Here's how one man became a Sox fan in a Cubs town
Posted: Wednesday July 13, 2005 12:55PM; Updated: Wednesday July 20, 2005 9:31AM
Mark Buehrle is just one of many reasons for the Sox's success this season.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
CHICAGO -- Few opuses do a better job of channeling civic apathy than the Chicago White Sox fight song. The snare-rich anthem, titled Let's Go Go Go White Sox, evokes black-and-white images of World War II housewives rationing aluminum cans and newsboys on street corners flashing ominous headlines. It was written in 1959 during the Sox's last World Series run, its existence seemingly kept secret for almost five decades. After hearing it for the first time last Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, I can see why they kept it under wraps for nearly half a century.
Maybe if the Sox wore blue instead of black, made their home on the North Side and not the South and there was at least one bar in Bridgeport worth hanging at after the game they'd have a chance at feeling the city's collective embrace.
But the Sox, despite all their midseason accomplishments, aren't picking up many fans -- mostly because most fans around here have already picked their baseball team. At this point, switching colors would be like selling nuclear secrets to North Korea. That is to say, it wouldn't be well received. Well, I am here to tell you that it is possible to support both the Cubs and the Sox and without so much as a trace of guilt.
Back in my hometown this week on vacation, I made The Cell one of my first stops. After all, it had been more than six years since I last saw the Sox play -- a drought that has more to do with my dubious employment status in a handful of U.S. cities than my interest in the team -- and you know what? Not only is South Side baseball better than ever, but their ballpark is a pretty special place.
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What's more, the Sox are turning in a special season. Along with a nine-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central and the best overall record in the majors (57-29) at the halfway mark, the Sox showcased four of their best players in Detroit at Tuesday's All-Star game -- the team largest contingent in 30 years. One (personable first baseman Paul Konerko) made his second appearance. Another (left-hander and two-time All-Star Mark Buehrle) was the AL's starting pitcher, while a newbie (speedy outfielder and steals leader Scott Podsednik) nabbed the 32nd and final spot over Yankees Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui.
Unfortunately for the Sox, little of this has resonated with a Chicago sports constituency that dies a little with every Bears loss, gleaned a lot of encouragement from the Bulls' 2004-05 season and inches perilously closer to liver disease every time the Cubs take the field.
A black-and-white town this is not. I should know. I grew up on the city's north side in Lincoln Park, a Bears fan first and foremost despite my proximal advantage to Wrigley over Soldier Field. In 1984, my growth in baseball was forever stunted when MichaelJordan came to town and the NBA playoffs became as inextricable a part of the May cityscape as the ragweed that hangs in the air. (So it is basketball, not baseball, is what captures the imagination.) Maybe that's also why I continue to be so perennially open-minded in my Chicago baseball allegiances. Most of my earliest and fondest memories -- including, at age 7 inhaling hot dog after hot dog until my stomach popped, precipitating a decision to swear off ballpark franks for good (didn't last) -- were crystallized among the so-called bums in left.
But once the yuppies claimed Addison and Clark for themselves and sud-sucking and sun soaking became the orders of the day, I went in search of an alternative. The Sox filled all the necessary requirements: Like the Cubs they hadn't won a World Series since the Wilson administration, they were apparently cursed, and they sucked. But there were other things that enticed. A logo, straight out of Nintendo Baseball, appealed to me more and (once they went to basic black) so did the colors.
The Sox also held the obvious edge in filmography. The Black Sox scandal, in which eight players were barred from baseball after being accused of fixing the 1919 World Series, gave life to two feature films, perhaps none more seminal than Field of Dreams. Had it been about the Cubs, it likely would be batting permanent cleanup in WGN's late-night lineup, behind the evening news at 9 for the rest of eternity. It's been, what, 16 years since that movie came out, and there are still no "1917" t-shirts among the $20 and $30 concessions, no black "We Believe" wristbands (instead, the ho-hum "Sox Pride") and no words in the dictionary to explain why this never happened.