Chicagoans are not used to this.
This happens to other fan bases, not us. Whether it’s Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers, or Jameis Winston at Florida State, Chicagoans have always been the ones asking other fans, “how can you cheer for that guy?”
We had Walter Payton, ‘Sweetness’ on and off the field. We had Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time who gambling issues aside, wasn’t the worst person off the court. Jonathan Toews is one of the most likable stars in all of sports. Sammy Sosa took steroids, but who didn’t during that time period? Oh yeah, Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt championed drug testing during his playing days. He wanted to show the cheaters that he was hitting homeruns thanks to natural ability and strength and sox fans loved him for it.
Chicagoans, maybe more than other fans, are proud of who our athletes are as well as what they are in the arena. They are the true representatives, far more than any politician, of a town that eats, drinks, and sleeps sports.
Which makes the Patrick Kane rape allegations especially difficult.
For one thing, he is a hockey player, and hockey players don’t sexually assault women, right? Isn’t that what football and basketball players are constantly being accused of?
Second, and most depressing, the Blackhawks have just won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. They are the true pride and joy of Illinois (sorry Bears fans), and like it or not (no disrespect to Toews), Kane is the face of the franchise.
Walk around the city, you’ll see more Blackhawk hats and shirts than any other team (though the Cubs are catching up).
When a Chicagoan visits another state, he’ll choose Blackhawk attire to accompany him on his trip over anything with a Bears logo on it, to show those people in Florida or New York or Texas what it’s like to have a modern dynasty.
We want the Blackhawks to represent us, and that’s what a sport team does, it represents us, whether we like it or not. In the nineties, if you told someone you were from Chicago, they said “Michael Jordan.” Now they say, “Blackhawks” and the first person they think of is Patrick Kane, the young man who scored the game-clinching goal that allowed us to celebrate the cup on home ice for the first since 1961.
On Saturday the Buffalo News put out a report that a rape kit showed no evidence of Kane’s DNA in the accuser’s genital area or underwear. The lack of DNA evidence in a rape kit, however, does not necessarily suggest a sexual assault did not happen. The use of a condom or forcing the woman to wash afterwards could erase any DNA evidence of an assault, and Kane’s DNA was found on the accuser’s fingernails and shoulders.
But Kane just wanted to talk about hockey.
“It’s nice to be around my teammates and playing hockey,” Kane said. “When I’m on the ice, just trying to focus on that. It definitely takes your mind off things.”
But will watching Kane skate again in the familiar Indian head sweater make us “take our mind off things”, those “things” being rape allegations?
The early indications seem to say, “yes”.
On Friday, in South Bend, Indiana, the vast majority of the 4,000 people at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena showed their support with loud applause as Kane stepped onto the ice.
It does make one wonder what exactly are they cheering for. Are they cheering for the three Stanley Cups he helped bring to Chicago?
Are they cheering because they have somehow managed to review and analyze information unavailable to the rest of the public and have found him not guilty on the preponderance of that evidence?
Are they cheering to let him know that even if he is guilty of rape, they still have his back? This is obviously the most dangerous what if? This is Florida State-level what if, which is not a good thing.
Are they cheering because they believe he’s a good guy with a track record that suggests he’s incapable of doing such a horrible thing? Just because he and his cousin beat up a cab driver doesn’t mean he’s capable of rape, right?
“That’s a pretty cool reaction, especially you know, given the circumstances,” Kane said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I thought it was…you know, it’s one of those things when you’re going out on the ice, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and to hear that reaction from the crowd, it definitely gave me chills.”
Those outside Chicago might be “getting chills” for a different reason. The Blackhawks were widely criticized for the way they handled Thursday’s news conference, and some people have questioned whether Kane should have avoided camp until the issue was solved. It’s still early, but the Blackhawks are looking more like the folks down in Tallahassee than an organization lauded the last ten years or so for class and intelligence.
But like I said, it’s still early. I have been going to Hawks games since I was a kid. I still remember the old Chicago Stadium very well. The old Madhouse on Madison.
Fans truly are mad you know, the crazy kind of mad.
I’ve already bought a few tickets for the upcoming season. I guess I have a lot more in common with the guy in the Roethlisberger jersey than I thought.