Two billion light years ago, when I was teenager at Evanston Township High School, I loved the Chicago Blackhawks.
Yes, this is true. I’ll even sing you their ancient fight song: “Here come the Hawks, the mighty Blackhawks!”
They were right up with the Cubs and the White Sox and just behind the Bears and Bulls in my pantheon of beloved teams.
And of all the Hawks, my favorite of favorites was the great Bobby Hull—the superstar left-winger with the 100-mile-an-hour slap shot.
But despite all the goals he scored and games he won—despite the fact that he once heroically played with a broken jaw—Blackhawks owner Arthur Wirtz, too cheap to be believed, didn’t give Hull the deal he deserved. And so, in 1972, Hull signed a contract for more money with the Winnipeg Jets and left Chicago.
I was devastated. As I saw it, Wirtz had committed an unforgivable sin: he’d run the greatest of the greats out of town.
Filled with outrage, I stood in the high school cafeteria and announced that from this point on I was through with those motherbleepin’ Blackhawks!
Not that anyone paid attention, except for the other geeks and nerds at my table. Speaking of which: What’s up, Larry Wolfe!
But my vow went unbroken. Great Hawks players came and went—Roenick, Chelios, and Savard, to name a few—but I barely paid attention. The Hawks had a good team in 1992 and of course won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and again this year. I stayed off the bandwagon.
Even Bobby Hull reconciled with the team a few years ago. But for me the damage was too great to undo.
In fact, for running Bobby Hull out of town, I always believed the Hawks should lose the property tax break the state gave them on the United Center. Of course, I’d probably think that even if they’d re-signed him.
Anyway, fast-forward to last week and the hype and hoopla over this year’s Stanley Cup Championship, which I was ignoring, with my boycott entering its 41st year.
I got a call from Matt Farmer, lawyer and Huffington Post columnist. “You won’t believe what Mayor Rahm did,” Matt said.
Let me guess—he closed more schools.
“No,” said Matt. “He prematurely killed Bobby Hull.”
It turned out Mayor Emanuel had another one of his moments when, not knowing much about something, he talked about it anyway, thus exposing his ignorance at the very time he was trying to highlight his expertise.
Which, when you think about it, is sort of what he does all the time with our schools and neighborhoods.
In this case, the mayor was being interviewed on a sports talk show on ESPN radio when he was asked what the Blackhawks championship meant to him.
“I grew up in the Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull era,” Emanuel said, “and I think Bobby Hull is looking down on this team with great admiration.”
Even though the Golden Jet is not only very much alive, but a regular around town—as anyone who’s even remotely familiar with the Hawks can tell you.
In other words, Mayor Emanuel did to Bobby Hull what he’s trying to do to public education in Chicago by closing 50 schools.
Last week I wrote about it on the Reader‘s blog, the Bleader. A few hours after the post ran, Alderman Robert Fioretti called me on my cell phone.
“I saw your story,” he said. “Hold on. I got a surprise for you.”
A moment later I heard a gravelly voice say, “Hi, Benny, it’s Bobby Hull.”
Yeah, right. I wasn’t falling for this bullshit. I figured Fioretti was messing with me. Probably talked a friend into coming on the phone to pull my leg.
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
“It’s true,” the voice told me.
“Prove it,” I said.
“All right,” he said. “Ask me some questions.”
“What’s your middle name?”
“Marvin. It’s Robert Marvin Hull.”
“When were you born?”
“January 3, 1939.”
“Who did the television play-by-play during your glory years?”
“The great Lloyd Pettit.”
Okay, I know—easy questions. I was gearing up for some hard ones when I got an e-mail from Fioretti’s fiancee. It showed a picture of the alderman holding his phone to Bobby Hull’s ear while Bobby Hull was talking to me.
“Damn, man,” I said. “You are Bobby Hull!”
“I told you.”
“And I want you to know that no matter what the mayor might say, I’m alive and doing well. And I plan on celebrating when the Blackhawks win the championship in 2014. I don’t know where he got the idea that I was deceased.”
It turned out that Hull and Fioretti happened to be eating at the same Taylor Street restaurant. And Fioretti, who’s known Hull for several years, walked over to the Golden Jet’s table and handed him the phone.
Sweet move, Alderman.
I didn’t want to keep Hull from his dinner. But, since I had him on the phone, I figured I might as well tell him the story of my 1972 proclamation—still in full effect.
“I haven’t rooted for the Blackhawks since they ran you out of town,” I said. “Should I keep the boycott going?”
“I appreciate your support,” he said. “But Benny, let it go. Forty years is enough.”
After that, really, what could I do? I mean, this was Bobby Hull, everybody!
So if any of you geeks and nerds from my table in the ETHS cafeteria happen to be reading this, please know: the great boycott is over.
Here come the Hawks, the mighty Blackhawks!
As for you, Mr. Mayor: I think I can forgive you for prematurely offing the great Golden Jet.
But trying to kill public education in Chicago? It’ll take at least another 40 years to let that go.