Chicago’s First Team
Call me petty, but I can’t tell you how happy I am that when it came time for a Chicago baseball team to win it all, it was the White Sox and not the Cubs. I can’t chalk up this emotion to any south side Chicago identification — although the University of Chicago is on the south side, it’s pretty much a north side neighborhood plopped down between 51st and 59th — but more to the fact that the Cubs are Chicago’s entitled team, in no small part because they’re owned by a huge media conglomerate (and thus are plastered everywhere), and also because its fan base has a far larger stratum of latte drinkers than do the Sox, and everyone knows you can chart the feelings of entitlement of any large group of people by the per capita consumption of poofy coffee products.
The Sox are and have always been Chicago’s second team as long as I knew about them; hell, even their 88-year drought between Series wins is a distant second to the Cubs’ record of futility, now closing in on the century mark. Their blandly utilitarian stadium doesn’t have the storied history of Wrigley Field. You couldn’t pick their players out of a lineup, even in Chicago; you could stand next to one at Harold’s Chicken Shack and never even know. The ratings for this World Series were in the toilet. These are the "other" guys, this is the "other" team. I like the idea that Chicago’s "other" team gets to be Chicago’s first team for a while.
I’ll note I have a consistent record in this regard; I was pleased when the Angels won the Series a few years back for much the same reason, as the Dodgers are LA’s team, and no one has ever seemed to know what to do with the Angels. And what would make me truly delirious with glee would be to have the LA Clippers win the NBA Finals. But even I have difficulty imagining the sick and disturbing world where the balance of nature is so far off the rails that such a thing could happen, so for now I’ll just stick with the White Sox.
Here’s one other thing, which makes the Sox win sweet: Unlike the Cubs fans, the Sox fans never seem to have made a fetish of their losing streak. They were aware of it, they were unhappy about it, they wanted it to end and were frustrated when it didn’t. But there was no talk of a "curse" on the White Sox, as far as I knew about it. Or maybe there was, it was just that the discussion of the Cubs Curse, complete with that damned goat, sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Point is, the White Sox fans never seem to have made a cult out of their team’s tradition of losing or internalized it as part of their fan psyche, as Cubs fans do. This is weird psychology on the part of Cubs fans, to feel both cursed and entitled, but welcome to baseball. And since they do feel both entitled and cursed, I feel they are entitled to their curse.
This is not to say I think Cubs fans want the Cubs to lose; what sort of idiot would you have to be to want your team to lose? But I do think Cubs fans have acclimated themselves to their team’s futility to such a degree that they take a perverse pride in it: Thus the curse and the goat and all that rigmarole. What do you have when all of that gets taken away? Ask a Red Sox fan. This year they’ve got no Curse of the Bambino, they’ve just got a team that was steamrolled by the White Sox like everyone else. The Red Sox are now just another team. I wonder if the Cubs fans could handle being fans of just another team.
The White Sox fans can. Curses are for people who think too much; White Sox fans aren’t in aggregate any more stupid than any other baseball fans, but you don’t sense they’re burdened with existential frippery like Cubs fans seem to be. They wanted their team to just win, and finally it has. Good for them. Good for Chicago. And good for the White Sox, who are Chicago’s first and best baseball team, at least for today.