This is a guest article and not reflective of the opinions of SoxNet or its writers.
By Robert Dean,
Here’s the thing about being a White Sox fan: it’s hard. Like, ultra-depressing hard. There’s little joy in loving the team who gets the shaft nationally and locally. ESPN forgot we even won a World Series eleven years ago. And when we did win one, did we get the cover? Nope. We got some blurb up in the right-hand corner of Sports Illustrated.
So it goes as a White Sox fan. It’s given us a complex. White Sox fans are the biggest pack of self-hating, self-mutilating, and self-disturbed fans in all of Major League Baseball.
White Sox fans are so obsessed with winning that we punish the team on the field for losing. We don’t show up to games if the season is in the toilet. In our minds, let the bottom line rot because if you can’t give us value for our dollar, we ain’t buying. It’s a favorite theme in Chicago that Wrigley is full because it’s beautiful, and whatever the hell Comiskey Park is called now, sits one-third full. Reason being? We’re sending a message. There’s nothing to do after the game. You don’t go to Bridgeport to hang out. We’re the geriatric home for players past their prime, and what’s the plus? To buy eight dollar beers? The White Sox give us ulcers with their constant, frustrating mediocrity.
But, there’s a catch – We still love the Sox. White Sox fans have an intrinsic identity that’s tied to the team. We get so mad about everything they do, or they’re not doing, because their success or failures are a reflection of ourselves.
Growing up on the South Side, folks assume we live in a ghetto or we’re too dumb to do anything but work in the trades, that our home turf is a gangland. We hear that anyone from off Archer Avenue is only useful for fixing broken concrete, being a cop or greasing palms with union thuggery. The Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears? They belong to the city. But, not the White Sox. They’re ours. And when they win, they’re winning for us. The White Sox belong to the South Side, and we don’t like to’ share – they’re our birthright.
During the playoffs, we cheer for the Central Division. Not because we’re psyched to see our direct competitors do well. We hope seeing those teams making playoff runs will give our front office nightmares. So the Indians being in the World Series should irk us, but we’re more focused on our cross-town rivals, the Cubs.
We can’t help it. It could be that we harbor an insane, frothing jealousy. Being a White Sox fan in Chicago is being like the dork at the prom hiding in the shadows while the Cubs prance around the dance floor holding a beer, spilling just a little bit, but never letting the whole thing splash on the floor. Everyone is around them cheering them on, while we’re hoping Denny’s won’t be busy afterward. No one’s paying attention to us.
Cubs lore is full of merchandising and symbolism, while the White Sox have a cool logo. We don’t have Eddie Vedder, or Bill Murray – sure, we’ve got Obama, but that’s it. We don’t have the cool fans, or the culture surrounding the team. Instead, we’ve got once Playmate, now anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy pulling for the Good Guys. We’re glued together by a percolating misery that next year will suck as bad as this one.
In the nineties and early 2000s, the White Sox were a part of baseball culture. We had winning ball clubs and had the strike not happened we would have sealed the deal in 1994. Then baseball went into a spiraling depression and only the summer of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire ‘roiding up and smashing tape-measure dingers saved the sport. Even then it was a Cub who lifted the curse.
Those years we hated the Cubs because they reminded us of what we weren’t: they played in “The Friendly Confines” in a fun part of town, and had little expectations other than a good time. They had Harry Caray and we had…. Hawk Harrelson. No contest there, folks. But, we both sucked, and the rivalry remained this social boxing match of your guys suck even worse than we do. People got into fights over dumb things; it was what it was. But, then things started changing, the Cubs bobbed and moved in the Andy McPhail era and got close to making a bid for a championship.
The Sox, on the other hand, hired former player Kenny Williams to shore up our talent and make us a winner. And for one season, he did just that. With the right amount of dumpster dive moves, along with cutting and pasting some has-beens with some no-names and one Hall of Famer, we did it: the White Sox got a ring. For one glorious season, the sun shined on the dog’s ass. But then, that same hack in the front office kept promising us a winner. We got nothing but a trip back into the cellar.
But, back to the Cubs – McPhail’s out. Theo Epstein was in. The Theo Epstein who built the Boston Red Sox from a middling second banana to the Yankees, to three-time World Series winner. Once the city of Chicago saw he was coming, we knew it was serious. Then came Joe Madden, widely considered one of baseball’s elite managers. Who do the White Sox hire? Robin Ventura – a fan favorite player with zero managing skills. With Theo at the helm, the Cubs cleaned house, traded away impact players with large salaries to build from the ground up. They fostered young talent and made a deal with the fans: Just Wait.
Meanwhile, on the South side, the White Sox filled holes with pricey has-beens like Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, and company. But as White Sox lore goes, “Kenny always gets his man,” even six years too late.
The Cubs built a franchise the city believes in; they’re young, enigmatic, and fun to watch. The W flag is raised, and they sing that dumb song. Meanwhile, down on the South Side, that rebuild is exactly what the fans want. Instead, we get Star Wars night, Elvis night, or some fried hot dog. Instead of worrying about what’s on the field, we’re more worried about statues on the concourse.
Ask your average White Sox fan if we’d trade Chris Sale for a slew of prospects. We would. As far as we’re concerned, the whole team is up for grabs. There are no true “untouchable” fan favorites anymore, just some guys in our uniform.
This World Series, White Sox fans can’t cheer for the Cubs. We can’t buy into the “Chicago fan” mentality. That’s a cop out. That’s not true to our outsider identity and certainly not indicative of our culture. To say you’re comfortable jumping on the bandwagon to cheer for the Cubs is dismissive of everything our team sadly is.
For over a century, we’ve contested one another’s abilities, but now, we’re being left in the dust, and it hurts. We’ve always been the second-class team, and now, there’s no end in sight. Just as the junkie refuses their medicine, the White Sox fans will cheer against the Cubs because the mirror has cracks, and seeing what’s staring back makes us puke. Worst of all, there’s no one to blame except our own front office.
Robert Dean is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears.
Stalk him on Twitter: @Robert_Dean
Filed under: Editorial