Column: A ‘nightmare’ 2023 for Chicago sports included some memorable moments on TV and radio

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How will we remember the year in sports?

Let’s allow Chicago White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to do the honors:

“It was absolutely the worst season I’ve ever been through. It was a nightmare. It’s still a nightmare. It’s embarrassing. It’s disgusting. All the bad words you can think of is the way I feel about the 2023 season. It absolutely was just awful.”

Reinsdorf obviously was referring to the White Sox, but there were enough nightmares to go around for fans of every team to complain about, including another lost season of the Bears rebuild and an epic Cubs collapse.

Still, we watched and listened, groused and groaned and sometimes managed to laugh, because that’s what being a fan is all about.

With the year about to end, here are some of the best and worst things we saw and heard in 2023.

Ozzie and Chuck Show

Nothing worked better after a White Sox loss than washing it down with some vitriol from analyst Ozzie Guillen on the NBC Chicago Sports postgame show, co-starring Chuck Garfien. Guillen’s takedowns of the team and manager Pedro Grifol sounded like the guy sitting on the next bar stool.

“This is my job,” he told me. “Do I have an easy job? No. But the reason I have it, the reason they picked me to do this job is because the fans know I will tell the truth. If someone (from the White Sox) doesn’t like what I say, well, I’m here. I hope they (say something). I can’t wait for them.”

Honorable mention goes to Will Perdue and Kendall Gill, whose biting comments on the Chicago Bulls postgame shows are always on target.

The Sut Scale

After Marquee Network analyst Rick Sutcliffe’s excessively glowing commentary on the Cubs’ play during a West Coast trip in April, we invented the Sut Scale to judge the team’s postseason dreams.

Five Suts: “I’m telling you, this team has championship vibes.”

Four Suts: “My goodness, they look like they’ll be playing in October.”

Three Suts: “Never underestimate a David Ross-managed team.”

Two Suts: “It doesn’t happen overnight, but watch out, people, for those 2024 Cubbies.”

One Sut: “These guys really care.”

At the end of a roller-coaster season in which Ross was fired, the final verdict on 2023: Two Suts.

Worst call

During the Cubs’ trip to London, ESPN inexplicably assigned play-by-play man Michael Kay, best known for his New York Yankees job. Key mispronounced the name of Cubs closer Adbert Alzolay multiple times and appeared to be watching his first Cubs game.

At least do a little homework before taking the assignment.

Juiciest scoop

WMVP-AM 1000 host Peggy Kusinski seemingly solved the biggest mystery of the summer when she reported on air that one of the two victims of a shooting in the bleachers at White Sox Park “reportedly snuck the gun in past metal detectors hiding it in the folds of her belly fat.” No sources were cited, and the Sox’s flagship radio station never followed up on her report.

Reinsdorf said in September that “based upon the information available to us, I see virtually no possibility that the gunshots came from within the ballpark.” He didn’t cite his source either.

Months later, the Chicago Police Department has yet to solve the mystery of the gunshots, and so the “belly fat” theory has yet to be disproved.

Taylor Swift watch

Watching Swift watch football was easily the most overhyped sports media story of the year. God forbid the Kansas City Chiefs make the Super Bowl again.

Lip-readers even noted that Swift uttered a profanity Sunday during the Chiefs-Patriots game. Can you imagine someone swearing at a sports event?

Down and out

The viral clip of the year belonged to Cleveland Guardians third baseman José Ramirez’s knockdown of Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.

Guardians radio voice Tom Hamilton proved to be ready for the moment: “José and Anderson square off. They’re fighting, they’re swinging, down goes Anderson. Down goes Anderson!”

After the season, the Sox unceremoniously cut ties with Anderson, formerly referred to by the Sox as “the face of baseball.”

The bigger they are …

Heavyset Sox starter Lance Lynn lasted only six innings once in his first five starts and seemed flummoxed by the new pitch-clock rules.

“Maybe a couple salads would help,” Sox analyst Steve Stone told WSCR-AM 670 in a conversation about Lynn. Stone later apologized to Lynn.

But Lynn’s downfall continued, eventually leading to a trade deadline dump to the Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom he continued serving up home runs without eating enough salads.

The truth hurts

When Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokić was ejected from a Dec. 12 game against the Chicago Bulls just before halftime, radio announcer Chuck Swirsky said there was “no excuse” for the Bulls to lose with Jokic and Jamal Murray out.

“I could think of some,” Bulls analyst Bill Wennington sarcastically responded. The Bulls went on to lose 114-106.

Multitasking fail

Marquee mic’d up Cody Bellinger for a game in September and caught some flak when he didn’t catch a line shot that hit the base of the outfield wall.

Bellinger was conversing with Jon Sciambi just before the ball was hit to him. He probably wouldn’t have caught it anyway, but some fans were upset he was forced to multitask during an important game in a pennant race.

Marquee general manager Mike McCarthy said it was “an experiment” that would not be repeated the rest of the season. “We’re trying to understand some of the implications of it and we won’t be pursuing it again,” he said.

Look for more in 2024, though maybe without Bellinger, who is yet unsigned.

Mr. Bombastic

It was another big year for bombastic yakkers on TV and radio.

The split of Fox Sports’ Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharp as their disagreements became personal was bad TV at its finest. Pat McAfee continued his assault on our intelligence on ESPN, on which he’s made a career from being Aaron Rodger’s valet.

But the honor of Mr. Bombastic 2023 goes to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who said on Paul Finebaum’s radio show “if enough people came to me and said to me, ‘Stephen A., you have a legitimate shot to win the presidency of the United States of America,’ I would strongly, strongly consider running.”

President Stephen A.? Remember, as bad as 2023 seems right now, it always could get worse.


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