The Cubs do kind of suck, but when I'm out of town and people ask me if I'm a Cubs fan or a Sox fan, I always say that I'm a Cubs fan. It's kind of true.
If you've been to Wrigley Field in the past 10 years, you know that it's a little dilapidated. Heck, it's only been through sheer luck that nobody's had their skull crushed by falling concrete. Still, it has to be the best place in the world to watch a baseball game.
I'm no expert, but I've been to a few different ball parks in my travels and discovered that nothing beats a couple of beers in the left field bleachers of what Ernie Banks named "the friendly confines."
Calling myself a "fan" of any team, though rings an alarm in the back of my mind. Do I really want to be a "fan"?
The first recorded use of the word "fan" was in 1682, although it was an isolated use of the word and the exact reference remains unclear. Baseball enthusiasts were called "fans" as early as 1889, the first group of those referred to as a "fan club" in 1930.
As for the etymology of the word, most linguistic experts agree that "fan" is a shortened form of the word "fanatic." Still want to call yourself a fan?
Most sports fans know how to enjoy a game without getting arrested. If you've thrown a hammer at the TV screen when your team got stopped on the one-yard line with no time left on the clock, you may want to consider counseling.
Some of us-you know who are-have a tendency to go a bit overboard in support of our teams. 42-year old John Grant of Tinley Park was arrested Monday night in Mayville, WI after zapping his wife with a stun gun.
Grant, a Bears fan apparently thought tasing his wife was an appropriate response to the Bears' victory at Green Bay, she being a Packers fan and all. He is facing a $10,000 fine and 6 years in jail.
Here in Chicago we have our own, home-grown rivalry known as the Crosstown Classic. Since 1999, six games each season, 3 played in each team's home stadium pit the Sox against the Cubs. North Siders versus South Siders. What could go wrong?
Whether fueled by a clash of cultures, over-serving at the park or a fanatic defense of their home teams, violent confrontations are not all that unusual. Serious injuries caused by baseball bats and incidents of gunplay are generally downplayed by both police and the press.
In Arizona last year a man was shot in the face during a pre-season game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Oakland Raiders. The year before that two men were shot in San Francisco following a pre-season game between the Raiders and the 49er's.
What is it about Raiders fans and the pre-season?
At the heart of it all, there seems to be an undercurrent of xenophobia. We love our team, our city, our country, but deep down the force that seems to drive "fans" is a hatred of outsiders. We think of gang warfare as being an inner city phenomenon, but are these rabid sports fans any different? Or are they more like the armed tribes of Afghanistan or Somalia?
The Bostonian who would beat you senseless with a baseball bat for insulting his beloved Red Sox probably doesn't get the irony that he would be doing the same to someone insulting the Brewers if he were born in Milwaukee.
Similarly, we may have slipped into a false definition of patriotism. The new metric of how much we love our country seems to be how much we hate everyone else.
The same, I suppose could be said for being white. Much of the culture of the South after the Civil War defined a white man by his antipathy for blacks. I've always wondered why the KKK ran around in white hoods, concealing their identities when they were, in fact proud of their racist activities.
I like the Cubs. I like the Bulls, the Hawks and the Bears. Not a fan of the Sox, though. Nonetheless, if I see you in my neighborhood wearing a White Sox jersey-or even a dreaded Green Bay Packers jersey, I will not shoot you. I will not even club you over the head.
Strictly speaking, I'm probably not a very good fan. According to the new litmus test of patriotism, I may not even be a good American.
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