Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sibling Rivalry

At the beginning of August, the White Sox had the best winning percentage in Major League Baseball and a 15 game lead in their division, but August was going to be the test. They had to play the Yankees twice, the Twins twice, and they had a road trip to Boston. White Sox fans were bracing for the worst. Actually, many White Sox fans had been bracing for the worst since the start of the season. We're a dispirited bunch, White Sox fans. I guess 46 years without a trip to the World Series will do that to you. Of course, you could confirm that by spending some time talking with Cubs fans. The Cubs haven't been to a World Series since 1945. So, 60 seasons for the Cubs and 46 seasons for the Sox, which means 106 continuous seasons of baseball futility in Chicago. It's only been 92 baseball seasons since the city of Chicago has participated in a World Series.

I've been watching and listening to games and commentary all season, and White Sox fans have been picky and frustrated with every loss and even with many of the wins. I've tried to sit back and enjoy their time atop the division while I could because, if recent history is any indication, they were probably going to fall out of the race at some point. It's been hard to watch the team late in the season over the past couple of years. Last year, the Sox were leading their division at the end of July, but fell apart in August.

My wife has used a southern phrase "bless his/her heart" a few times (she's from Georgia), and Eric Zorn has started using it on his Chicago Tribune blog when referring to some politicians. The phrase has been used by Southerners in an almost dismissive way, but even more, it's used in a denigrating way. The speaker is almost shaking their head while speaking it.

When I started this post on August 24th, the White Sox were in the midst of losing their 15 game lead in their division. Eric Zorn, bless his heart, took it upon himself to begin tracking the Cleveland Indians' magic number and he referred to it as the White Sox' "Toxic Number". It is the number of Cleveland wins combined with White Sox loses that would give the division title to Cleveland. He wasn't far off. The White Sox have been very average since the beginning of August, and that's partly to blame for my hesitancy in finishing this post. Their record since August 1st through Thursday was just 27-28. Now that they have won their division and guaranteed themselves the best record in the American League, I feel a little more comfortable completing this post.

Zorn: Sox hater.

"Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate." -- Chappelle's Show's Playa Haters

This week, I read this on the Chicago Tribune's web site:

Q: If a Cubs fan living in Chicago pulls against the White Sox, does it indicate he or she might be mentally unbalanced?

A: "If the teams are not directly competing against each other, the idea of a Cubs fan rooting against the White Sox becomes a little pathological," says Dr. Robert Burton, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University. "Technically, it probably stems from some unresolved sibling rivalry kind of thing. Otherwise, you have to wonder what a Cubs fan has to gain by pulling against the White Sox. Not too much, really, unless it's to feel better about himself. If the White Sox lose, then they're both in the doghouse.

"A resolved sibling rivalry would let you enjoy the success of your neighbor, or whomever, and root against each other only when you're going head-to-head. Any kind of sibling rivalry is commonly referred to as arrested development. Then, you get history and other issues layered on top of everything, and it can compound things. I personally pay more attention to whichever team is succeeding."
-- Mike Conklin

Did you catch that? "[I]t probably stems from some unresolved sibling rivalry kind of thing." Hilarious. I had titled this post "Sibling Rivalry" because my brother, bless his heart, is a Cubs fan. In 1983, our family moved into the city of Chicago from a small town about an hour's drive outside the city. Our family had been to White Sox games a few times at old Comiskey Park before we actually moved to the city, but apparently that had little effect on my brother. The Cubs had a big year in 1984, and he became a Cubs fan. He's been lost to me ever since. I mean, come on, we lived on the South Side, and we went to Sox games on occasion. I'm a White Sox fan, and I've kind of wondered if that also played a part in my brother's preference for the Cubs. Maybe there was some sibling rivalry there.

Now, I don't hate the Cubs. When they were in the playoffs, I didn't root against them, even though some Sox fans did. I just waited to see them collapse, as they always have. Actually, part of me was hoping that the Cubs would at least get into the World Series just so the "woe is me" fans would shut up about their stupid curse. Ideally, the Cubs and Red Sox would have played each other in that World Series in 2003 just so we could find out who had the bigger curse. It could have been branded as the "Worse Curse" series. Ironically, they both fell apart just five outs from clinching a World Series berth.

Those two teams in the World Series might have shone some light on the plight of the White Sox. The White Sox have been cursed by not having a curse. The other Sox team is more popular, the other Chicago team is more popular, and both of those other teams are cursed. The White Sox struggle in the shadow of two overly-reported curses. The history of the White Sox has been filled nearly as much with futility.

Earlier this season the White Sox were doing well, and the Cubs looked pretty good, too. Of course, we both think: 'wouldn't it be great if they met in the World Series?' Yeah, that would be the ideal. In fact, I'd love it if the Cubs would make the World Series on a regular basis...and lose to the White Sox. I've come to look on the Cubs the way I look on my brother: I want them to be successful, just not more successful than the White Sox. I think Chicago baseball fans have come to hate the other team so much because its hard to watch your team flounder every year. When your object of affection is struggling, there's some comfort in the knowledge that the other team is struggling, too.

Wait, all this is so...familiar...hmmm, let me think. Check this out.

Wait til next year, Cubs fans. Hopefully, both teams will make the playoffs then.

Go Sox!!

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