Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
Worst Case Scenario
by Derek Smart
The post-season started with eight teams, and at the beginning of this journey I looked at the field and, frankly, saw no team I could get behind. This is rare, as there's usually at least one club I can find some affinity for in my heart, but the 2005 crop of contenders mostly left me cold, and more in a profound state of indifference than anything else.
So while I couldn't find a rooting interest, being something of a jackass at heart, I was able to clearly identify the team from each league whom I would least like to see advance to the final round. And as luck and karma would have it, barring a three-game win streak from the Cardinals, my most garish post-season nightmares are about to come true.
What makes me a little sad, more sad than a White Sox/Astros World Series, is that it didn't have to be this way.
I'm not a native Chicagoan. I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and came to my fandom like so many others, via a combination of cable television, adolescent summer boredom, and the beginning of the Ryne Sandberg Era.
I came to town for graduate school in 1993 which was, oddly enough, a year when the White Sox made the playoffs, and I actually enjoyed the fact that they were in it, rooting for them all the way.
Being from out of town I wasn't privy to the nature of the Sox/Cubs rivalry and as far as I was concerned it was a Chicago team that was doing well, and since I was living here now, why shouldn't I enjoy their run at a title?
That was twelve seasons ago, and since that time I've changed a lot (going from one's early twenties to one's mid-thirties will do that to a fella), and one of the evolutions that has taken place has been a transition in my feelings towards the South Siders. I have grown to despise them.
As I said, it didn't have to be this way. True, the White Sox would never have usurped the Cubs' primary place in my affections, but that doesn't mean they couldn't have been a close second.
For a while the A's have been my adopted American League team, partly because of the way their organization runs, partly because I've enjoyed watching some of the recent teams they've put together, and partly because I have some good friends who are fans. There's no reason that, under the right circumstances, the Sox couldn't have been that team.
The fact is, I have some very good friends who are White Sox fans, guys who are season ticket holders, who occasionally ask me along when they have an extra stub. When I first met them and began to reap this benefit I was still open to the idea of being friendly toward the Pale Hose. A little cajoling, a little respect, and I'm at least indifferent to their current success, and at best, quite happy.
That's not what I've received. While my friends are, for the most part, decent when it comes to my Cubfandom (with some notable exceptions in the aftermath of the 2003 playoffs), the treatment I've received at the hands of White Sox fans in general has been abysmal. Rude. Disrespectful. Cruel.
Let me be clear, I don't mean to whine (although in re-reading this, just because I don't mean to doesn't mean I'm not). Perhaps I simply don't understand the existing ethos, but I'm not asking that White Sox fans love the Cubs, nor am I asking that there be no intra-city rivalry that would not only be silly, but unspeakably dull. A hint of civility. That's all it would take.
It's particularly ironic since the great complaint heard from Sox fans is how the city doesn't love them, how Chicago is a Cub town and they don't get the respect they deserve.
They're right, of course, but there's something to be said for treating others the way you'd like to be treated, and from my experience - as someone who, free from the shackles of hereditary fandom and its concomitant biases, was willing and able to give the Sox some of that love and respect their fan base purports to crave - they would prefer to be openly loathed and reviled.
I also understand that what I was offering a sort of secondary fandom is kind of like telling a woman that you'd be happy to date her on the nights you aren't busy with your best girlfriend.
It could be construed as an insult of sorts, and I can understand why such advances might be rejected. However, I had developed a deep affinity for the Cubs before I even arrived here, and it's not like I could drop it like lint from my pocket. Surely such fickleness isn't worthy of respect either.
Honestly, I'm not sure if any of this makes sense. All I know is, the White Sox are in the World Series, and while I'd like to be happy for them and their fans, I simply can't be. Not because my fandom doesn't allow me to, but because my fandom won't allow White Sox fans to let me.