The Chicago Bruisers were one of the founding franchises in the original Arena Football League, reaching the playoffs in two out of three years and losing ArenaBowl II in 1988. Aside from the occasional honor, being featured in a movie, and created as a hidden bonus in a video game, the Bruisers were resigned to the role of memories and historical footnotes.
Then, in 2001, the league gave Chicago a second chance with the Rush. Success was just as immediate, and the team was even more fruitful. In 12 seasons, the team only had one losing record (7-9 in 2007, where they won ArenaBowl XX) and only missed the playoffs once (2012, despite finishing 10-8). However, despite the championship and six division titles, the Rush are mainly remembered for the chaos that happened in 2013.
Despite a very solid, profitable team that survived 11 seasons and were one of the main teams to come back in 2010, two ownership changes, a bounced check, and being taken over by the league twice, on top of issues with a home arena, the team was on shaky ground. Despite another 10-8 season and another division title, the team was forced to travel to 14-4 Spokane in the first round of the playoffs. Three ill-timed fourth-quarter turnovers cost them the game, ending their franchise history with a playoff loss.
It’s for the record of perseverance despite chaos, the fan base that showed up time and time again (11,179 average attendance throughout the Rush’s history), and a clear variety of arenas throughout suburban Chicago readily available for a good price (especially during the league season, where baseball, basketball, and hockey fans could get an excellent alternative).
The problem with the Bruisers was that the league outgrew them. The problem with the Rush was ineffective ownership. However, with the league in the position it’s in by reaching out to owners of NBA and NHL teams, why not reach out to a city that has both? It’s working in Washington and Baltimore, and now Philadelphia and soon potentially Albany.
Chicago is a major market, big enough to help the league re-earn the prestige it needs now of all times. Travel wouldn’t be a major issue as Chicago would be the western-most city, and one major market could potentially lure others in the midwest and all throughout the rest of the country if the league desires. TV ratings would be there, fans would be there, it’s time that with a new commissioner and new owners, the Arena Football League is there, too.
After all…the third time’s the charm.