Welcome to SB Nation Chicago, where we'll cover in-depth all five of Chicago's major league teams, give some props to Northwestern basketball and football and also post stories on other important sporting events in the Chicagoland area.
One of the regular features of this site will be a "Top Five." Top Five what, you ask? Well, it could be just about anything from the top five power forwards in Bulls history, to the top five games in White Sox history, to the top five Bears coaches, or even the top five pre- and post-game eateries. In fact, if you have ideas for a "Top Five," contact one of the SBN Chicago editors, whose e-mail addresses are posted on the front page of this site.
We're going to start with the Top Five Most Popular Athletes in Chicago. And like Chicago weather -- you know the old saying, "Wait five minutes. It'll change." -- this list may have a pretty short shelf life. But here's who we think are the most popular athletes in Chicago right now. And to be fair, I've included one from each of our major league teams.
No. 1: Dustin Byfuglien
The Blackhawk with the name very few could pronounce properly until the playoffs began (in case you still don't know, it's "BUFF-lin") symbolizes the tough, Big Shoulders attitude that has brought his team to the brink of the Stanley Cup. At 6-foot-4 and 257 pounds, he's the size of a linebacker for the Bears. Or Carlos Zambrano. But his three game-winning goals against the Sharks in the conference finals put Big Buff at the top of this heap. You don't see a lot of Byfuglien jerseys around town; most Blackhawks fans seem to favor Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews for hockey sweater purchases. Win that Cup -- and especially after Big Buff's two goals in Game 5 on Sunday -- and you'll likely see quite a few. (Also considered: Antti Niemi)
No. 2: Ryan Dempster
The Cubs are floundering, but a solid presence throughout his tenure on the North Side is the Canadian-born righthander who's also a funnyman (you've got to hear his dead-on impression of Harry Caray). He's the fourth-longest tenured current Cub (after Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee) and has been a rock in the rotation, even last season when dealing with the congenital disease suffered by his daughter, born just before Opening Day 2009. Dempster has begun a foundation to help find a cure for the disease; his work in the community and his team leadership have made him the most popular Cub. (Also considered: Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin)
No. 3: Mark Buehrle
The "crafty left-hander" has been a mainstay in the rotation of the White Sox for 10 seasons and is the only player to appear in all three White Sox postseasons in the 2000s. He works fast -- players, broadcasters, and fans all appreciate that -- and his perfect game last July cemented Sox fans' love for him. In the 1990s, Sox fans appreciated Frank Thomas' production -- but they loved Robin Ventura, the most popular Sox of his day. Similarly, today, Sox fans respect Paul Konerko, but they love Buehrle and hope to see him finish his career on the South Side. (Also considered: Konerko)
No. 4: Brian Urlacher
Yes, even though he missed all but a few downs of 2009, and even though he recently dissed Bears legend Gale Sayers for criticizing his performance (the number of championships, Brian, that you and Gale won is equal: zero) -- Urlacher jerseys are still everywhere in Chicago. In the strong tradition of great Bears middle linebackers from Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary, Bears fans still want Urlacher to be anchoring the defense for another Super Bowl run. That may still be a ways away, but hopefully Urlacher will come back strong this fall. (Also considered: Devin Hester)
No. 5: LeBron James
Yes, I know he's not a Chicago athlete. Yet. But there's already a website -- SendLeBrontochicago.com -- and a billboard paid for by donations to that site, imploring the Cavaliers star to sign with the Bulls. Now that the Bulls have a new coach to be signed after the Finals in Tom Thibodeau, they can set their sights on LeBron when NBA free agency officially begins on July 1. LeBron isn't a Chicago athlete -- but he's certainly a popular topic of discussion among Chicago sports fans. If the Bulls sign him, he'd instantly rocket to the top of this list. (Also considered: Derrick Rose)
I'm sure you've read this Top Five and disagreed with some -- or maybe all -- of my picks. Did I leave your favorite out? Did I put someone here who you say, "Him? No way!" Post your thoughts in the comments. And again, welcome to SB Nation Chicago.