Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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.

6 Replies to “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

  1. Hate the Sox? No. Some things about the organization? Yes! Someone interviewed in Chicago during the Boston series related that he felt White Sox fans were the worst he had seen, including Yankees fans in NYC while he wore his Boston attire. I took note because having seen the Cubs go down in Cellular Field while with my two sons I was nervous on the exit ramp. Sox fans don’t just hate the Cubs, they hate Cubs fans. In the heat of the ’84 division race against the Mets I felt safer in Shea for three games wearing a Cubs hat than I did just trying to get my kids out of “Sox Territory”. So if the Sox win, and it looks like they will, good for the players, if they lose it, welcome back to reality to the fans. Either way I really don’t care, it’s just not my “hometown” team.

  2. Hey, it’s like Harry Caray used to say: You can’t beat fun at the old ballpark. I think sports loutishness is not new — I remember a story about Ryne Sandberg’s father getting shoved down some a flight of stairs during the ’84 playoffs in San Diego because he had the effrontery to wear Cubs gear — but maybe it’s on the increase everywhere. More than once, I’ve seen belligerent Yankees and Red Sox fans get into tangles with dumb-bell locals at the Oakland Coliseum. It’s not enough to wear your team colors for a lot of folks — they’ve got to get in your face about it, too; by the same token, if you wear your team’s colors on the road, that might be seen as an invitation for harassment. I won’t even wear an A’s hat over to the interleague games at the Giants ballpark — it’s just not worth the antagonism that might happen.
    The incidence of crummy behavior has led both the A’s and Giants to stop having beer vendors in the seating areas — you have to get up and go to the concessions stand to get a brew, and no one can buy more than two at a time (sales stop after the 7th inning). That seems to have put a lid on some of the idiot antics in the stands.

  3. And lights. Don’t forget they had lights. Night time baseball is an important resource for the single girl on the prowl for a future honey. (Suddenly I’m Helen Gurley Brown.)
    Yes, I know Wrigley field has lights now. But, it took ’em long enough. (Am I outdated for still hacking on the lights thing?)

  4. The sign of true baseball loyalty is when one comes around to inevitable. All bow down to the “Chosen”…the one True Team… The Bronx Bombers …Youuurrr…. New York Yankees!
    All joking aside, the Sox looked so great last night. Chicago really deserves this one. They still have to take one more. Never was much of a Texas fan. Anything Texas…you can have my share.
    It is also great to see the team which our south side relatives followed finally arrive at the banks of the River Jordon. The patriarchs (and matriarchs), like Moses, couldn’t see their team cross into the promised land but their children may be seeing it. Cripe, the tribe of Israel only had to wander in the desert for 40 years. The tribe of Canaryville and Bridgeport has been out there for more than twice that, proving that throwing the World Series is a worse offense than worshiping a golden calf. I am sure the Biblical comparison has been made a hundred times, so you get the point. And on that obscure note, this is Paul Harvey…….Good Day.

  5. The tribe of Canaryville and Bridgeport — John, that’s funny!
    That was a good game last night; we watched till the end (though that was a lot more of a challenge east of here).

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