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Who's got playoff bragging rights: Chicago or Boston?

By Jack M Silverstein

For RedEye

1:18 PM CDT, June 18, 2013

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When it comes to metropolitan bragging rights, nothing tops pro sports rivalries. These come in two forms: head-to-head battles and overall performance. With the Blackhawks and Bruins locked in a Stanley Cup Final showdown, hockey bragging rights are up for grabs. RedEye takes a look at the standings.

 

BULLS VS. CELTICS

Playoff history: 4-0 Celtics (1981, 1986, 1987, 2009)

Recent performance: Bulls, six titles since 1991; Celtics, four titles since 1981

Bragging rights edge: Celtics, barely

No team has won more NBA titles than the Celtics, but since the drafting of Larry Bird in 1978 and Michael Jordan in 1984, the count is 6-4 Bulls. However, the Celtics get points for sweeping Jordan's Bulls in 1986 and 1987, for winning the epic seven-game series in 2009, and for winning a championship more recently. A tip of the cap to the Bulls for MJ dropping 63 points on the '86 Celtics, and for the 2009 Bulls taking the defending champs to seven games.

The One That Didn't Happen: Jordan's Bulls were never strong enough to beat Bird's Celtics in the '80s, but the tables were turned in Bird's final three seasons (1990-1992). The series that got away was in 1992: the Celtics lost to the Cavaliers in the conference semifinals, and thus stripped MJ of an opportunity to gain revenge on Bird.

 

BEARS VS. PATRIOTS

Playoff history: 1-0 Bears (1985)

Recent performance: Bears, one title since 1985; Patriots, three titles since 1985

Bragging rights edge: Bears, barely

There is a strong case to be made for the Patriots. Since the two teams met in Super Bowl XX in January 1986, the Pats have won three Super Bowls and gone to another three, compared with only one appearance for the Bears. The Patriots have won 13 division championships compared with nine for the Bears. And since Super Bowl XX, the Patriots have won six of seven regular-season games against the Monsters of the Midway.

But the memory of Super Bowl XX does not fade easily. The duration of bragging rights is probably about 30 years, meaning this one could go away soon. But bragging rights are subjective, so as long as Super Bowl XX plays a role in the self-esteem of Bears fans, the Patriots will hold no sway over Chicago's collective confidence.

The One That Didn't Happen: After the Bears punched their ticket to Miami for Super Bowl XLI, the Patriots held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead over Indianapolis in the AFC championship game. They lost by four, but if they'd won, the Tom Brady-led Pats may well have defeated the Brian Urlacher-led Bears, thus swinging the football bragging rights meter unequivocally to Boston's side.

 

CUBS/WHITE SOX vs. RED SOX

Playoff history: 1-0 White Sox vs. Red Sox (2005), 1-0 Red Sox vs. Cubs (1918)

Recent performance: White Sox, 2005 champs; Red Sox, 2004 and 2007 champs; Cubs, 2003 er, 2008, uh … 1907-08 back-to-back!

Bragging rights edge: White Sox, then Red Sox, then Cubs

A strong claim can be made for the Red Sox, having won two World Series to the White Sox's one and the Cubs' zero. And indeed, the Red Sox hold a certain psychologically abstract edge over the Cubs.

But the White Sox beat the Red Sox decisively in their lone playoff matchup. They get points for a sweep, for knocking out the defending champs, for beating a team en route to their own championship and for outscoring Boston 24-9 in the three games.

The One That Didn't Happen: The Apocalypse Series, aka a World Series showdown in 2003 between the haven't-won-since-1908 Cubs and the haven't-won-since-1918 Red Sox. How close did we come? The Cubs blew leads in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS at home, while the Red Sox led 5-2 in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the ALCS.

 

BLACKHAWKS vs. BRUINS

Playoff history: 5-1 Bruins (lost in '75, won in '27, '42, '70, '74, and '78)

Recent performance: Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, lost in 1992; Bruins won the Cup in 2011, lost in 1988 and 1990

Bragging rights edge: TBD by 2013 champion

Yes, the Bruins hold a distinct edge over the Hawks in playoff matchups, but two of their postseason wins came before the conclusion of World War II, while the most recent was 35 years ago. In the words of Eddie Murphy: "What have you done for me lately?"

The One That Didn't Happen: The Hawks and Bruins came close to playing for the Cup in 1990 and 1992. In 1990, the Hawks lost the conference finals 4-2 to eventual Stanley Cup champ Edmonton, which beat the Bruins 4-1. And in 1992, the Penguins swept the Bruins in the conference finals, then swept the Hawks for the Cup.

Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @readjack.

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