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Tuesday, October 24

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Airbags

The hardest thing about writing something like this is that, of course, you can't speak for everybody. I'm sure there are plenty of Sox fans -- well, some Sox fans -- who have no need to apologize to Cubs fans. But there are plenty who do. Many of them are my friends. And one of them is me.

I have to apologize because you've suffered just as long as we have (unless you're about 110 years old, in which case you've suffered slightly longer) without a significant playoff victory. We share a city, we share an El line, and yet we're not cheering for the Cubs to make it to, or win, the World Series. In fact, we all suddenly have had new found love for the Atlanta Braves, and then, suddenly, the Florida Marlins. And eventually the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. God, I hope it's the Yankees.

We're watching these Cubs games with just as much gusto, just as much zest, but it's for the other team. We desperately want the Cubs to lose. I've lost sleep after the Cubs victories, such is my virulent hatred for that team on the North Side, in the sleepy-bear pyjamas no grown man should ever wear.

So I want to apologize. I want to apologize because it's not the fault of Cubs fans that I hate the Cubs. Well, kind of. But that's not the point: the point is that we all can't help but hate the Cubs, and we can't help but look at a team from Chicago and hope and pray that they lose, and not just lose, but lose convincingly, embarrassingly, and maybe with a few key injuries just to make sure that this doesn't ever happen again.

How, you may ask, can somebody be so cruel? How can any self-respecting Chicagoan cheer for a team from Atlanta, or Miami or -- good God -- Boston or New York City!? The answer is, sadly, easily.

Many Cubs fans, shocked at my rabid desire to see the Sleepy Bears lose, have tried to take the moral high ground, saying, "Well, if it were the Sox in the playoffs, we'd be happy for them." First of all, that's a lie. But even if it weren't, that's not the point. The point is nobody else would care, even though our histories are identical. Even though the White Sox fans have been hoping and praying for just as long. Even though the South Side team has poured so much more effort into building good teams over the years.

Do you remember when the Sox made the playoffs in 2000? Oh, you don't? Interesting. That's because nobody cared. Meanwhile, I have to tear through an eight-page special Cubs Do Stuff! spread just to get to the headline of the Sun-Times. I can't walk into a bar or grocery store or foreign-language bakery without being confronted with a Times Square-like spread of advertisements cheering on the Lovable Losers.

The Sox had the best record in the AL in 2000. They were everybody's favorite for the World Series! There was more hype in Bristol, Connecticut (ESPN's headquarters) for the White Sox than there was in Chicago. It was an afterthought. People weren't streaming into South Side or North Side bars to catch the home team begin their playoff run. In fact, all through the 1990s, when the Sox were a dominant force in the AL with The Big Hurt Frank Thomas in his prime, ace "Black" Jack McDowell, Jason Bure, Robin Ventura, Ozzie Guillen -- hell, even Carlton Fisk -- nobody cared about the Sox. Cubs fans can afford to cheer for the Sox "if they made the playoffs," because they know everybody loves the Cubs anyway. There's a glut of love on the North Side. We don't get any love on the South. [In the interest of full disclosure, I myself live on the West Side, so I get to pick. And, I was born on the North Side].

Take this slap in the face, for example. Earlier this year, the Sox pulled into lone possession of first place over the Kansas City Royals. That same day, the Cubs closed to within one game of first. And what, you may ask, was on the cover of the Sun-Times sports page? A giant picture of Sammy Sosa, while on the bottom, a small banner squeaked, "Sox Pull Into First." It's a lot like the feeling an older brother must feel when all the relatives are fawning over the baby who just learned how to say "Mama," when he just won the State Spelling Bee. Infuriating!

Cubs merchandise is selling like crazy all over the country. And, granted, Sox merchandise was a hot-seller in the 1990s, but not because people liked the team; it was because they modeled the new jerseys after the Raiders', who had the most popular "urban-market" merchandise in the country. When the Cubs do well, the world explodes. When the Sox do well, it just kind of shrugs. And we can't understand it. As one of my friends put it, "Liking the Cubs instead of the Sox is like, liking the Smurfs instead of the Transformers." I could understand why little kids would like the Cubs better. They're uniforms are cute, the little baby bear looks friendly. But grown up, mature sports fans -- what the hell is wrong with you!?

Now, there are two certain Hall of Famers in Chicago baseball right now: Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas. Nothing better epitomizes what Sox fans see as the essential difference between Cubdom and Soxdom than the contrast between these two men. Thomas is beloved throughout the baseball world. At his advanced age, he can still hit like he did 10 years ago -- when he's got support around him. In his prime, he was the best hitter since Ted Williams. He rarely strikes out, and is a pure contact hitter despite his size (which, after seeing him at a nightclub, I can confirm is huge.) Thomas can kill pitchers because he'll walk unless he gets the right pitches. Sosa, after mysteriously bulking up suddenly, swings at anything. Anything. I once saw his swing at a ball the catcher had to stand up and hop to catch. He's flashy, with his little hop and stutter steps after homeruns. Sosa is the beloved spectacle, Thomas is the real baseball player. And who is more recognizable in this city?

We're not bitter, we're not jealous. Believe me, I see so many of my fellow Chicagoans rejoicing, you think I enjoy sitting angrily in the corner? I'm no contrarian. I'm never happier than cheering along with everybody else in a bar. I sincerely wish I could cheer like an imbecile at a bar in Little Sicily when the Florida Marlins hit a sacrifice fly to advance a runner to third. It's easier to enjoy something than to loathe it. But we can't. It wouldn't be fair to our Sox. It takes a lot of effort to like the White Sox -- their games are rarely on television, they get less print coverage, the location of their park hasn't sprouted a bustling neighborhood -- and to use some of that energy to cheer for the Cubs wouldn't be right.

Cubs fans, for all their "lovable loser" nonsense, have no idea how hard it is to be Sox fans. Whenever they talk about "long-suffering" sports fans anywhere in this country, two groups come up: Red Sox fans and Cubs fans. The Cubs last won in 1908; the BoSox in 1918. The ChiSox last won in 1917. Where the hell are we? We can't even get credit for being so terrible! Do you know how infuriating that is? Nobody cares when we're good, and nobody cares that we're historically the second-shittiest team in Major League Baseball history. In fact, the only conceivable positive that can come from the Smurfs winning the World Series is that they'll have to shut up about "suffering" and then lose their identity. That's when their value will drop, and me and my friends can take up a collection to buy them, change their name to the "Crappy Sox" and move them to Coal City, Illinois. Oh, and rename Wrigley Field "Minnie Minoso Park" and turn it into the White Sox Hall of Fame.

Yeah, those are the kinds of things we Sox fans talk and dream about while dancing after a Marlins (or whoever) victory, cranking "The Night Chicago Died" on the stereo and laughing, deafening laughs of angry, wicked, soul-blackening schadenfreude.

So, you know. Sorry about that.

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Comments

Anthony / October 15, 2003 10:22 AM

Thank you. From the bottom of my Sox fan heart, thank you.

And to any Cubs fans who read this, I'm sorry for breaking out into a huge smile after hearing Pat Hughes recap last night's game. Sorry about that.

Lacey / October 15, 2003 3:37 PM

Ramsin, thanks for the Sox reminder. Chicagoans should have more pride for BOTH of our baseball teams. I'm not much of a sportsfan, but you bring up good points about the Sox getting overlooked...I can see your point.

Benjy / October 15, 2003 5:40 PM

Amen, my brother, Amen! The sheer joy from watching last night's 8th inning is something I haven't felt since the Bulls won a championship. Steve Bartman for mayor!

Mike / October 16, 2003 9:03 AM

Q: What's more pathetic than Cubs fans always playing up the "loveable loser" label?

A: Sox fans playing up the "neglected stepchild" angle.

Neither group would know what to do without their label, and if the Cubs won or the Sox got attention, they'd have to find something else about which to whine. Woe is me...it's sad all around.

Malcolm / October 16, 2003 10:04 AM

Does anybody else wonder if the White Sox were up to their "old tricks" again this year? By that I mean, is it possible that they threw the series against the Twins to benefit a small group of gamblers? Seems like the White Sox thing to do.

Wiz / October 16, 2003 12:58 PM

Malcolm-you slippy bastard you.

All this stuff about our "identity" and "not knowing what to do with ourselves"--that's garbage. Only somebody who didn't follow the teams closely could ever say that. The Bulls identity was of the "Mothers Day Losers" until we won in 1991, and they didn't lose their identity. White Sox fans want badly to win, win, win, which is why the franchise always fields competitive teams.

I have a feeling Cubs fans probably want to win, too. It just happens to be much more hilarious when they don't.

tony / October 16, 2003 9:33 PM

I love all of God's Sox fans. Hell, I remember those guys (and I do believe you mean Jason Bere), and I watched Sox games back in those days (I'm an equal-opportunity Chicago supporter though my roots are in the North Side). I remember Ventura, Raines, Thomas, McDowell, Fisk (/the/ Pudge), Mike Huff, Charlie Hough, George Bell, and a bunch of other guys whose names I don't remember offhand.

Anyway, I think we should all be happy that our boys in both parks did pretty well this season. I'd be happy to see Ozzie come back and coach the Sox next year, and I'd be happy to see Dusty get the Cubbies back in the postseason.

 

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