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Chicago ready to celebrate at last

Published Oct. 13, 2005

The Second City was gearing up Wednesday to be first in something for a change, as Chicago rooted for its Bulls to take their first NBA championship in the club's 25-year history. Police called extras out to patrol the streets, vendors prepared for a souvenir-selling frenzy and sports fans streamed into bars hours before game time.

"We're taking everything that's not nailed down and putting it in a safe place," said Rich Kewitz, owner of Gamekeepers Bar and Grill. "Anything that can move, we're taking it and locking it up."

Kewitz said he had received calls from as far afield as Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio about the possibility of reserving tables at his bar for Wednesday night's game. He turned them all down.

"To reserve a table would cause a riot," said Kewitz, who had a line of about 70 people waiting outside the door 1{ hours before the Bulls-Los Angeles Lakers game was scheduled to start.

The Bulls needed one victory to win the best-of-seven series at the Forum.

For the victory-starved city, a Bulls win would bring the first championship in any professional sport since the Bears won the Super Bowl in 1986.

The Blackhawks of the National Hockey League last won the Stanley Cup in 1961. And for the city's two baseball teams, the drought has been even longer. The White Sox last won the World Series in 1917, and the Cubs took their last nine years earlier.

Police were anticipating celebrations in the streets if the Bulls brought in a championship.

Extra officers were called in to patrol the Rush Street and Lincoln Park neighborhoods where sports bars are clustered.

"I hate to pay overtime, but I'll do what it takes to keep the peace," said Sherwood Williams, police deputy chief of special functions.

He said he expected little uproar from fans in the real basketball centers of Chicago _ the South Side and the West Side, where the Bulls play in Chicago Stadium.

"They'll enjoy it on their TV sets and in local bars, but it's the sports crowds that get a little out of hand," Williams said.

Craig Schutze, owner of Sunburst Sportswear, spent the day sweating that there might be a delay in his rush order for 28,000 shirts proclaiming the Bulls National Basketball Association champions.

Rex Rasmussen Jr., another sportswear dealer, had his shirts ready, but he was sweating, too.

"God forbid they should lose, or I've got 30,000 shirts to eat," Rasmussen said.