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To Be a Sox Fan

Mike Danahey
By Mike Danahey

Here's what it's like to be a White Sox fan.

At work, we got an offer for discounted baseball tickets to selected Sox games, and since we writers are paid less than Burger King managers, anything discounted causes a stir in a news room. So some coworkers were looking over the availability list and the Sox - Cubs rivalry came up.

"We don't even care about you guys," said this 20-something Cubs fan who sits next to me. "I am heading to New York to see Yankee Stadium one last time and to see them play the Red Sox.”

“Now that's a real rivalry," she added.

Hearing that, I had one of those Lord help me, I might spew one of my dad's 10,000 clichés moments, this one being: "These young people today they know everything. They get out of college, and they have all the answers."

But I didn't say anything. I couldn't. See, this woman already had given me that talk to the hand motion popularized by black women on the Jerry Springer show who had been wronged by their on-the-downlow boyfriends. See, I had teased my coworker about allegedly feeling the recent earthquake and how her dogs awakened her. She's the type who always has to top your story, who always has to be included in the drama.

Just down the block from Wrigley, over on Halsted, they call that a diva, and all this one needs are some extended dance mixes.

If you tell her about your great vacation, she has to remind you of the summer place her family has on Cape Cod. If you say you met someone in the media, well, don't you know, she has a lunch scheduled with them.

She sends text messages at least 12 times an hour. She chews rice cakes and croutons with the subtlety of a cement mixer. Who the hell eats croutons out of a bag?

And, prior to her self-important banishment of me from her world, I had to hear all her stories about how the men she dates are jerks. Go figure.

Anyway me calling her out about her dramatic near-death earthquake experience led to her calling me a shithead and telling me not to talk to her anymore.

Oh the nostalgia: It was like getting to re-enact one of my parents' fights.
And it also made me think: This is what you long-time Cubs fans have to deal with. See, she brags about how her daddy has access to really great seats at Wrigley. I am not a Cub hater, but the albatross around your collective neck is that Wrigley is filled with people like the one who sits next to me.

As a Sox fan, I am glad they root, root, root for your Cubbies.

You Cubs diehards know what I am talking about. These people started to show up in the 80s, when your team began the transition from scruffy fodder for local theater and Mike Royko columns to lovable losers. They changed your neighborhood, gentrified it--and did the same to your team.

The Cubs became part of their lifestyle choice. And, the media being what it is--enamored of the superficial and allegedly glamorous--the Cubs became their darlings.

In this insular world, as my coworker said: South Side types just don’t matter.

Peeing in a trough suddenly was sexy. Urinating on lawns trendy. Your park became a Jimmy Buffett concert with baseball. Worse: a Dave Matthews one.

We Sox fans had a brand new stadium that no one found charming, unless a mall is your idea of cute. They’ve made improvements and actually it’s not a bad place to see a game, way more fan friendly for families than your place. But you can’t convince nouveau Cubs fans that anything but Wrigley is worthy of paying the cover charge to sit around drinking for three hours.

The Sox stadium got named after a cell phone company. No tears here for Comiskey, a stingy man by most accounts, and US Cellular is a fine local brand, and I get my service from them. But it’s a mid-major player, which means as soon as the market gets better it might be sold, and the park will be called who knows what.

The Cubs, of course, play in Wrigley, which makes men old enough to remember think about nubile twins chewing Double Mint gum.

And starting in the 80s, women that attractive were moving with their sorority sisters to Wrigley.

But nobody finds the area around the Cell sexy – though it is a real slice of Chicago, with a great view of downtown from the walkways at the park--and a reminder of the good and bad about this blustering city.

The yups are trying to take over there, too, tearing down bungalows to build block-long mansions where the Daleys lived--and tearing down housing projects to make way for town homes and condos.

It is a blurring border point, but your dad or grandfather can tell you: Blacks stayed east of the Dan Ryan, Whites closer to the park, with Chinese close by, too.

The bars, like Shinnick’s and Schaller’s, are mom and pop joints. The most exotic restaurant might be an old school Lithuanian place on Halsted.
This is not Wrigleyville, which, if some developers get their way, will be another Disney-fied part of Chicago.

While you Cubs fans are associated with the moneyed folk, I read once that Sox fans on average actually come from a higher rung on the socio-economic ladder than Cubs fans: think Naperville instead of Schaumburg.

Alas, we will forever be thought of as that guy with the mullet who ran onto the field to beat up a coach for the Kansas City Royals – unlike your fans who threatened to kill one of your own for allegedly costing the team a shot at the World Series a few falls ago.

And thanks to the team itself, we will always be associated with the never really cool sounds of Journey, while Metro is just down the block from Wrigley.

All of which has been a long way to explain to you Cubs fans why we Sox fans have chips on our shoulders at least as big as the chunks of concrete that have fallen from your so-called friendly confines.

We are the Sun-Times. You are the Tribune.

Still, we have the object of your desire: a World Series championship, a sweep no less.

And when I went to the victory parade I learned that our numbers are spread out in the suburbs. Heck, the train from Elgin was full, the el parking garage at Cumberland jammed.

Downtown was dressed in black for a day, but not for the usual trendy fashion reasons that make The Loop look like recess at one huge Catholic school.

The procession went through neighborhoods of all sorts, from poor to rich and whatever is in between. For a couple hours, south of the Chicago River was the part of the city that mattered, the part that got Christmas before Halloween, with confetti falling like early snow on delighted kids perched on their dads shoulders.

We have that, Cubs fans, and you don’t.

Of course, once you do, the types among you like my coworker will become like Red Sox fans. Or worse, Yankees fans. Most of us Sox followers went back to being what we are. That’s how this city works.

Oh, one more thing: the St. Patrick’s Day following the Series I marched in the South Side Irish Parade, in a kilt and a big wool sweater, no less. As luck would have it, Minnie Minoso--resplendent in a full-length fur coat-- walked with the unit behind us, an SUV with the World Series trophy perched on the hood. Unfortunately, Don’t Stop Believing played from the car stereo.

That’s what I have as a Sox fan. And as Louis Armstrong, who once lived on the South Side, used to sing, “They can’t take that away from me.”

Guest Loser Mike Danahey, a prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times News Group and a former student of Sheldon Patinkin at Second City, will appear May 7 at El Jardin as part of the next Lovable Losers Literary Revue. His musings can be read regularly on his Detached Retina blog.

Posted on Friday, May 2, 2008 at 09:39AM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue in , | Comments6 Comments

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