Opening Day is upon us. Wait, the Dodgers have already played three games? Two outside of this country. What the H? Dodger crazy LA might have been robbed of a traditional Opening Day, but for the many transients living in this suburban city the day of hope has arrived. For one day we can all believe our team has a chance. A chance to win a pennant, a chance to go 162-0, a chance to bring home a World Series. And for many of us that hope will be squashed before April showers has a chance to bring May flowers, so it is important to enjoy it while it lasts.
As a north suburban Chicago White Sox fan I dealt with a lot of slack from all my Cubs’ fan friends. It would egotistical and brash to describe it as an Israeli living in Palestine, but let’s do it anyway. My mother raised me a Sox fan and it stuck. Perhaps because of some deep seeded Freudian Oedipus complex or just the mere fact she was one of only like four people I could recognize for the first four years of my life. Who knows, my Sox fandom never wavered. I grew up on The Big Hurt, Black Jack McDowell, the One Dog Lance Johnson, Jim Abbott, Robin Ventura, Ray Durham, Wilson Alvarez, and the voice of it all Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson. Really I grew up on Hawk and Wimpy, aka Tom Paciorek, whom five year old me that it was hilarious that his name was Wimpy.
Those players forged my baseball fandom. To this day, I’ll argue that Frank Thomas was the greatest hitter of the 90s and there is nothing anyone can say to change my mind. Don’t believe me, check out the stats for yourself. Take away the outlier that was 1998 and find me a guy who for 9 of 10 seasons can bat over .300 – making out at .347. Can hit at least 30 homers, tops at 43, drive in at least 100 runs, and have a OBP of over .400 with a max of .487. All of this without a hint of steroid use, best hitter of the 90s. The Big Hurt is a major reason why I’ve never wavered in my White Sox fandom, but that does not mean that I’ve never cheered for the Chicago’s other baseball team.
Two times in my life have I openly rooted for the Cubs. The first was in the great home run race of 1998 when baseball became cool all of a sudden. As a 9 year old I was drawn by the flash of one Samuel Sosa. Slammin’ Samuel’s flashiness drew a lot of attention and as my friends in elementary school went Cubs crazy it was hard not to get caught up in the wonder. Again, Thomas was having a bizarrely down year and the White Sox were coming off the previous year’s “White Flag trade” and in the middle of a rebuilding process that would yield a Central division crown in 2000.
The second time I openly rooted for the Cubs was my freshman year in high school when they made their now infamous playoff run in 2003. As a teenager that gave into peer pressure easily and desperately wanted people to like him I was not going miss a bonding opportunity with all these new people I’d be spending the next four years of my life with.
I had no qualms in rooting for the Cubs in these situations. It has never sat well with me that Chicago, such a great sports town, has two baseball teams. I’m not sure if one team would become more important to the city than the Bears, but I think it would be close. Chicagoans love the summer and I’ll never waver from the belief that it is the best summer time city in the U.S. The rooftops, the lake, the joy of being able to walk outside without freezing your nuts off, the Taste, Lolla, and so much more. One baseball team with the backing of the entire city would have a raucous home field crowd that could not be matched anywhere else.
It might be too late at this point to eliminate a team, but lets say that proposal came up and one team had to go. Which one is it going to be? Sure, the obvious answer would be keep the Cubs because it has more fans and the best neighborhood for a baseball stadium. But the easy answer is not always the correct one. The White Sox better represent the city of Chicago and our attitudes. Chicagoans are proud people. We’re proud of our city and the people who come from it. A fact we’re never shy of sharing with anyone whether they want to listen of not. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder, which we wear proudly with the moniker Second City. We truly believe our city is better than any other and hate how much attention that cities like New York and Los Angeles get around the world. What team better represents this attitude than the team that is Second in the Second City. White Sox fans are Chicagoans on steroids. The chip on the shoulder is replaced by a gaping crevice.
Why do the Cubs, a team that has not won the World Series since 1908 get so much love and attention? It feels very flashy, more of a LA thing to admire flash and show over substance. The loveable losers moniker has never felt right for Chicago. We like our blue collar, rough and tumble, take no prisoners, us against the world type players and teams. The Monsters of the Midway, MJ and Pippens absurd competitiveness, “The Serious One” Captain Johnathan Toews, and “Our Guy” Joakim Noah. The attitude is certainly changing in the Cubs organization, but for too long the Cubs were satisfied with putting buts in the seats with the draw of the oldest stadium in the majors and all the drunken fun that happens in Wrigleyville. The organization did not seem so interested in winning as it did in selling a brand of fun, loveable losers. It just does not feel very Chicago.
We might not have the success of a Yankees organization, but damn it if we’re not going to go down swinging. It might not be the most popular decision, but it is the right one for Chicago. We need a team that better fits the image of our city and that is the Chicago White Sox. I know it will be sad to cut short Theo Epstein’s rebuilding process, but never fear the White Sox have an intelligent GM with great foresight of his own, Rick Hahn. He has put together a very sneaky good start to a rebuilding process of his own and in one and a half seasons has turned the worst farm system in the majors into a respectable one. Plus has infused a lot of youth into the Opening Day lineup. Only time will tell which rebuilding process will get done sooner, but here’s hoping for a Red Line series in the near future and perhaps that can be used to decide which team will be Chicago’s real baseball team.