Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I Couldn't Have Said It Any Better Myself...

From the Chicago Tribune today, by Brian Hiatt.

Picture two ugly sisters--think Patty and Selma Bouvier from "The Simpsons"--spending their childhood living together, arguing over who was prettier, who was more popular, who did better in school--even though neither has much to brag about.

That's what Chicago Cubs and White Sox fans have been like for the last 46 years. For seasons immemorial, North and South Siders have bickered and brawled over who won more games, who (before the interleague season series era) won the therwise meaningless Crosstown Classic, or who (after interleague play began) won the season series. But we never debated pennants or World Series titles because, well, that never was an issue.

This year, the Sox have a date for the prom. Cub fans don't and haven't in the last 60 years. And we don't know how to feel about it.

Are we happy for them? Please. Are we secretly rooting for them? Doubtful, lthough if they face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, we will have quite a dilemma on our hands.

Are we jealous? Oh, you better believe it.

Watching the American League Championship Series, I kept waiting for the White Sox to implode, for that sudden Bartman moment to jolt them back to the reality of the fact that they are a Chicago baseball team, and Chicago baseball teams simply don't accomplish anything in the playoffs, let alone advance to the World Series. It never happened. And when Paul Konerko snared that last ground ball Sunday and sprinted to the bag, I watched the Sox celebrate stone-faced, just as I did when the Florida Marlins exulted on the field at Wrigley in 2003. The feelings were almost exactly the same.

That chilly, dreadful October evening seems like yesterday. Ozzie Guillen was there at the time as the Marlins' third-base coach, whooping it up with his players on the field. There he was again Sunday night, as the White Sox manager, accepting hand shakes and kisses. Ugh.

I put the remote in overdrive. But every local TV channel was dominated with gratuitous coverage of the Sox celebration. More ugh. Then the footage cut away to that concrete and glass monstrosity formerly known as "New Comiskey," to show Sox fans reveling in the streets.

That could have been us two years ago. It should have been us. Clark and Addison Streets were swelling with delirious, success-starved Cub fans, ready to storm the ballroom, only to have the doors slammed in our faces.

How can they be going to the dance? Our starting rotation is supposed to be better. Our offense is supposed to be better. Our front office actually spends money in the ff-season and makes bold moves at trade deadline. Our fan base actually fills our ballpark, even if a good percentage of them are there to guzzle beer and sit in the sun. We're, we're better than them! Right? Right?

I would venture to say that most Cub fans don't really mind the Sox. Contrary to what the self-professed "real" baseball fans on the South Side say, most of us actually do know a thing or two about the game, and recognize good baseball when we see it. There is a lot to appreciate about this year's Sox team. The starters have been dominant beyond precedent in the ALCS, the offense has been surprisingly productive and the defense has been top-notch. The White Sox are very, very good. None of us will deny that.

It's Sox fans we can't stand. During any given season, we generally don't care about what the Pale Hose are up to, but Sox fans are always watching us, waiting for our team to implode--as it routinely has in recent years, at various points following the All-Star break--so they can rub salt in the wound when it happens. The picture of a clueless, expressionless Steve Bartman sitting along the Wrigley third-base-line wall is still the preferred online avatar of Sox fans posting their anti-Cub rants on various Internet forums. To hear them talk about it, they hadn't experienced a happier moment in their baseball lives than that 2003 National League Championship Series until, well, Sunday.

Cub fans barely noticed the Sox's playoff failures in 1993 and 2000. But in 1984, when the Cubs squandered a 2-0 National League playoff series lead to the San Diego Padres, Sox fans were elated. They were downright giddy when that ground ball rolled through Leon Durham's legs. I was 11 at the time and, following the last out of Game 5, I rushed outside the house in tears, only to see my friend, one of a family of Sox fans who lived down the street, ride by on his bicycle. This was the same kid whom I had consoled one year earlier after his "Winning Ugly" Sox choked against the Baltimore Orioles in the American League playoffs. His kind words to me? "Go Padres!" he yelled.

That's a Sox fan for you, whether he's 11, 31 or 81. We don't really root against the Sox, but they live for the Cubs to fail. It's like your younger sister jeering you after you've been stood up for the umpteenth time, even though she's never been asked out on a date herself.

Sunday night, I waited patiently for the ax to fall, for fate to intervene, as it has for my Cubs every time they have gotten this close in my lifetime. The only Bartman moment I got was the ground-rule double by Chone Figgins, snared by a fan in the right-field seats, allowing the Los Angeles Angels to tie the game 2-2 in the fifth. No matter. The White Sox efficiently put up four more runs and shut down the Angels in the late innings.

Things aren't looking good, considering the Sox will have home-field advantage against either the most disappointing playoff team in recent memory not named the Atlanta Braves (St. Louis) or a geriatric bunch (Houston) that is hitting something like 3 for 100 with runners in scoring position in the playoffs.Not only is our acne-scarred, mouthy, bratty little sister going to the prom, she just might be crowned queen.

We're so happy for you, Sox fans. Now excuse me. I'm going upstairs to my room to pout.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff said...

I love both the Sox and the Cubs. If the Cubs play the Sox, I prefer the Sox. I'm not like the fans you describe at all. But I do hate St. Louis and Atlanta.