I am a White Sox fan. I live within walking distance of Wrigley Field. I never cheered for the White Sox prior to 2005. I never paid attention to American League baseball with the exception of when I lived with a few Bostonians in college. Here’s why.
I moved to Chicago in 2005 after law school. Upon arrival, one of my best friends from college, Mike, shortly thereafter moved back to Chicago from Washington D.C. He was a lifelong Sox fan. In a bit of a sad story, his dad, who died in a plane crash when Mike was very young, was a Sox fan, and Mike carries that fandom forward. When I arrived in Chicago, Mike made it very clear. There are no fence sitters in this town. Pick a side. North or South. Sox or Cubs.
Now, growing up I had a complicated relationship with baseball. My dad was an excellent baseball player and played Little League at a very competitive level in Chicago on the south side. He grew up in Evergreen Park and went to Brother Rice Academy, played baseball all throughout and still plays on the same softball team he joined 20 years ago in my home town.
I was expected to play Little League. I thought I had to be good at Little League. I sucked. I was afraid of the ball. I couldn’t keep my head in the game. I wasn’t particularly big, strong or tall. I’m relatively fast, and to this day, I’m a decent outfielder. But I’m a terrible batter. I did two seasons of Little League, and I was out.
I got into baseball cards as a kid, but not really baseball. I grew up in Wisconsin not far from Milwaukee and was a Brewers fan. Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, I remember Molitor’s 39-game hit streak in ’87. But I wasn’t a diehard Brewers fan. Didn’t go to a lot of games, and completely stopped paying attention to them between 1996 – 2004, my college years, as the Badgers took up all my sports interest and the Brewers sucked.
Something happened as I got closer to 30. All the talk of strategy and how baseball was a lot more complicated than it looked, suddenly I saw it all. I also started actually going to games more often (5 or 6 a season) and enjoyed that aspect of it far more as well. The pace didn’t bother me now that I wasn’t an addled adolescent. I realized that baseball was perfectly pitched to my sensibilities.
Mike made a compelling case. Although I can usually see both sides of an argument, I knew that when it came to this, I couldn’t wuss out. Pick a side. Mike sold me on the South Siders. Their history of not sucking, their more working class roots, and the fact that they weren’t that shabby that season. Turns out he was right. I wasn’t really bandwagoning, but it sure was nice that the first season I rooted for the White Sox, they won the World Series.
Two full seasons since, it’s still all good. Sure they sucked last year, but this year, they’re looking good. First in a division that many predicted to be the toughest in the AL, but so far has fallen far short of expectations. Decent pitching from Vazquez, Contreras and Floyd, along with an up and down Buhrle. Swisher has underperformed and the usual MASH unit of Konerko is a disappointment. But new players have stepped in (Quentin) and the bullpen has been on lockdown.
Now, the Sox and Cubs, both in first place, are in the Cross Town Classic. As I write this, Cubs and Sox are tied at 3 a piece in the bottom of the 8th. Goddamn, I love this game.