Not since the Bolshevik revolution has the view from the Dan Ryan Expressway been so sweet. Thank you, Chicago White Sox. Thank you.
As a recent Chicago emigrant living it up in beautiful Southern California, what I remember most about my childhood, like everyone else, are the special things that relate to actual places back home. Trips to Chuck E. Cheese. My first sleepover at a friend’s. Backyard woofleball. Driving on the Dan Ryan to White Sox games.
Trekking from the far South Side north to 35th Street was one of the coolest things to do as a kid after a tedious day at school. Hearing that your Dad’s friends got tickets to the Sox game and that you’d be skipping dinner to head down to Comiskey Park – now it’s called U.S. Cellular Field – for a ballgame was huge.
And I can imagine how crazed with pride the entire city of Chicago must be right now. Last Wednesday night, after the White Sox won the World Series, I spoke to several people who were at a bar celebrating or at their friend’s place going nuts. Even though I was only on the phone with them, I could tell that Chicagoans, even some Cubs fans, were more psyched than the folks from Los Angeles after the Angels won it all in 2002.
The fact that the White Sox had not won the World Series since 1917 probably had something to do with it, as does the fact that Los Angeles is Dodgers-town, and Chicago should be Cubs-town, people say.
But as the baby bears of the North Side haven’t won the big game since Abraham Lincoln played Little League, the city will turn to the black and grey. And that’s good. I’m sick of my hometown identifying with losers.
The “loveable loser” syndrome is the hardest to pin down in all of sports psychology, in my opinion. At what point in the Cubs’ (and White Sox up until last week) existence did losing become more expected than winning? When did public sentiment in Chicago and other places move from “Wow, this team sucks,” to “Wow, this team sucks. Give me two season tickets behind home plate.”
But I’ve had enough of that. The sad part is that I don’t think a lot of Chicagoans have. The Chicago Bears are a joke. The Bulls have been rebuilding ever since their owner unnecessarily broke up the strongest dynasty in Chicago sports history. The Blackhawks won’t be a legitimate franchise for another couple of years. The various kinda-sports, such as the Arena Football League and Major League Soccer, don’t have much of a following there depending on how you define “niche audience.”
And don’t get me started on the Cubbies.
This is a great thing for the people of Chicago, and for baseball in general. We need to squash the concept of the lovable loser – and fast. The last time the White Sox were close to winning the World Series was 1994, the year of baseball’s labor strike. People in Chicago spoke then of a playoff contender at Comiskey Park, but it never happened. The players walked, the owners talked and Chicago remained a Cubs-town.
A lot of people have said to me that the city may turn into a Sox-town, and considering how long it’s been a Bears/Cubs-town, that’s significant. My Dad, when the Sox were in the middle of its Series hunt, said it felt like 1985 again, when the Bears shuffled its way into the Super Bowl, where they embarrassed the New England Patriots.
I hope that people won’t automatically get on the “When’s the Cubs turn?” train and stick around 35th Street for a while. A bandwagon can only become legitimate if people never get off, which has happened before (see Renee Zellweger).
If producing a winning team in Chicago becomes a bandwagon for people to jump on, I hope it fills up fast. Remembering my trips as a kid to Comiskey Park is one of the best parts of my childhood, and I can only imagine what it’ll be like next year when all the new little blond kids of the world take their ride north on the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Ryan Denham can be reached at email@example.com.