The White Sox are going to the World Series. Yikes. At least it turns out that they aren’t playing the heinous Cardinals, which to my Cubs-fan senses might not have exactly rated as hell on earth, but would have been an ample substitute until the real deal came along.
When I was a kid, the White Sox were Chicago’s team. Bill Veeck owned them at the time, and he spared neither effort nor goofy scheme to put a fan in every seat. He imported the popular St. Louis announcer Harry Caray to do play-by-play, and Comiskey Park (the blue-collar original, not the baseball mall that replaced it) was nightly filled with drunken south-siders watching their favorite team. The hapless Cubs were Chicago’s also-rans–a bunch of perennial losers playing day baseball for bleacher bums on the north side. In fact, the original bleacher bums were pretty much just that: people with no jobs and lean prospects, who had nothing else to do during the day but buy a ticket in the cheap seats, drink beer, and watch the game.
Things changed in the eighties. Harry Caray was let go by the White Sox and drove across town to work his magic for the north-siders. WGN, which broadcast all the Cubs games, rode an exploding cable TV market to superstation success. Although they never made it to the World Series, winning seasons in 1984 and 1989 pushed everyone’s favorite underdog into the national spotlight. The Cubs became Chicago’s team, then America’s team. Wrigley Field became a tourist destination for yuppies everywhere. White Sox fans mutated into cranky old men. Even the young ones. Even the women.
I am something of an anomaly–a Cubs fan from the south side. The Cubs’ popularity has made that more common than it once was, which compels me to state that my affection for the Cubs is not transient, but genetic. My dad was a Cubs fan. My grandfather was a Cubs fan. My childhood baseball mitt had Billy Williams’ name on it. In short, I’m one of the natives.
Growing up a Cubs fan on the south side meant getting odd stares. Nevertheless, I learned to make peace with the concept. I allowed the White Sox their existence, and formed no hatred of them. Occasionally, I even went to the games and cheered them on. Their fans were my friends, and though I preferred the National Leaguers, the White Sox were from Chicago and I had no intention of rooting against the local boys.
I’ve recently heard other Cubs fans express similar sentiments. It’s good that the White Sox are doing well, more power to ‘em, support the Chicago team, rah rah rah.
Bunk. I used to feel that way, but no longer. Once, I could support or at least tolerate the White Sox, but I’ve heard too many insults from their fans to continue down that road. I have friends who laughed out loud at the Bartman incident. I know people who can’t drive through Wrigleyville without some sort of snide comment. I’ve been hassled about yuppies, ivy, rooftops, 1969, and Todd Hundley. One too many times, I’ve heard Sox fans tell us Cub fans to take our neighborly show of support and stick it. Well, I’ve stuck it. It’s high time to either reign in the hatred or embrace it with zeal, and I’m looking for a hug. I hope the White Sox fail, miserably and spectacularly. I want them to break the hearts of every Sox fan who ever turned to me and said “Sammy Sosa.” How I long to see Mayor Daley writhing in pain on the ground, wrinkled fingers grasping at the Comiskey Park home plate marker, tears welling in the cracks of the asphalt.
When it is all over, and the players have packed up their bats and balls and returned home to distant lands, I will find a Sox fan–a lowly, pitiful, broken thing. I will offer him my shoulder. I will look at him with sympathy and deep understanding, pat him on the back, and say the following words: “Wait till next year.”