miller’s ejection and Mitch Trubisky’s Nickelodeon Valuable Player award.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Jan. 13:</mark> “Have we won enough games? No. Everything else is there.” The Bears’ stunning self-evaluation had more questions than answers.

The Bears brass held a news conference about the decision to keep GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy — and it was a blowout loss. “Ryan and Matt are men of character,” Chairman George McCaskey said. “They are both, like Ted (Phillips), outstanding leaders. I’ve been most impressed with how well they collaborate.” Pace and Nagy then spoke about their vision moving forward for a team that finished .500 the last two seasons. And of course, the never-ending search for a franchise quarterback.

Jan. 22: Bears name Sean Desai their defensive coordinator, staying in-house by promoting their safeties coach

With the Bears trying to get back to the high level of defense they played in 2018, the team turned to the one assistant who probably knows that scheme best — safeties coach Desai. Coach Matt Nagy promoted Desai to defensive coordinator, elevating him as the replacement for Chuck Pagano, who retired after the team’s playoff loss.

February

Feb. 1: Candace Parker signs with the Sky — making them an instant favorite for the WNBA title: “Nobody has ever signed a free agent like this”

The Sky officially announced Parker will return home, calling the deal “one of the biggest free-agent moves in the history of the WNBA.” Parker, 34, grew up in Naperville and was named Ms. Basketball of Illinois three times at Naperville Central before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2008 WNBA draft. She played her first 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, winning the MVP award twice and Finals MVP in 2016.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Feb 12:</mark> Former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and the Cubs reunite on a one-year deal

In need of starting pitching, the Cubs turned to a familiar face in Arrieta. The one-year deal came after three mediocre seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies that were marred by injuries. Arrieta’s decision to return to Chicago potentially put his legacy with the franchise and fans on the line after 4½ seasons (2013-17) that saw him throw two no-hitters, win a National League Cy Young Award and help the Cubs end a 107-year World Series title drought.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Feb. 25:</mark> After Russell Wilson’s agent says the Bears are among the teams the QB would agree to be traded to, Tarik Cohen summarizes the city’s response: “You called, bro?”

The ESPN report was less than 30 minutes old when the Bears running back decided to take a swing. The Bears were one of four trade destinations Wilson would consider, his agent Mark Rodgers told ESPN, if the Seahawks decided to deal the seven-time Pro Bowler. Cohen was hardly the only one in Chicago who became stirred up as fans dreamed of the possibility, no matter how remote, of ending their decades of quarterback troubles.

March

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 1:</mark> Red Stars have an expanded ownership group as they look to increase revenue and drive growth with new investors

Less than a year ago, the Red Stars were struggling under the financial burden placed on all sports by COVID-19. Now the club added a new set of investors as part of an expanded ownership group. Arnim Whisler retained a majority stake in the club but was joined by several others, including former Bears defensive end Israel Idonije, U.S. Olympian and Blackhawks development coach Kendall Coyne Schofield, ESPN personality Sarah Spain and more.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 9:</mark> Bears use the franchise tag on Allen Robinson, keeping the receiver under contract for 2021

By using the franchise tag, the Bears kept the wide receiver under contract for the 2021 season for about $18 million, 120% of his 2020 salary. He made it known he wasn’t in favor of being tagged, preferring to head into free agency.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 14:</mark> Illinois returns to the NCAA Tournament — as a No. 1 seed and Big Ten Tournament champion

Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu was on the top rung of a ladder, scissors in hand, ready to snip a net in celebration of the Big Ten Tournament championship. He paused and pointed cheering Illini fans’ attention toward a Lucas Oil Stadium video screen instead. CBS had just announced Illinois as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Illini (23-6) were back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. They officially received the No. 1 seed just minutes after winning the Big Ten Tournament title by beating Ohio State 91-88 in overtime.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 15:</mark> DePaul fires men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao

New DePaul athletic director DeWayne Peevy made the decision to fire Leitao, who returned for a second stint with the Blue Demons in 2015 and went 69-112 in six seasons, including a 21-85 mark in Big East games. DePaul finished last or tied for last in the conference the last five seasons.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 16:</mark> After taking a swing at a Russell Wilson trade, the Bears had to act fast to sign Andy Dalton

A year after trading for Nick Foles to bolster the quarterback position, the Bears signed Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract. But Dalton’s arrival also didn’t rule out the possibility the Bears would acquire a quarterback in the draft.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 18:</mark> Mitch Trubisky is officially gone after a four-year tenure as Bears quarterback.

Trubisky is no longer a Bears quarterback. When the clock struck 3 p.m., Trubisky officially became a free agent, ending four tumultuous years with the Bears. The No. 2 draft pick from 2017 signed with the Bills to back up Josh Allen after his ultimately disappointing tenure in Chicago.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 20:</mark> Beth Mowins makes history, becoming the first woman in Cubs history to serve as play-by-play announcer

Following Len Kasper’s departure to join the White Sox radio broadcast, Marquee hired Mowins for one of the backup roles. Mowins made history during a Cactus League game against the Rockies, becoming the first woman in Cubs history to serve as a play-by-play announcer. Mowins also called some regular-season games, debuting in-season in May at Wrigley Field.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 21:</mark> Loyola, led by All-American Cameron Krutwig, stuns Illinois to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament

The Loyola Ramblers were back in the Sweet 16 as Krutwig and Lucas Williamson returned to the spotlight after a convincing 71-58 win over top-seeded Illinois in a second-round NCAA Tournament game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 24:</mark> White Sox slugger Eloy Jiménez is sidelined until late July with a ruptured left pectoral tendon

Jiménez has had setbacks in the past after incidents at the left-field wall. The young slugger left a Cactus League game in the second inning with left shoulder discomfort after attempting to rob a home run. Jiménez went back to the left-field wall, jumped and reached his arm and glove over the fence, rupturing his left pectoral tendon.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 25:</mark> Bulls reshape their roster, picking an All-Star talent over players with potential

In their first NBA trade deadline with executives Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley leading the front office, the Bulls made moves to shake up their roster. They began with the surprise splash of the day, acquiring All-Star center Nikola Vučević and forward Al-Farouq Aminu. They also were involved in a three-team trade that brought center Daniel Theis, guard Javonte Green and forward Troy Brown Jr. to Chicago. “Usually you don’t get too many chances at All-Star-level players,” Karnišovas said.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 25:</mark> Stan Albeck, former Bradley and Bulls coach, dies at 89

Albeck, who coached Bradley to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1988 after starring at the school as a player, died in hospice care at his son John’s home. He was 89. Albeck, a native of Chenoa, Ill., went 75-71 as Bradley’s coach from 1986-91. He also coached the Bulls in 1985-86 — with Michael Jordan in his second season.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>March 30:</mark> NFL expands to a 17-game regular season

The NFL expanded its regular season to 17 games in 2021 after team owners approved the move during virtual league meetings. The expansion was the first since the league moved from 14 to 16 games in 1978. Commissioner Roger Goodell called it “a monumental moment in NFL history.”

April

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 1:</mark> White Sox squander a late lead and lose their season opener — and Tony La Russa’s return to the dugout

The White Sox couldn’t close out the Angels on opening day, falling 4-3 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. The Angels hit one ball out of the infield in the eighth but scored twice in the inning to rally and beat the Sox in La Russa’s return to the dugout. “You always want to win opening day. It’s kind of a sexy night, if you will, where everyone is kind of on high intensity and just coming from spring training,” right fielder Adam Eaton said. “Now we actually play some games that matter.”

April 1: DePaul reaches a deal with Tony Stubblefield to be its men’s basketball coach

DePaul reached a deal with Stubblefield to take over as the Blue Demons men’s basketball coach. Stubblefield, 51, was on Dana Altman’s Oregon staff for 11 seasons, including last season as an associate coach. DePaul is his first head coaching job.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 3:</mark> Yermín Mercedes makes history for the White Sox

Mercedes went 5-for-5 with four RBIs as the designated hitter for the White Sox in a 12-8 victory against the Angels. “I don’t want to do too much,” Mercedes said of his approach. “Every at-bat I want to stay in my space, stay there. You have one hit or two hits, just stay there, don’t do too much. That’s what I’m thinking about.” That mindset led to a game for the record book. Mercedes became the first player in the modern era to go 5-for-5 in his first start. And he stayed hot — and became the first player to start a season with eight straight hits. What followed was an unwritten rules debate sparked by a home run on a 3-0 count, a demotion and a brief retirement.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 3 and 5:</mark> Porter Moser leaves Loyola to become Oklahoma’s head coach — and the Ramblers promote Drew Valentine

After Loyola stunned college basketball with a joyous, upset-riddled run to the 2018 Final Four, Moser was considered a coach on the rise. That star continued to rise after an upset of No. 1 seed Illinois in 2021. Moser accepted the head coaching job at Oklahoma — a job that opened when Lon Kruger retired after a decade at the school. The Ramblers didn’t go far or take long to find a replacement for Moser: Valentine, a four-year Loyola assistant, was promoted to head coach on April 5.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 14:</mark> NWSL fines the Red Stars for a “violation of a league directive” — reportedly for front-office support of Sarah Gorden, who says Houston security racially profiled her

The National Women’s Soccer League opened an investigation under its anti-discrimination policy after the Red Stars defender said she and her boyfriend were racially profiled by a Houston security official following the team’s scoreless draw against the Dash in the Challenge Cup on April 9. But there was one wrinkle. In announcing a variety of findings by the league’s disciplinary committee, the NWSL said the Red Stars were fined for a “violation of a league directive.” Weeks later, the NWSL said “no disciplinary action will be taken” against Houston.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 23:</mark> Steve “Mongo” McMichael is suddenly in a vicious fight against ALS. “This ain’t ever how I envisioned this was going to end,” the Bears great says.

This is not the “Mongo” McMichael you’re used to seeing, this gaunt 63-year-old man propped up on an elevated chair in the corner of his kitchen and struggling with basic movement. This isn’t how anyone would ever have pictured McMichael, one of the beloved leaders and most colorful characters of the 1985 Bears, the only team in franchise history to win a Super Bowl. But here he is now in a vicious and unwinnable brawl against ALS, the progressive nervous system disease that is disrupting his brain’s ability to communicate with his muscles.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 26:</mark> Andrew Shaw used all of his smallish frame to make a huge impact on the Blackhawks — until concussions forced him to retire at 29

Shaw took all of his 5-foot-11, 182-pound frame and threw it into becoming the smallish hockey “Mutt” who made a giant pest of himself to opponents while making a huge impact on a franchise. But one of the NHL’s ultimate underdogs finally met a hurdle he couldn’t climb: his history with concussions: “I’m just grateful for the time I had: 10 years, two Stanley Cups, over 500 games.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 29:</mark> Bears find the perfect opening to snag QB Justin Fields in the first round of the NFL draft

Bears GM Ryan Pace had little idea how his world would unfold when the first night of the NFL draft began. The Bears got exactly what they wanted, engineering a trade with the Giants, leaping up nine spots and selecting Fields from Ohio State. Just like that, the franchise snagged its newest quarterback of the future, nabbing a prospect whom many talent evaluators believe has true star potential.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>April 29:</mark> Northwestern makes history with two players drafted in the first round of the NFL draft

Northwestern had two players drafted in the first round for the first time in team history. Offensive tackle Rashawn Slater was selected 13th by the Chargers and went on to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Cornerback Greg Newsome II was taken with the 26th pick by the Browns.

May

May 2: Luis Robert heads to the injured list with a hip flexor strain

Robert stumbled after crossing first base and remained down in pain. He eventually had to be helped off the field after suffering a right hip flexor strain. It was the latest injury setback for the White Sox. “Adversity’s always going to be part of the season,” Tony La Russa said. “It’s hit us hard in the outfield.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>May 12:</mark> Mike Polisky resigns as Northwestern athletic director after continued criticism of his hiring

Polisky stepped down from his newly appointed role as Northwestern athletic director as criticism continued to mount against his hiring. He was promoted from his deputy athletic director role May 3 after more than a decade in the department, serving under AD Jim Phillips, who left after 13 years to take over as commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference. But some members of the board of trustees and the search committee were displeased by university President Morton Schapiro’s decision because Polisky is one of four defendants along with the university in an ongoing sexual harassment lawsuit filed in January by a Northwestern cheerleader.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>May 13:</mark> Ex-Blackhawks player sues the team for an alleged sexual assault by a former assistant coach

The Blackhawks were named as defendants in two Cook County lawsuits, one filed by the former Hawks player who alleged former video coach Bradley Aldrich assaulted him and the other by the former Houghton (Mich.) High School hockey player involved in Aldrich’s conviction for misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct. The Hawks issued a statement in response to the first lawsuit: “Based on our investigation, we believe the allegations against the organization lack merit and we are confident the team will be absolved of any wrongdoing.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>May 14:</mark> Fire formally reinstate Sector Latino — nearly three years after permanently revoking the ardent fan group’s supporter privileges

Nearly three years after permanently revoking the supporter privileges of Sector Latino Chicago, the Fire announced the ardent fan group formally has been reinstated. Sector Latino’s formal return comes after the majority of the 2018 season was overshadowed by a clash between fans and the club.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>May 16:</mark> White Sox — after reaching the 85% vaccination threshold — can now relax some protocols

The White Sox reached the 85% vaccination threshold for tiered players and staff. Among the relaxed protocols, all vaccinated Tier 1 players and staff were no longer required to wear face masks in the dugout. “There are differences, a little more freedom, especially not wearing a mask,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “Knock on wood, we are trending in the right direction, not just baseball, but as a country.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>May 18:</mark> Toni Kukoč — a key member of the Bulls’ second three-peat and one of the best European players to join the NBA — gets an “overwhelming” call to the Hall of Fame

Kukoč felt fortunate to be spending time in Croatia when he received the call he had been waiting on for years — that he had been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “It’s so nice, so cool to see the messages (from) players, their reactions of me getting into the Hall of Fame. It’s good to be me these days.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>May 20:</mark> Ishwara Glassman Chrein is the Fire’s new president, joining from Yahoo Sports/Verizon Media to oversee the soccer team’s business operations

The Fire named Glassman Chrein as team president, filling the vacancy left by Nelson Rodríguez’s resignation in January. Glassman Chrein joined the Fire from Yahoo Sports/Verizon Media, with whom she was the head of sports partnerships and business development.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>May 20:</mark> U.S. national team announces Julie Ertz will miss a large chunk of the Red Stars season with a right MCL sprain

U.S. Soccer said Ertz suffered a right MCL sprain when she collided with Portland Thorns midfielder Rocky Rodríguez during a 50-50 challenge in the 26th minute of the Red Stars’ 5-0 loss May 16 to open the regular season. Ertz returned to the national team in time for the Olympics but did not play for the Red Stars again in 2021.

June

June 4: Northwestern hires a new athletic director weeks after Mike Polisky’s resignation

Northwestern hired NCAA administrator Derrick Gragg as its athletic director. He was named senior vice president for inclusion, education and community engagement for the NCAA in August 2020 after spending seven years as Tulsa’s athletic director. Northwestern’s move to fill the position took less than a month, a quick act compared with the drawn-out, complicated and controversial search ultimately resulting in the short-term hire of Mike Polisky, who resigned after just nine days on the job.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>June 4:</mark> Fire’s proposal to build a training facility at Hanson Park — estimated to cost about $90 million — calls for a three-story building and seven soccer pitches in Belmont Cragin

Details of the Fire’s proposal to build a new, approximately 32-acre training facility at Hanson Park in Belmont Cragin emerged in June. According to the proposal, the Fire were looking to build seven soccer pitches and a three-story performance center that would serve as headquarters for the first team and youth academy. The club would embark on a renovation to Hanson Stadium, and a seasonal inflatable dome also is proposed for one of the fields. But in December the Chicago Sun-Times reported the proposal was off after the Fire and Chicago Public Schools, which owns the land, couldn’t come to an agreement.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>June 11:</mark> Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo reveals he is not vaccinated

As the Cubs struggled to reach the 85% vaccination threshold, one of eight teams at that point to be below the mark, Rizzo became the first player on the team to publicly acknowledge he chose not to get the vaccine. Rizzo revealed the news during a morning appearance on WMVP-AM 1000, prompting plenty of strong reactions on social media and impacting some fans’ perception of the longtime Cub. Rizzo’s news coincided with Wrigley Field returning to full capacity, fittingly happening against the division-rival Cardinals.

June 17: Bears submit bid to buy the Arlington International Racecourse property, opening the door for a potential Soldier Field exit

The Bears submitted a bid to purchase the property at Arlington International Racecourse. Churchill Downs Inc., which owns and operates the racetrack, announced last winter that the property would be up for sale for redevelopment opportunities. The Bears expressed at least preliminary interest in building a stadium and developing the land around it. The Bears have played their home games at Soldier Field, which is owned by the Chicago Park District, since 1971. Their lease at the stadium runs through 2033.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>June 18:</mark> Fire release a new logo — formally ditching the “Fire Crown” badge — after the redesigned crest leaks on social media

The Fire released a new crest that ditched the “Fire Crown” logo and brought some reminders but stopped short of restoring the team’s original badge. The new, circular crest features a six-pointed star in the center of an angular “C” — both in red — that is reminiscent of the “C” in the club’s first badge.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>June 24:</mark> Cubs throw the first combined no-hitter in franchise history — followed by an 11-game losing streak

The Cubs kicked off a 10-game road trip in memorable fashion. Zach Davies, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel combined to throw a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium, the 17th in franchise history and first combined no-no. But instead of the performance, which moved their record to 42-33, providing a momentum boost into July, the Cubs lost their next 11 games. It dropped them below .500 and turned the Cubs into trade-deadline sellers instead of buyers.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>June 30:</mark> Jonathan Toews says he plans to return to the Blackhawks and reveals the illness that kept him out last season: “My body just fell apart”

Toews, who missed the entire 2020-21 season for the Blackhawks, revealed he has “chronic immune response syndrome.” In a two-minute video, Toews said before last season that a then-unspecified illness left him feeling “lethargic.” He later was placed on long-term injured reserve and missed the entire season.

July

July 4: White Sox pitchers Liam Hendriks, Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodón are chosen for the All-Star Game, while the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel are selected

Hendriks, Lynn and Rodón were the three White Sox players selected for the All-Star Game. The Cubs had two players — third baseman/outfielder Bryant and closer Kimbrel — selected to the National League team. It was an eventful — and loud — save for Hendriks, while Bryant didn’t connect with the bases loaded.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>July 12:</mark> Duncan Keith is traded to the Oilers, ending the defenseman’s celebrated 16-year run with the Blackhawks

As unfathomable as it might sound in Chicago, Keith will end his NHL career wearing something other than a Blackhawks sweater. A three-time Stanley Cup champion and the senior member of the Hawks at 37, Keith was traded to the Oilers, closing the chapter on a 16-season run in Chicago. Keith joined Brent Seabrook, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Corey Crawford as players departing within the last year who helped the Hawks win at least two Cups.

July 23: Blackhawks acquire star defenseman Seth Jones from the Blue Jackets

The Blackhawks were in the market for a big-ticket defenseman, and they landed one in a blockbuster draft-night trade, acquiring the four-time All-Star from the Blue Jackets in exchange for Adam Boqvist. Jones agreed to terms on an eight-year, $76 million extension with the Hawks.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>July 27:</mark> Blackhawks trade for Golden Knights goalie Marc-André Fleury and acquire center Tyler Johnson from the Lightning

The Blackhawks’ reverse rebuild continued with the acquisitions of the 36-year-old goaltender from the Golden Knights and Johnson from the Lightning. In acquiring Johnson and a 2023 second-round pick from the Bolts, the Hawks gave up the rights to defenseman Brent Seabrook, who was placed on long-term injured reserve in March with a hip injury.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>July 28:</mark> US women win gold in the Olympic debut of 3×3 basketball, led by the Sky’s Stefanie Dolson

Their scrapbooks and trophy cases are filled with memories from Final Fours, national titles, All-America honors and even some impressive showings in the pros. Now they have Olympic gold medals to go with all that. The U.S. team of Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young took an early lead against the team from Russia, then held on for an 18-15 victory to win the title in the debut of 3-on-3 basketball at the Olympics. “It feels surreal,” Dolson said. “In 10 years, we’ll look back and say ‘Damn, we did that.’ Hopefully we started something.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>July 29:</mark> Cubs trade Anthony Rizzo, kicking off franchise-altering trade deadline

Leading up to the July 30 trade deadline, the Cubs made the obvious moves in trading relievers on expiring deals. It was unclear whether Jed Hoyer was going all-in in tearing down a roster that had fallen short since winning the World Series in 2016. The Cubs’ path became apparent, however, when Rizzo, the longest-tenured player on their roster, was the first of their Big 3 to get traded in a deal with the Yankees less than 24 hours before the deadline.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>July 29:</mark> Bulls draft Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu at No. 38

Even after Dosunmu finished the phone call he had waited all night to receive, his facial expression remained stoic. He was surrounded by approximately 200 friends and family members packed into a watch party at the Bracket Room in Chicago, and they had been waiting all night for their cue to celebrate. “You’re staying home,” his agent had told him on a phone call, but he had to make sure it was official. When the news finally flashed across the TV — that the Bulls selected Dosunmu with the No. 38 pick — the group erupted in a frenzy.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>July 30:</mark> Cubs trade bonanza sends Kris Bryant and Javier Báez packing

As the Cubs prepared to open a road series in Washington, the clubhouse got a major makeover during the final hours before the trade deadline. Báez, gone to the New York Mets. Adios, Bryant, who was jettisoned to San Francisco. It was a tough day for the remaining Cubs players, particularly those who were part of the 2016 championship team, including manager David Ross. The Cubs dismantled their roster within a week, and by the time the trade deadline passed, one-third of their opening-day roster was gone. In the process, the Cubs acquired 11 players, including nine prospects.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>July 30:</mark> White Sox land reliever Craig Kimbrel in blockbuster trade with the Cubs

The White Sox entered the day with the largest division lead in the major leagues. But general manager Rick Hahn made a move with a bigger goal in mind. The Sox pulled off a blockbuster hours before the trade deadline, acquiring Kimbrel in the second deal between the teams in as many days. The move came at a big price — the Cubs received second baseman Nick Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer in return.

August

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Aug 2:</mark> Bulls make over their backcourt, acquiring Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade as NBA free agency opens

A few moments after NBA free agency officially began, the Bulls made the first big splash. They agreed to sign Ball to a four-year contract worth $85 million and overhauled their guard rotation by agreeing to terms with former Laker Alex Caruso on a four-year, $37 million deal. A day later, they agreed to sign free-agent wing DeMar DeRozan to a three-year, $85 million contract.

Aug 7: Zach LaVine wins gold at the Olympics with Team USA

Behind Kevin Durant’s 29 points, the U.S. men’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive gold medal with an 87-82 victory against France. The victory offered some redemption for Team USA, which had dropped back-to-back games against France in the Olympic opener in Tokyo and at the 2019 World Cup. Bulls star LaVine brought home a gold medal, making him the fourth player in team history to do so, joining Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Jimmy Butler.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Aug 9:</mark> Local Olympians set records, fell short, fought for their sport’s survival and had historic gold medals hung around their necks

The Tokyo Olympics closed as they began — in an empty stadium with masked athletes celebrating an event many of them feared would never happen. For the more than 60 athletes with Illinois ties, these Olympics will be the one in which they set personal records, fell short of their own expectations, made their debut, suffered a controversial disqualification, won a medal after beating cancer, fought for their sport’s survival, missed their families, advocated for mental health issues, helped a teammate achieve a dream and had historic gold medals hung around their necks.

Aug 10: Tony Esposito, Hall of Fame Blackhawks goalie and “pillar of this franchise,” dies at 78

Esposito, one of the NHL’s all-time elite goaltenders who starred for the Blackhawks for 15 seasons, died at age 78. Esposito broke into the NHL during the 1968-69 season and served as a backup for the Stanley Cup champion Canadiens. It wasn’t long before Esposito made his mark with the Hawks, winning the starting job in training camp and putting together a historic season during which he posted a 2.17 goals-against average and a modern-day record 15 shutouts.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Aug 12:</mark> Cubs release Jake Arrieta after another ugly start — an abrupt ending to their reunion with the former Cy Young winner

Arrieta’s season-long performance made the outcome a matter of when, not if. After surrendering eight runs on 11 hits in four innings against the Brewers, the Cubs released Arrieta. It represented the final chapter in an ugly season that saw the veteran right-hander post a 5.88 ERA in 20 starts. The Cubs gave Arrieta plenty of opportunities to work through his struggles, getting a longer leash than most pitchers would be afforded, but it didn’t work out. The move shifted the Cubs’ focus to their younger arms.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Aug. 12:</mark> Tim Anderson provides the movie-like heroics with his walk-off homer to give the White Sox a victory in the Field of Dreams game

The diamond where the movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed was a long relay throw away. So of course the Field of Dreams game featuring the White Sox and Yankees ended in dramatic fashion. Anderson provided the heroics, hitting a walk-off, two-run home run into the cornfield beyond the right-field wall to give the Sox a 9-8 victory — a thrilling game that would amaze Ray Kinsella. “It was our first time here in the Field of Dreams, and to be able to make a memory like this is definitely leaving a mark,” Anderson said. “The fans came to see a show and we gave them a show.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Aug. 18:</mark> Rookie Teven Jenkins’ return to the Bears after back surgery is undetermined

The Bears were one game into the preseason and already waiting to see what was behind door No. 3 at left tackle. Coach Matt Nagy announced Jenkins — the overwhelming favorite to be the Week 1 starter and the player whom GM Ryan Pace traded up to draft in the second round — had undergone back surgery. His combine medical report listed a lumbar strain, according to a league source.

Aug 22: Cubs set a franchise record with their 13th consecutive home loss: “Listen, it’s no fun to lose. It’s like nobody is having a good time.”

The Cubs experienced plenty of low moments, but after trading their stars and revamping the roster, the team set an unwanted record in the process. The Cubs lost 13 consecutive games at Wrigley Field, spanning four series dating to late July. They needed a walk-off win the next day against one of the worst road teams in baseball, the Rockies, to finally end their home skid.

September

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Sept 19:</mark> Patrick Wisdom sets a Cubs rookie record with his 27th homer — and his home run rate puts him in rare company in MLB history

One of the few Cubs highlights was courtesy of a 30-year-old rookie who didn’t get called up until late May. But when Wisdom became locked in at the plate, a barrage of home runs followed. In the process, Wisdom broke Kris Bryant’s 2015 franchise rookie home run record when he connected on a three-run homer in the eighth inning in Milwaukee for his 27th of the season. Wisdom would hit one more home run on Sept. 24 before a sore wrist and then landing on the COVID IL ended his season prematurely.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Sept. 23:</mark> White Sox win the American League Central — their first division title since 2008

The White Sox entered 2021 with high expectations. Any one of numerous serious injuries could have derailed their season. Instead the team accomplished its first goal, clinching the American League Central title for the first time since 2008. “Given the adversity this team has had to face over the course of this year, whether it’s the injuries to core players early on or the jump to 162 games up from (a pandemic-shortened) 60 (in 2020) or the mere fact we continue to play through a pandemic, this team has had to go through a lot,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.

Sept. 26: Justin Fields gets sacked nine times as the Bears offense struggles in a 26-6 loss to the Browns

As the seconds wound down at FirstEnergy Stadium, Fields had been sacked more times than he had completed a pass. That’s how badly the Bears rookie’s first NFL start went in a 26-6 loss to the Browns. Led by Myles Garrett’s 4½ sacks, the Browns defense sacked Fields nine times. Five other players had at least a share of a sack.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Sept. 28:</mark> Bears sign a $197.2 million purchase agreement for Arlington Heights racetrack land — taking the next step in a potential move from Soldier Field

The Bears signed a purchase agreement for Arlington International Racecourse, a move that takes the team a step closer toward securing property for a new stadium and leaving their longtime home at Soldier Field. Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement that finalizing the agreement was the “critical next step in continuing our exploration of the property and its potential.” Churchill Downs announced the sale price was $197.2 million and said it anticipated closing the sale in late 2022 or early 2023.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Sept. 30:</mark> Raphael Wicky is fired as the Fire coach after going 12-25-14

The first hammer to fall in the Fire’s lackluster 2021 season came down with the firing of Wicky. The Fire announced the move one day after the team defeated New York City FC 2-0 in a one-match return to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview. Wicky, 44, went 12-25-14 overall, going 5-10-8 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 7-15-6 this season.

October

Oct. 10: Bears get a sense of hope with an upset in Las Vegas after getting clutch contributions from all phases

The Bears’ 20-9 victory had been in the books for almost 45 minutes and the music from the visiting locker room at Allegiant Stadium still was bumping. Tight end Jesper Horsted was the first player to meet with reporters and had to speak up a little in the news conference room to be heard over the booming bass. “You can hear it through like five walls,” Horsted said with a chuckle.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 12:</mark> “A fun ride” for the 2021 White Sox ends well short of the ultimate goal after a Game 4 loss in the ALDS

There were selfies and hugs among players and their family members at Guaranteed Rate Field. Only the celebration didn’t involve the White Sox. A season that began with lofty expectations ended well short of the ultimate goal for the Sox, who were eliminated from the playoffs with a 10-1 loss to the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. “We accomplished the first goal, but we are disappointed to get one win and not two more, so bittersweet,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “We’re hurting for them, but it’s an amazing group.”

Oct. 15: Carter Hawkins’ background in player development — and a five-hour dinner conversation — makes him Jed Hoyer’s choice as the new Cubs GM

When Cubs President Jed Hoyer began making phone calls this summer as he began the process to find a new general manager, one name kept popping up. Hawkins’ reputation and the relationships he built during his 14 years in the Cleveland organization quickly landed him on Hoyer’s radar for the position, and that culminated when the 37-year-old was formally introduced as Cubs GM.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 17:</mark> Sky win their first WNBA title, erasing an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the clincher at Wintrust Arena

The Sky completed their miracle run with an 80-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury in which they came back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. They set a WNBA record for most wins in one postseason with eight en route to the franchise’s first title. “Faith is a big key for me,” Sky coach and general manager James Wade said. “You have to believe it and I can’t explain it. It’s just in me and you give it to them. You sound crazy enough that they believe it, and when I got here in 2018, I remember saying we were going to win a championship. We did it because we believed and we probably did something no one has ever done.” The team celebrated with a parade and rally downtown a few days later.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 17:</mark> “All my (bleeping) life! I own you!” With a win-sealing touchdown run — and one harsh insult — Aaron Rodgers adds to the Bears’ misery again

Maybe the fan was a figment of his imagination. But the Packers quarterback swears he saw her somewhere in the front row of Section 128 in the southwest corner of Soldier Field. Rodgers had just tumbled across the goal line on a pivotal 6-yard touchdown run late in the game against the Bears. He was feeling it in that moment. The familiar thrill of sticking it to the Soldier Field crowd. As he began to soak in the euphoria, Rodgers said one angry spectator caught his eye. “All I saw was a woman giving me the double bird,” he said. “So I’m not sure exactly what came out of my mouth next.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 23:</mark> Illinois pulls off a stunning road upset of No. 7 Penn State in the first nine-overtime game in NCAA history

Over the course of an unprecedented nine overtimes, Illinois survived Penn State’s botched attempt at a trick play, lost its quarterback and a powerful running back to injury and failed to gain just 3 measly yards again and again. When Casey Washington finally came down with the winning catch, he hardly knew what to do. “I actually cried,” he said. “It just felt good.”

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 25:</mark> Bears coach Matt Nagy tests positive for COVID-19

On the heels of the Bears’ biggest loss since 2014, the team’s COVID-19 outbreak sidelined Nagy. Nagy announced he tested positive after returning home from Tampa, Fla., where the Bears were shellacked 38-3 by the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor would run all team meetings as he did briefly in the spring and as the Bears had planned in the event anything happened to Nagy.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 26:</mark> Stan Bowman is out and the Blackhawks are fined $2 million after a law firm announces findings of its investigation related to 2010 misconduct allegations

Bowman established himself in the hockey world when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, his first season as general manager. That same year, Hawks upper management failed to act on a player’s sexual assault claim until after the championship was secured, according to a law firm’s independent review. The damning details in that report, released on Oct. 26, came at a high cost for Bowman 11 years later: He resigned from his position as Hawks president of hockey operations and general manager, as well as from his role as GM of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 27:</mark> Kyle Beach, a former Blackhawks prospect, reveals he is the “John Doe” suing the team over a 2010 sexual assault allegation

As an independent report on the Blackhawks’ handling of a 2010 sexual assault allegation against a former video coach continued to send shock waves through the hockey world, the former player whose complaint was at the heart of the scandal revealed his identity in a televised interview. Beach, a Blackhawks center prospect from 2009 to 2013, revealed himself as “John Doe,” the pseudonym used in a negligence lawsuit against the team.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Oct. 28:</mark> Joel Quenneville resigns as Panthers coach amid Blackhawks scandal

Quenneville resigned as coach of the Panthers, two days after the second-winningest coach in NHL history was among those implicated for not swiftly responding to allegations by a Blackhawks player of being sexually assaulted by another coach during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. The announcement was made shortly after Quenneville met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in New York.

Oct. 29: Red Stars clinch their sixth straight NWSL playoff appearance

The Red Stars did a little more than clinch their sixth straight NWSL postseason appearance against the Orlando Pride. With the 1-0 victory at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla., and other results that weekend, the Red Stars secured the No. 4 seed and a home match in the Nov. 7 playoff opener.

November

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 3:</mark> Brad Aldrich’s name has been x-ed out on the Stanley Cup after the Hall of Fame grants the Blackhawks’ request

Aldrich’s name was marked out in the 2010 Blackhawks section of the Stanley Cup. A spokeswoman for the Hockey Hall of Fame told the Tribune via email that the Hall of Fame “can confirm that his name has been x-ed out.” Hawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz wrote to the Hall of Fame requesting that Aldrich’s name be removed after an independent report confirmed that a 2010 sexual assault allegation against Aldrich, brought by then-Hawks prospect Kyle Beach, was scuttled by Hawks management until after the team won the Cup.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 6:</mark> Jeremy Colliton is fired as Blackhawks coach after a 1-9-2 start to his fourth season: “Our play and competitiveness must improve”

The Blackhawks fired Colliton 12 games into his fourth season as the team’s coach — and three years to the date of his hiring. Colliton’s dismissal came a day after the Hawks dropped to 1-9-2 with a deflating 5-1 loss to the Jets. Derek King, who had been coaching the IceHogs, took over as interim head coach of the Hawks, while associate head coach Anders Sorensen took over in Rockford on an interim basis. The Hawks also fired assistant coaches Tomas Mitell and Sheldon Brookbank.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 16:</mark> Loyola announces it is moving to the Atlantic 10 Conference in July after nearly a decade in the Missouri Valley

Loyola’s time in the Missouri Valley Conference is coming to an end. The Ramblers announced they are joining the Atlantic 10 effective July 1, 2022. Loyola will be the conference’s 15th member when it joins.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 20:</mark> Red Stars lose 2-1 to the Spirit in the NWSL championship game, the Red Stars’ third straight defeat in a final

Another season ended in heartbreak for the Red Stars, who fell 2-1 to the Washington Spirit in the NWSL championship game in an extra-time thriller. The Red Stars also lost the 2019 championship match and the final of the pandemic-created Challenge Cup last year.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 21:</mark> “Right now, it’s sickening.” Bears coach Matt Nagy is under fire after another late collapse and a fifth straight loss.

At the end of a brutal afternoon, on the heels of his team’s fifth consecutive loss, with the aggravation of a fed-up city echoing into the evening, Nagy stood at a lectern inside Soldier Field and stammered his way through a recap. Nagy had to find some way to describe his team’s galling 16-13 loss to the Ravens. Said linebacker Alec Ogletree: “Most games are lost by not being detailed and doing your job.” Added edge rusher Robert Quinn: “Right now, it’s sickening.” In pockets around Soldier Field, chants for Nagy’s exit were louder in the fourth quarter than they’ve ever been. “Fi-re Nag-y! Fi-re Nag-y! Fi-re Nag-y!”

Nov. 22: Former Red Stars players accuse Rory Dames of verbal and emotional abuse in a bombshell report, hours after the team announces the coach suddenly resigned

Several former Red Stars players accused Dames of verbal, emotional and racial abuse and controlling behavior in a Washington Post article. Dames, who was the longest-tenured coach in the National Women’s Soccer League, resigned Nov. 20 after the team lost 2-1 to the Washington Spirit in the championship match. The Red Stars announced the resignation at 11:54 a.m. Nov. 21. Former players also accused Dames of “intentionally blurring the line between player and coach,” according to the article.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 23:</mark> “That is not accurate”: How a report stating Bears coach Matt Nagy will be fired set off a strange day at Halas Hall

Nagy faced questions about his job security with the Bears before, but never quite like this. Patch.com reporter Mark Konkol, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 while at the Chicago Sun-Times, published a report that Nagy had been informed the Thanksgiving game would be his last as Bears coach. After nearly three hours of silence from his Bears bosses, Nagy entered the Halas Hall media room at 12:01 p.m. and refuted the report himself. He said he had not spoken to Bears Chairman George McCaskey, President and CEO Ted Phillips or GM Ryan Pace that week and hadn’t been told he would be fired. Nagy’s denial during a 10-minute news conference was just one piece of a strange day in Lake Forest as the Bears tried to dig themselves out from a five-game losing streak — and all the rumors and speculation that go with it.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 24:</mark> Ezra Hendrickson is the new Fire coach, bringing a wealth of MLS experience — and trophies — as the club embarks on a busy offseason

A longtime presence in Major League Soccer as a player and assistant coach, Hendrickson joined the Fire from the Columbus Crew staff and replaces Raphael Wicky, who was fired in late September after less than two seasons in charge. During an introductory news conference on Nov. 29, Hendrickson hit on “growing pains” that will come for the Fire in 2022, but the new coach said he expects a quick turnaround.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Nov. 29:</mark> Brian Kelly leaves Notre Dame after 12 seasons to become LSU’s football coach on a 10-year deal worth at least $95 million

LSU flew Kelly on a private jet to Baton Rouge, La., where he was greeted by fans, dignitaries and the Golden Band from Tigerland after agreeing to a 10-year contract worth $95 million plus incentives. The hiring of Kelly — who led Notre Dame for the last 12 seasons and eclipsed Knute Rockne for career victories with the storied Irish — came together in yet another blockbuster coaching move in college football. Kelly was 113-40 at Notre Dame, including a current run of five straight double-digit-victory seasons.

December

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Dec. 1:</mark> Marcus Stroman, the top available free-agent starting pitcher, signs with the Cubs

Improving the rotation was a clear goal entering the offseason, and the Cubs secured the best available starter left in free agency just before the lockout went into effect. The Cubs found the right combination of contract length (three years) and money ($71 million) for the All-Star pitcher, a significant signing that was a step in the right direction to build a competitive team for 2022 and beyond.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Dec. 1:</mark> MLB owners impose a lockout of players — baseball’s ninth work stoppage and the first since 1995 — as the collective bargaining agreement expires

As expected, MLB owners locked out players after the collective bargaining agreement expired, putting a freeze on all big-league transactions, from free-agent signings to trades, prohibiting negotiations among teams and agents, and halting communication between coaches and 40-man players. With significant economic issues at the heart of the dispute dividing the two sides, it’s poised to be a long lockout.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Dec. 2:</mark> Red Stars trade six players — including Julie Ertz and Sarah Gorden — but several questions remain less than two weeks after Rory Dames’ resignation amid abuse allegations.

The dismantling of the Red Stars appeared to be underway less than two weeks after a bombshell report accused Dames of abusive behavior and called into question the team’s management over its handling of the former coach. The Red Stars announced they traded six players — Ertz, Gorden, midfielder Nikki Stanton, and forwards Katie Johnson, Makenzy Doniak and Kelsey Turnbow — for seemingly little in return.

Dec. 3: Marcus Freeman is named Notre Dame’s head coach, being promoted from defensive coordinator after Brian Kelly’s departure to LSU

Notre Dame promoted defensive coordinator Freeman to head coach of the Irish to replace Brian Kelly. Freeman, 35, took over less than a week after Kelly’s surprising and abrupt departure for LSU.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Dec. 5:</mark> Minnie Miñoso and Buck O’Neil are voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by special committees, but Dick Allen falls one vote short

“The Cuban Comet” has landed in Cooperstown. Miñoso was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame along with two others with Chicago connections, Jim Kaat and Buck O’Neil. Miñoso, a White Sox great, was one of four players elected through the Golden Days Era committee, joining Kaat — who also spent time with the Sox — Gil Hodges and Tony Oliva. Allen, a former AL MVP with the White Sox, again fell short by one vote.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Dec. 12:</mark> Roland Hemond, a decorated baseball executive who was the GM of the 1983 White Sox, dies at 92

Hemond, a three-time winner of the Major League Baseball Executive of the Year Award — including twice with the White Sox — died. He was 92. He worked for Sox owners John Allyn, Bill Veeck and Jerry Reinsdorf and was credited with helping save the franchise with the Dick Allen trade in 1971.

<mark class=”hl_blue”>Dec 15:</mark> Blackhawks reach a settlement with Kyle Beach in the former prospect’s negligence lawsuit over an alleged sexual assault in 2010

The Blackhawks and Beach agreed to a settlement in his negligence lawsuit against the team, the parties said. No monetary amount was disclosed. The settlement brings to a close a major chapter in Beach’s legal battle with the team. He sued the Hawks in May over their handling of his sexual assault allegations in 2010 against then-video coach Brad Aldrich.


Source: Berkshire mont

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