By “we,” of course I’m talking about Cubs and White Sox fans. My friend Randy, a former lad of the Chicago suburbs, now a judge in the wilds of western Idaho, called after Game 2 of the World Series last night. At first I thought he was just getting in touch after a very long time to say hi. But he had something else on his mind. As a Sox fan, he wanted to gloat to a Cubs fan about his team’s victory. I disappointed him, I hope, because 1) I’d never root against Chicago (unless the Sox are playing the A’s, my adopted hometown team) and 2) Houston, as the putative hometown of the Bush dynasty, must not prevail.
But even without Houston’s involvement, it’s never been an article of my Cubs faith that I need to hate the Sox; it’s also not part of that faith that I have to like the Cubs, either, though I find myself pulling for them on the rare occasion they play games to care about.
Randy says that he became a convinced Sox fan at age 7, when they went to the World Series. He says he knows all the stats from the team that year, and sleeps with a Sherm Lollar replica athletic supporter under his pillow. Randy’s account made me think about when it was I decided I was a Cubs fan.
Growing up, we rooted for both teams and went to games at both ballparks, and I never heard that my Cubs fan dad had any trepidation walking through the turnstiles at Comiskey Park. I followed the Sox and liked them. They were my mom’s family’s team. They had good-bordering-on-great years in the early and mid-’60s, finishing second in ’63, ’64 and ’65 and going into the last five games of the ’67 season tied for the lead in a close race with Boston, Minnesota, and Detroit. They didn’t manage to win even one despite playing the the last five against the ninth- and tenth-place teams.
The same year, 1967, was the year that the Cubs awoke from a 20-year nap. They’d lost more than 100 games the previous year. They had some mature talent in their lineup (Banks, Williams, and Santo) and had added some good younger players (Kessinger, Beckert, Hundley) along with some decent pitching (Jenkins, Holtzman, Hands and Niekro). Suddenly they were contending. They had an incredible run in June, winning 23 of 27 or something, and went into the All-Star break tied with the Cardinals for first. They faded, but people had started to expect things from them.
I was 13. Impressionable. And maybe I’m a front-runner, too, because after that I was a Cubs fan; 1969, the year of their huge fold and the Mets’ huge run, was just over the horizon; but by then it was too late to back out — I actually cared. And besides, the Sox also-ran dynasty had run its course after ’67, and the folks down at 35th and Shields got a chance to see up close what Cubs fans already instinctively recognized: a loser.
So: Cubs fan, but not overly proud to say it. Hate the Sox? No. To the extent I work up that kind of bile over sports any more, I reserve my bitterness and revulsion for the preciousness surrounding the San Francisco Giants. Used to sort of like them, though.