Chicago White Sox fans suffered through the 99th loss of the baseball season Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, as a rally fell short. Sure the Sox dodged the 2012 Cubs 100-loss fate, but many questions remain.
As I sat in the stands watching the Sox struggle on offense and on the mound, I thought back to seeing the 100th Cubs loss last year. At the end of a long season, we always hope for better next time. The Cubs 96-loss season in 2013 does not exactly radiate with hope. At least the North siders did win their final home game on Fan Appreciation Day Wednesday before limping off to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals clinch the NL Central.
I saw the Cubs in May and again for their last home game -- a win that finally broke my 13-month home team losing streak across baseball and basketball games. So, my final 2013 personal Cubs record was 1-1. My Sox record, however, was 0-3 including a Friday night fireworks game against the Braves and two more losses this week against the Royals.
The main White Sox drama is the possible retirement of Paul Konerko, while the Cubs consider whether or not they need yet another change in managers. Chicago baseball is now a long way away from the 2003 Cubs "In Dusty We Trusty" five outs from the World Series and the 2005 White Sox championship. Both teams, despite healthy payrolls, finished in last place of their divisions and at least 30 games out.
More often than not, Chicago baseball fans have found disappointment by the end of the regular season. It's a time to look ahead to future Bears, Hawks, Bulls and college games. Still, I wish there were more to make me think 2014 will be a better baseball season in Chicago. It's understandable that pro teams cannot regularly win. After more than 50 years of watching, though, failure to be competitive is troubling.
I think a lot of baseball fans cannot understand why Chicago baseball teams fail to play at least .500 ball and cannot finish ahead of the likes of the Brewers and the Royals. Both the Cubs and the Sox hit solo home runs and often cannot score without the long ball. These are teams that do not run that well and do not shorten games with great bullpens. The 2005 Sox won by playing better baseball and having the league's best closing pitcher at the time.
Yesterday, I raised a Billy Goat cheeseburger in the direction of a Mike Royko photo in hopes that fortunes will change in 2014. As September comes to a close, I'm not optimistic.
Rather than dwell on losing, I do what Chicago baseball fans always do. I take memories of great summer afternoons and evenings with family and friends into the brutal winter months. The outdoor lake air, the smell and taste of a hot dog or burger, a cool drink and a seventh inning stretch. The magic remains, even when your teams have lost way too many games.