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.

37 Comments on “Chicago’s First Team”

  1. I spent 3 years living in Chicago as a kid, and I never recovered from my hatred of the Cubs. Every time I wanted to watch *anything* on TV, I was out of luck — my grandfather had surely bogarted the thing already … because the world stopped turning if there was a Cubs game on.

    To this day, my favorite baseball team is “whoever’s playing the Cubs.”

  2. Grew up on the north side but being a Cubs fan would be such a pointless exercise. But Wrigley is much nicer than Comisky – no arguing that, sadly.

  3. Well, I suppose I’m the first Cubs fan to comment. Of course I’m not from Chicago, but a transplant. It is unfortunate that there is so much animosity between Cubs and Sox fans, personally I don’t claim to really understand it. In all honesty, most Cubs fans I know are pretty indifferent to the south side team. That said, good for the Sox, congratulations, its good for you, its good for the City.
    Outside of that, I really could care less…

    One thing I will say though, and as soon as I find the article I’ll post a link to it, between season ticket holders for the Cubs and Sox, the demographics are remarkably similar. The gist of the article is that the breakdown on just about every level is very close to identical. Ticket holders for each team has a similar political affiliation, median income, age, ect. Of course, this is all unsubstatiated until I can find the article, but I digress.

    As for curses, the Sox had there’s. They had the curse of the black sox, for throwing the World Series. I think its not talked about as much because its a little more embarrasing than the Goat. Lets face it, no one really likes talking about cheating, especially if your own players (with a couple of notable exceptions) lost on purpose.

  4. I think the Detroit Lions football franchise is headed in a Cubs-like direction these days. Reading Detroit columnists assessment of the team is almost depressing, and I think they really do revel in the continued abysmal performance of the team. Already, the “Curse of Bobby Layne” has been profferred as an analogue to the Bambino. (Layne traded, I believe, at the height of the Lions dominance in the NFL in the 1950s following a championship victory, our last.)

    It’s actually painful to read, and I wonder what would happen if we did win, and became just another team. That would give us four “just a teams” in Detroit, with their occasional championships and superstars and flashes of brilliance. They’d have to find something else to complain bitterly about.

    Ahhh, what a nice day that could be.

  5. World Series game 4: another curse retired

    Other responsibilities and a general lack of urgency to the game kept me from watching much until about the 8th inning. Love Uribe’s dive into the stands in the 9th, and I am impressed that Buck and McCarver didn’t mention…

  6. As a loyal Cubs fan, I’ve offered polite praise for the Sox run this year (particularly since my wife and the vast majority of her family are Sox fans). If the Sox wanted to do something to gently tweak Cubs fans, here’s all they’d have to do.
    If you’ve been to Wrigley Field in the past few years, you may recall one of the buildings on Sheffield has a sign that read : “AC016097.” (for a photo:
    It’s a code: AC for after championship, 01 for years since winning a division championship, 60 years since winning a league championship, and 97 years since winning the World Series.
    Picture a while billboard. Eight panels appear, with a different character in black on each: AC000000. At the bottom of the billboard, you see where six panels appear to have fallen, with a number on each: from left to right: “0” “5” “4” “6” “8” “8”.
    And watch the Cubs fans burn.

  7. “I’ll post a link to it, between season ticket holders for the Cubs and Sox, the demographics are remarkably similar. ”

    Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Season tickets ar enot cheap, so I imagine that the demographics of season ticket holders would be similar for all professional sports teams.

    And as a Sox fan, there is no Black Sox curse. I hadn’t even heard anyone mentioned the alleged curse until the Red Sox run ast year and someone on ESPN mentioned it in a litany of other curses. Our teams have just had cheap owners, bad general managers, and lousy players. They where just bad — no need for dubious supernatural explanations.

    Frankly, I have a certian sympathy for the Black Sox. Comiskey was horribly, horribly cheap — denying promised bonuses, skimping on pretty much every thing a baseball team or player could need, and just generally treating his players like indentured servants. So anything that stuck it Comiskey … I am not saying it is right, but I certainly understand the motivation behind it.

  8. “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. ”

    Please, this is just another one of your posts to get Cubs fans to rant, and I guess I’ll take the bait and bite.

    It’s been awhile since you’ve lived in town and been to a Sox game, frer. I was at a Sox game 3 years ago for a “wrap party” for a game I worked on. It was the season home closer for the Sox. The stands were less than 10% at capacity, in their brand spanking new stadium which was only built to house more people and sell more tickets (I liked how you called it bland and has a lack of history, though. You can chalk that up to Sox ownership, not Cubs tradition. Sox HAD a stadium rich in history and wood seats. They chose to destroy it).

    This was in a season when they didn’t have a great record. The Cubs home closer? Sold out as usual, and it was the year before they had their decent season.

    The Cubs didn’t have to promise tickets to this year’s World Series in order to sell season tickets for next year. Sure, it can be said they didn’t make it this year. But when they HAVE made it into the Playoffs, they haven’t had to resort to marketing gimmicks to sell seats.

    In the end, maybe next year, or ten years from now, Wrigley Field will still be sold out, and Comis– New Comis– Cellular Field will still be empty (unless the Sox are doing well that year). Regardless of championships won or not.

    I find your attempt to paint the Sox fans as the “true” fans just flat-out hilarious :) I’m happy for them. I watched the games and cheered on the Sox even though I never watched a game all season. I’m happy that a Chicago team won another championship. I know there are a lot of die-hard Sox fans out there (I work with 2 of them), but for the most part, I think you’re dead wrong. Let’s revisit this in 2 years and see whose stadium is still selling out and whose isn’t.

  9. Bowler:

    “I find your attempt to paint the Sox fans as the ‘true’ fans just flat-out hilarious.”

    I defy you — defy! — to point to where I’ve said that Cubs fans are any less fans of their ball club than Sox fans. I didn’t say White Sox fans are truer fans of their teams, I just don’t think they have the baggage of a “curse” mentality. And if they did, well, clearly they need to get over it now.

    All you are saying is that the Cubs faithful is larger number than the Sox faithful, or at the very least, more willing to shell out money to see them play.

  10. Mmmmm, Harold’s Chicken.

    Oh, yeah, wasn’t there something in the post about baseball as well?

  11. There’s a more to the White Sox’ lack of curse than a hard-headed resistance to such silliness.

    By explaining a drought as a curse, fans are declaring it an unjust supernatural punishment for a long ago minor offense – trading the Babe or banning goats from the bleachers (or something like that). It’s how the fans commiserate and declare that their team is the most talented and most deserving of victory, victory denied by cruel spirits.

    The Red Sox curse was more compelling and better-known than the Cubs curse. That’s mostly because the Red Sox are frequently a top contender; it also helps that they managed to lose the ’86 series in a humiliating way. The Cubs have been a losing team for much of the last 50 years. When a team loses the season, you don’t need supernatural explanations for not winning the series. Plus that goat thing isn’t a very good story.

    The White Sox’ drought followed their throwing the 1919 series (see if you’re not familiar with it). “Say it ain’t so, Joe” is a loss of innocence, not a curse. There’s no feeling that the offense was minor or the pushishment unjust, though clearly it was too long ago.

  12. As a lifelong Yankee fan, I must say I find it hysterical when people argue about how best to root for a perennial losing team. Curse or no curse? Lovable losers or black sheep of the city? Whatever…

    Congrats to the White Sox on their third World Series victory. Enjoy that trophy they gave you. Take good care of it – we’ll be wanting it back next year for number twenty seven…

  13. Yeah, Brian, you guys have been saying that since, what? 2000? The Yankees have yet to win a Series this millennium!

    As much as one cannot argue with the success of the Yankees, let’s also remember that even that team has had its years in the wilderness, notably the nearly two decades between their ’78 Championship and their ’96 championship.

  14. First off: John, there’s something buggered with TypeKey, as it says you’re not registered with them.

    Secondly: GO SOX! As a native South Sider, I was absolutely delighted with last night’s win, although I will admit to blasphemy — I wouldn’t have minded seeing the ‘Stros win two games, so that the Sox could’ve won the Series in Chicago. But I’ll take what I can get.

    And as for not recognizing the Sox players, I must correct you — I would recognize A.J. Pierzynski if I was standing next to him at Harold’s Chicken Shack. Granted, it’s because I find him absolutely adorable, but still.

  15. I would concur with Melanie (not the bit about A.J. being adorable – that I would recognize some of the players). As a lifelong Braves fan living in Chicago I was glad to witness the frenzy this city has been in for the past month or so. It reminded me so much of the early ’90s when seeing the Braves in the playoffs was new and exciting. Alas, we have become too jaded – even when they do make it we brace ourselves for another early exit.

    But I have to admit I was even more thrilled to watch the Sox beat the Astros last night (a team I hold no ill will towards otherwise) – the stunned look on George and Barbara Bush’s faces last night was in itself quite satisfying.

  16. I was rooting for the Astros (lived in Houston for eight years, never lived in Chicago), but if the other team had to win, I didn’t mind the White Sox. Of course, I haven’t really cared much about MLB in quite a while, though.

    But, as regards to a curse, I think Ozzie Guillen summed it up — “We don’t have a curse. We just had a lot of horsesh*t teams.”

  17. Glutton for disappointment (Sox win)

    The Sox swept the Series, this is old news. But I’ve just discovered that John Scalzi wrote a fairly accurate post Cubs and Sox recently. Here’s a good quote: “The Sox are and have always been Chicago’s second team as…

  18. “It was the season home closer for the Sox. The stands were less than 10% at capacity, in their brand spanking new stadium which was only built to house more people and sell more tickets (I liked how you called it bland and has a lack of history, though. You can chalk that up to Sox ownership, not Cubs tradition. Sox HAD a stadium rich in history and wood seats. They chose to destroy it).”

    The new ballpark seats about 14,000 less than the old ballpark so your reasoning is simply wrong. The old Comiskey was destroyed because it was falling apart. It was a dump. Just like Tiger Stadium. Just like Wrigley Field. The Sox just upgraded instead of let concrete fall upon them.

  19. Ah yes, the attendence argument. Attendence doesn’t bring home the Commisioner’s Trophy (what a stupid name). Funny how Wrigley Field was empty these last few weeks.

    Another reason to like the Sox’ accomplishment this season is they did it with a payroll of $69 million.

  20. The Yankees are stuck with the Curse of A-Rod. I don’t expect them to win another World Series until he’s gone.

    (The Red Sox curse, btw, wasn’t the Babe; it was the more general “stupid owners”. Give Jackie Robinson a fake tryout? The Bagwell trade? It wasn’t just the Babe.)

  21. The Yankees are stuck with the Curse of A-Rod. I don’t expect them to win another World Series until he’s gone.

    Actually, I’d suggest it’s really the curse of Mattingly. As much as I like Donnie baseball, it should be noted that the Yanks only made the post-season twice in his career – and the first time was the strike-shortened season. In both cases, they lost early. The year he finally retired (1996) began their string of 4 out of 5 World Series championships. Now, he’s back as hitting coach, and they can’t win again.

    We love ya’ Donnie! Now go home! ;-)

  22. I’m trying to be happy for you and the White Sox, I really am. But as a native Texan – native Houstonian, even – I am honor-bound to root for the Astros, and to sulk when they are beaten. And to drink coffee out of my 64-ounce “Don’t Mess With Texas” coffee mug.

  23. Cherie Priest:

    “Of course, now having gotten past page 68 of Old Man’s War, this makes much more sense ;-)”

    Heh. Yes, I wouldn’t deny that I have a textual reason for wanting to keep the curse alive. But this is not, shall we say, a motivating factor. I actually would like to see what would happen if the Cubs won it.

  24. What would happen if the Cubs won it?

    Well, duh, end of the world. Obviously.

    (“How did I know the Cubs were going to win? Well, the fire raining from the sky and the plagues of toads before game seven were kind of a tip-off…”)

  25. No offense, but I think you’re completely off base. Cubs fans do not believe in “curses,” nor do we have a fetish for them, and we want to win as much as any other team. This whole “lovable losers” thing is fed solely by the media, both local and national, as is all the “curse” nonsense. All we are “entitled” to is the promise of another season. It drives me completely insane that the team is nearing a time when everyone who was alive when they last won a title will be dead. How many games have you attended? Unless you have spent some time there I think you may have been influenced by the way the media covers the team.

    This is not sour grapes; I’m happy to see this city FINALLY have a championship baseball team. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been eating my heart out hourly for the last few weeks, but I don’t begrudge the Sox their shot. They flat out deserved it. I only hope I get to see a Series victory on the north side as well.

  26. Also, if I hear “Don’t Stop Believin” one more time, I’m going to Harold’s Chicken Shack and drown myself in a vat of grease.

  27. “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.”

    That’s an absurd assumption, if I ever heard one.

    “Unlike the Cubs fans, the Sox fans never seem to have made a fetish of their losing streak.”

    I don’t know about that. At the latter part of the season when they started having 7-8 game losing streaks, every south sider I’ve heard on the radio verbally abused Ozzie Guillen — and at the same time bad-mouthed the Cubs and their fans all in one breath! They started worrying that the Cubs might end up winning more games!

    The biggest difference between White Sox and Cubs fans is their loyalty each of those groups have for their respective teams. White Sox fans are second class citizens who are predominantly bandwagon jumpers. The Cubs attract attract a fan base that remain loyal to the team — win or lose. It’s called LOYALTY. Not a fetish for any kind of losing streak.

  28. I have been a true White Sox fan all my life. I was born and raised in White Sox diapers and when I broke my leg my cast had White Sox logos on it. Even though winning the World Series was great, there are negatives about it. First there are going to be more bandwagon jumpers, including the $@#%$@$#! from the North Side. I live in Beverly and the White Sox are really a community team not a city team. Honestly I actually liked being the second team in the second city, because you knew that all Sox Fans were true Sox fans, not bandwagon jumpers. Also going to the ballgame now is going be terrible. It just went to 25,000 close friends, to sellouts with fakes. If I want to go now, I can’t enjoy the game from a good seat on the main concourse, but now I have to watch from the Dreadful Upper Deck. I remember when the White Sox org. came from door to door begging people to attend games. The worst part about this is that the White Sox won’t care about the true fans, but the one’s who will spend the most money (I don’t have much). Yes I am happy that the White Sox won it all, but honestly I want things back to the way they were. Also you can tell who the real Sox fans by the hat they where. If it is a faded Sox hat, they are true. If it’s new…. well you know. This is coming from a True and Loyal Sox fan who was there during the losing seasons, the missed opportunites, and dissapointments, and the magical moments the Sox had to offer

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