Tough season for Chicago sports fans get tougher

Patrick Kane goes down. (AP)
Patrick Kane goes down. (AP)









Rose, Kane injuries could have local and national ratings impact

Like in golf, Chicago sports fans would like a mulligan and start 2015 all over again.

After a fall season of horrendous Bears football, Chicagoans spent the early part of 2015 turning their focus toward the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, who were each making a title push.

Instead, 2015 has turned into a nightmare: in addition to the Jackie Robinson West Little League team being stripped of its title due to a residency scandal, it turned out both the Bulls and Blackhawks were playing below championship-caliber levels, and now Derrick Rose and Patrick Kane are out with major injuries, turning their titles runs into likely first-round playoff exits.

Can we have a do over please?

This is a scene Bulls fans didn't want to see again. (CBS
This is a scene Bulls fans didn’t want to see again. (CBS

As you know by now, the Bulls Derrick Rose is out for the third time in his career with another knee injury, and is likely out for the season. The Blackhawks’ Kane was pushed into the boards by a Florida Panthers player during a game Tuesday night, and is now out for three months. Kane could return to the team in May during the playoffs – that is, if the Blackhawks make it that far.

The local ratings impact without both superstars won’t be known for sometime, but history indicated at least for the Bulls, a mixed bag. Ratings for Bulls games were actually stable when Rose was out the first time around (2012-13), but dropped considerably last winter as an absent Rose started taking a toll on the ratings (not to mention competition from the Winter Olympics.) As for the Blackhawks, missing Kane may not impact their ratings as much, but then again, the team wasn’t playing all that well to begin with.

But the biggest losers could be the NBA and NHL, two leagues struggling to remain viable in an era of NFL dominance. While ratings are still strong locally, they have slipped for some of the NBA’s broadcast partners. While ABC’s ratings are more or less flat from a year ago, ratings are down for ESPN games this year. (Turner Sports’ NBA numbers were not available.) Losing Rose is the latest blow for a league who saw star attractions Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant go down with injuries, while teams in big urban markets such as New York, Los Angeles (Lakers), and Philadelphia have tanked.

Not sure if America is ready for a Golden State Warriors-Atlanta Hawks NBA Finals series, which would feature two of the league’s best teams. With that said, the league better hope LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers go far in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks accounted for three of the most-watched NHL games on NBC so far this season according to Sports Media Watch, including the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals, which was a ratings disappointment. A first-round exit by the Blackhawks could hurt NBC’s ratings, and would not be good for the NHL.

As for Chicago fans, much has been made about already looking forward to baseball season as both the Cubs and White Sox have significantly upgraded their rosters for 2015. But if both turn out to be busts by Memorial Day (and yours truly whips out the picture of Lucy in the pool again), guess what? Yep, we’re right back clamoring for Bears football – and Jay Cutler’s head.

It’s a vicious cycle that never ends.