Black vs. Blue: Chicago goes to battle
Editor's note: The battle of Chicago, Round 2, is this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field. Gene Wojciechowski challenged fellow Chicagoan (and ESPN anchor) Dave Revsine to a one-on-one duel over which team's fans have suffered more. Below, they make their cases:
Gene Wojciechowski on the Cubs Dave Revsine on the White Sox CHICAGO On behalf of all those who follow the Cubs like Maury Povich follows trailer-park trash, we offer hearty congratulations to the White Sox for a remarkable first half of the season and wish them the very best in all future endeavors.
Now then, take a long walk off a short mezzanine-level ramp.
White Sox honk Dave Revsine, obviously sleep-deprived from the recent birth of his lovely twin girls (Ozzette and Buerhlena), would like you to believe that members of the pale-hose denomination suffer a greater misery than those who favor the Cubs. Revsine also believes in the power of The Force and that the earth is shaped like the Sears Tower.
I like Revsine, I really do. But this is what happens when you don't properly monitor your medication. White Sox fans haven't suffered. They've endured. They've persevered. They've survived.
But you don't qualify for Suffer rehab until someone takes the business end of a Louisville Slugger and whacks you in the land of protective cups. That's what happened in the 2003 NLCS, when the Cubs had their prodigy pitcher (Mark Prior) on the mound, a 3-0 lead going into the eighth, a near-delirious Wrigley crowd ready to go Mardi Gras, and only five outs five crummy outs until they reached their first World Series since 1945.
I was at Wrigley Field that Oct. 14, 2003, evening when the Florida Marlins defied more than Prior and the law of averages while scoring eight eighth-inning runs to even the NLCS. I was there the next night when the Marlins became only the fourth team in LCS history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and advance to the Fall Classic. The only thing missing was black crepe.
Of course, White Sox fans reveled in the Cubs' pain. Still do. Then-Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who booted a double-play ball in the eighth inning of Game 6, won't ever have to buy a meal on the South Side. Same goes for Steve Bartman, who has achieved tragic and mythic status despite doing nothing more than reaching innocently, along with others, for a foul ball.
Last year on ESPN, two nationally prominent attorneys argued Cubs v. Boston Red Sox: Which franchise is more cursed? The Red Sox, on the strength of the Curse of the Bambino (and an Eastern-weighted jury), "won" the case.
The ruling was more ridiculous than Arnold Schwarzenegger doing Shakespeare in the park.
Cubs followers must contend with the last remaining hex in sports, with the collapses of 1969, 1984, 2003, with exactly one World Series championship in the last 97 years. Revsine and the White Sox must contend with what? Shoeless Joe and the 1919 Black Sox? Softball unis? A tax-supported stadium (yes, Cubs fans helped pay for it) that has always lacked soul?
The White Sox are 49-22 this season. If this were the NCAA Tournament, Billy Packer would be gushing about their No. 1 seed. They're already 9½ games ahead of Minnesota and ready to lap the field.
Meanwhile, the 2005 Cubs have been treading so much water that they lead the majors in frog kicks. They tease. And given their history and I hope I'm wrong on this they'll disappoint.
George Will, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Cubs devotee, once told me the Cubs' record of futility "is not admirable and it's not funny, and it's over. That episode in Cubs history is behind us. And people who luxuriate in it need to see an analyst."
Will should know better. This is a different type of Cubs suffering, a different trip to the shrink's couch. Revsine and the rest of Sox World can't relate.
After all, it's a Cubs thing.
I will not stoop to the level of my esteemed colleague, Mr. Wojciechowski, and personally attack his sniveling, miserable, little "woe is me" side of the story. White Sox fans don't do personal attacks unless, of course, you're an opposing first base coach
You want misery? You want suffering? Try rooting for the White Sox. The Sox are the only team in baseball that can lay claim to literally being an afterthought in its own city.
That's why this weekend's series is so important. This is what passes for a World Series in Chicago. But, although both clubs share a staggering history of futility, that's where the similarities end. The North Siders are the lovable losers, and, this aberrational season aside, the South Siders are just losers.
Until recently, there has been little lovable about the Sox a bad (though improved) ballpark, an occasionally cantankerous owner, a sometimes surly superstar in Frank Thomas.
A few years ago, I told a "Baseball Tonight" producer that I was a White Sox fan. He looked at me with a stunned expression and said, "I don't think I've ever met a White Sox fan." It was as if I had just revealed to him that I was a Zoroastrian yak herder from Uzbekistan.
I rattled off my list of everything that's wrong with the Sox. Then he posed the seemingly obvious question: "Well, if being a White Sox fan is so miserable, why aren't you a Cubs fan?"
"Why aren't you a Cubs fan?" That's like saying: "Why aren't you tall?" I was born this way. I can't help it. My father is a Sox fan, so I am. It's passed between generations like a defective gene (Wojciechowski).
If given the choice, just about anyone in his (or her) right mind would choose the Cubs over the Sox. I mean, if you're going to root for a loser, you might as well do it amidst the ivy, beer and halter tops of Wrigley Field. But, in Chicago, it's not a choice. You're one or the other and my fate was to pull for the Sox.
Which isn't to say I didn't try to convert. My best friend growing up came from a long line of die-hard Cubs fans. He used to take me to a few games a year. I would try hard to root for the Cubs. I'd even chant "we want a hit" when the Cubs needed Ryno to come through. ("We want a hit!" Imagine the imbecility of it!)
But my heart wasn't in it. These just weren't my people perennially sunny dispositions; ceaseless, unyielding optimism; a sincere belief that things will actually be better next year despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Nauseating.
White Sox supporters like to think the really knowledgeable fans in Chicago can be found on the South Side. Doesn't say much for the sheer number of knowledgeable Chicago baseball fans, I suppose; at most Sox games, there's hardly anyone there.
But here's what I know to be true, deep in my self-loathing, Sox-filled, sometimes cynical heart: your basic White Sox fan knows more about the Cubs and Cubs history than today's Cubs fans. Go to Wrigley Field and say "Scott Fletcher," and your average fan will pull at her specially designed, pink Cubbie hat with the cute bear above the brim, and stare at you blankly. Say "Scott Fletcher" to a Sox fan, and you'll find out that Fletcher played shortstop for the Cubs, was traded to the Sox in a deal involving Steve Trout, split time with Jerry Dybzinski and watched in horror with the rest of us when "The Dibber" overran second base in Game 4 of the 1983 ALCS. Yes, that Scott Fletcher, girlfriend. But, nice hat.
And what have we Sox fans gotten for our troubles over the years? A long line of ridiculousness: the uniforms with the collars, the shorts, Disco Demolition Night, Sammy Sosa for George Bell, the New Comiskey.
But, this year, it'll all be different. They've got the best record in the majors. It's a truly enjoyable team to watch: great starting pitching, an actual semblance of team speed and an ability to manufacture runs. This year, the Sox are heading to the Series. Question is will anyone in Chicago notice?
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. He's also the author of "Cubs Nation: 162 Games. 162 Stories. 1 Addiction." You can contact him at email@example.com.
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