Monday, October 17, 2005

Cheering for a fiery chasm


As a native of suburban Chicago, I couldn’t have been more pleased with how my Bears played yesterday—or more accurately, how poorly the Vikings played. I’m a realist: the Bears are bad, but thank Odin, the Vikes are worse.

As a native of a northern Chicago suburb, which geographically makes me a Cubs fan, I couldn’t have felt sicker than when the White Sox clinched the American League Pennant last night.

If there’s one great divide that I’m unwilling to cross, it’s Madison Street in downtown Chicago—the street that acts like the city’s Mason-Dixon line.

My wife—also an Illinois native, but she’s from Rockford, which might as well be Peoria in terms of sports allegiance districting—called me “small” and “petty” for rooting against a fellow Chicago team. She reasoned that I went to college with several guys from the south side of Chicago, kids from Irish neighborhoods with names like Rafferty and O’Connell. One of my best friends is a Sox fan. “Why can’t you be happy for them?” she questioned.

Because I’d rather be happy for me.

If there’s one bonus to being a Cubs fan, it's the opportunity to be bi-polar: feeling maligned and bitter in fall, then hopelessly optimistic come spring. Wait ‘til next year.

Furthermore, I just can’t stand the White Sox and anything associated with them. I don’t like their players or the way they play baseball. I don’t like their stadium (the new Comiskey Park is to Wrigley Field as a hospital is to a neighborhood bar…plus, they just renamed the park U.S. Cellular Field, how tacky). I don’t like their side of the city (there are few good reasons to venture south of the Loop, and the Museum of Science & Industry is for nerds). And I don’t like people who cheer for them. I have a few friends who are Sox fans, but I have them mentally filed under the category “friends with a significant character flaw,” alongside my friends who are philanderers or trade stocks with insider knowledge. Not surprisingly, many of my Sox-fan friends would have made the list for these other reasons anyway.

Back in my college days, in one of those highly intellectual salons that occur after “quarter-beers night” at the bars, I recall some philosophizing with friends about the societal benefits of sports that resulted in the following postulate: sports are good because they give people a socially acceptable avenue for hatred. People have been hating other people since we started walking upright, maybe before then. Today we all recognize that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of sex, color, or creed. But we can still vent those feelings, in a more healthy fashion, by hating Packer fans. My grandfather didn’t like people from the south side of Chicago because they were Irish. I, being more socially evolved than my granddad by two generations, don’t like South Siders because they’re Sox fans.

But for a Cubs fan like me, there’s an even greater danger looming in the World Series. It’s possible that the arch-nemesis St. Louis Cardinals will win the National League Pennant. If that happens, then I guess I’ll be rooting for that same outcome I cheered for in the 2000 World Series, which pitted New York’s Yankees against its Mets (did I mention I hate New York, too?).

Here’s hoping a fiery chasm opens in the earth during Game 1 and swallows both teams…and their fans.

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