Thursday, October 20, 2005

OBSERVATION: Some thoughts on the Sox winning season

1. What about those Cub fans? The Sox victory is a natural reason for Chicago to officially celebrate. Of course, it brings to a boil the long standing schism between the fans of the south side team and the fans of the north side Cubs. And that is the whole point. The Sox are a south side team, and the south side is a completely different culture than the north side. Mayor Daley looks as natural in a Sox cap as he does in a bright green tie.

The Sox are a local team. The Cubs are a national team, with fans from sea to shining sea. This is due to the fact that the Cubs are more than a team, they are a mystic. And more than a little credit for their national fame has to do with their early telecasts on a WGN-TV, which went national with the sports broadcasts.

The Sox play baseball, in some years better than others. When they are winning, more seats get filled (although it takes at least a World Series to completely fill their stark stadium. The Cubs are a sports/social phenomenon. Win or lose, a ticket to Wrigley Field is hard to come by. This is a reality that Sox fans simply cannot comprehend, and it is not easy for Cubs fans to explain it. You just have to feel it.

With the Sox heading to the Series this year, there is a lot of snubbing of the old proboscis at the ever-loyal Cubs fans. They assume that Cubs fans are frustrated or jealous. Whether the outcome of the City Series, or the number of players in the All Star Game, or the relative ranking of the teams during the year, or entrance into post season play, Sox fans are quick to boast when they are ahead and silently sulk when they trail. Their sports self esteem, like ticket sales at the tacky-named U.S. Cellular Field, rises and falls on victory alone. Cubs fans, ensconced in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field just love the game, the team, the environment in which the game is played, and the zany fans.

Cubs fans do not begrudge the Sox their victory. They simply do not care. It is like being in a restaurant seated next to a family celebrating a birthday. Good for them. We might even applaud at the end of the birthday song, but there celebration is neither a source of jubilation or chagrin. It just is.

2. The Governor is capless and Soxless. Of course, when Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wrote in Sporting News that he would never wear a Sox cap, not even if they played in the World Series, I am sure he never expected the team to get there during his administration – or his life time. Not a bad sentiment for a dyed in the wool Cubs fan. Unfortunately, it was a hapless statement fraught with political incorrectness when made by the elected leader of ALL the people, and was elevated to a major faux paw by the Sox unexpected winning season.

Just what does a savvy politician do in a situation like that? Well, the Governor’s response can be seen in the post season publicity shot. Proving him to be the things politicians are made of, he parses his statement by keeping his word on the cap, but dons a Sox jacket. Now everyone can see a desperate man twisting in the wind. The look on his face tells it all. But wait! He knows there is no escaping the embarrassment of the moment, and the scorn of the south side, so he does the publicity stunt with his sweetly innocent daughter at his side. He might was well be wearing a sign that says, “Don’t pick on me because my young daughter is here.”

Now, if that is not bad enough, ponder this. The Governor’s spin meisters put out the word that his anti-Sox comment in the press was not of his authorship. It was ghost written by a reporter for the publication – although they concede that he read and signed off out the article before publication.

Having transformed a bad comment into a public relations disaster, it is now questionable if Governor Blago can even get a ticket to any of the home games. He may not even receive the traditional invitation that automatically goes to the state’s chief executive for such events. Of course, if I was Jerry Reinsdorf, and I were of a mind to zing the Governor for his comments (and that would not be beneath Reinsdorf), I would make a very very public invitation to the Governor, and watch him squirm for credible reasons not to attend, or shame him into attending, and smugly grin as he is boo’ed by assembled crowd. Sox fans are like that. In truth, if the situation was reversed, Cubs fans would do the same.

3. The rich get richer. Jerry Reinsdorf will get a nice windfall from the World Series. Seems like, when no one was looking, our politicians pulled a fast one on the public. Those of us who footed the bill for that monstrosity called U.S. Cellular Field will get none … nada … of the revenues generated by the World Series. In a move that can only be described as a “gift” to the team owners, we taxpayers agreed to relinquish proceeds from any World Series tickets. Now that was damn generous of us. Perhaps, like Governor Blagojevich, those who made that decision on our behalf assumed that a Sox World Series would never happen in our life times. So, when you Sox fans see a beaming Mayor Daley standing next to grinning Jerry Reinsdorf, you will know that the glee is brought on by more than civic pride. That is not Jerry’s arm around the Mayor, it is his hand on the public wallet in his pocket.

4. The “Sold Rush” on the south side. There are many media stories about the demand for Sox tickets. There is confusion, and a couple of predictable stories of the “unfairness” of the process. Big shots getting tickets as the faithful get shut out. Well, all this consternation should come as no surprise. We should be more tolerant of the situation. It is a bit like the lack of preparedness for Hurricane Katrina. Not only is the Sox winning season a generational event, but no one in charge at … gulp … U.S. Cellular Field has ever had any experience with a situation where there where more demand for seats than seat available. They should have hired some of the Cub officials, who have to face high demand all the time.

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