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Crossing Out the Crosstown Classic

By Randy Richardson

Ticket demand for Cubs' games is measured before opening day, even before the crack of the bats in Arizona's Cactus League, on a February morning when the team's most loyal and faithful fans come out of hibernation for one day and test their will and hardiness against the harshness of Chicago's winter. It is the day that individual game tickets go on sale and wristband-wearing devotees converge outside Clark and Addison clinging to hope as only Cubs' fans can do. The hope that next year is finally here. And the hope for a favorable lottery number.

CrosstownImage.jpgOn each and every wristband is a number and it is that number that determines who will strike the Cubs' version of a ticket gold mine. A bad number means you'll literally be left out in the cold and dreading the thought of spending the season clicking on StubHub looking for the best deal on tickets, which usually means paying double or triple the face value. Or, worse yet, the thought that you'll show up ticketless on gameday and find yourself bartering with the scalping vultures that hover around Wrigley Field just waiting to pounce on the likes of you.

Next to the home opener, no tickets are more sought-after than the three games against the Cubs' South Side counterparts, the White Sox. On a day when ticket sales begin at 9 a.m., you can pretty much be assured that the series with the White Sox, known as the Crosstown Classic, will be sold out by the time the noon bell rings.

A collective moan predictably follows when the word gets out that there are no more tickets left for the Cubs-Sox series. For most, it was the first series they circled on their Cubs schedule and the first to get crossed out. But not me. When a new Cubs schedule comes out, the first thing I do is cross out the Crosstown Classic.

I've got a self-imposed boycott on ticket purchases for any of the games between the Cubs and the Sox and it doesn't matter if the two teams are playing on the North Side or on the South Side. You won't see me clamoring for a ticket. You can offer me tickets for any of these games, but I won't take them. Not even for free.

It wasn’t always this way for me. Since interleague play began in 1997, the White Sox and Cubs have routinely played each other six times each year (one three-game series at each stadium). I attended a number of those early games between the two Chicago baseball teams and, at first, I thought them to be fun. But with each passing game that I saw, whether it be in Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field, the fun level seemed to drop a little bit. Until, for me, there was no fun left in the games.

My suspicions are that I'm in the minority in taking this rather extreme position on boycotting the Crosstown Classic, but that I'm probably not alone. One of the joys of watching a ballgame, particularly one in your home ballpark, is to be surrounded by your own kind. It's a collegial atmosphere of fans who groan and boo with you when your team is down and cheer and high-five with you when it is up.

The problem with the Crosstown Classic, for me, is that the rivalry has become too heated. Not between the teams. But between the fans. At these games, it has become routine for Cubs fans to taunt, jeer and insult their counterpart Sox fans, and vice versa. I'm not indicting one side's fans over the other. Each is equally guilty. Some fans seem to revel in this atmosphere. I am not one of them.

Civility is not being championed by the Crosstown Classic, which seems to be drawing a more divisive line between the fans of Chicago's two baseball teams rather than bringing them closer together. In other words, the Crosstown Classic is becoming increasingly more cross.

The owners of the two teams of course see nothing but dollar signs and seem perfectly content with the series as it stands now. As long as the ballparks continue to sell out for the series, it's going to go on. But for me it won't be the Crosstown Classic. It will be the Cross-Out Classic.

Randy Richardson, author of Wrigleyville murder-mystery Lost In The Ivy, is a Regular Loser. He is a frequent contributor to Chicago Parent magazine and his work has recently been anthologized in Chicken Soup for the Father and Son Soul and Humor for the Boomer's Heart. He serves as president of the Chicago Writers Association.

Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 01:55PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue in , | Comments10 Comments

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