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Saturday, January 31, 2004

The problem with obnoxious Cub fans 

Before I get into what's so annoying about obnoxious Cub fans, I have better information about the first White Sox game I ever attended. If you check out this page for the 1978 Chicago White Sox on baseballlibrary.com, you'll see that the White Sox didn't play a 6-5 game against the Indians in June 1978. They did, however, beat the Indians 10-9 on June 13. I'm pretty sure this is the game I attended. I'm going to ask my father, so I'll have more on this at a later date. Oh, and I mispelled a name: it's Bill Nahorodny.

Anyway, to the problem with obnoxious Cub fans. I'm not, for the most part, talking about true baseball fans who happen to root for the Cubs. They can be annoying, too, but that's usually inherent in their personalities and has nothing to do with the Cubs. No, I'm talking about what I call LCFs, or loser Cub fans. Some of these people are actually OK, so long as the Cubs aren't winning. But if they show any signs of improvement -- not like the excellent season the Cubs had last year, but even winning three in a row to climb out of last place -- these fans start crowing, even though they haven't caught a game in about a month before the little win streak. These are the people who drive me crazy, and there are thousands of them in Chicago. I would guess hundreds of thousands of them, but I can't say that for certain.

These are the kind of people who can't get it through their heads why I would root for the White Sox when the Cubs are doing well, like last fall. The can't figure it out because they're fair-weather fans. They can't figure out why anyone would root for a struggling team that isn't popular and plays in a little-loved stadium in a neighborhood with few attractions near the ballpark. They're front-runners, so thankfully, given the record of the Cubs during my 32 years, I haven't had to deal with them on a sustained basis very often.

I'll give you an example. On the Sunday afternoon before the Cubs played Game 5 of the NLDS against the Braves, I met some friends who were in from out of town at a Lincoln Park neighborhood bar. I wore my kelly green Sox cap, the one they've worn on St. Patrick's Day in spring training. I had just gotten it a couple of weeks earlier at a Sox game during the last homestand (6-3 over the Yankees, on a walk-off, three-run homer by Maggs in the ninth). The barmaid was wearing her Cubs jersey with, if I remember correctly, "84" on the back. She walks up to me and with a serious tone in her voice, says, "What's that?" as she nods her head up at my cap.

"It's a Sox cap," I said, a little confused. "They wear caps like this in spring-"

"Yeah, I know," she cuts me off. "Why are you wearing it?"

"Because I'm a Sox fan...?"

I just got a dirty look from her, and then she asked what I wanted to drink. A lot of nerve, I thought, for someone who works on tips. Later, the bartender looked over at me and said, "It's too bad your team choked, or else we could have them both in the playoffs." This I liked -- she was giving me shit in the time-honored fashion.

"Tell me about it," I said. "That moron Manuel. They blew it."

I don't remember a particular incident like this in 1984, but I do remember that a lot of my classmates who supposedly had been really broken up about the Sox the year before were giving me a hard time because I refused to root for the Cubs.

In 1989, my first college roommate came in one Friday afternoon. I was sitting on the floor in front of the TV, watching the Sox play the first game of a twi-night doubleheader. "How can you watch this team?" he said, incredulously. The Sox were in fifth place in the AL West.

"Because they're my team," I said.

"But they're terrible. You're from Chicago, why don't you root for the Cubs?"

Luckily, the Giants beat the Cubs in the NLCS that year (I bought a fitted Giants cap that I still have to this day.) Even more luckily, I moved out at the end of the semester.

The only thing worse than a closet fair-weather fan is the one who's openly fair-weather: "I don't see why I can't root for both teams. I'm a Chicagoan, I want them both to win." No. If you grow up here, you pick a side and then you stay there. Period.

If I have a son someday, I would rather have him be a die-hard Cubs fan than a namby-pamby root-for-both fan.

Taking a different angle 

Opening Day fireworks at SoxFest I find it interesting that the Sun-Times wrote about the fan frustration that was in evidence at the first day of SoxFest but that the Tribune didn't bother to even mention it in their story today. I think Doug Padilla's story in the Sun-Times illustrates the point: We Sox fans had a lot of hopes last year. Trading for Bartolo Colon and Billy Koch and then adding players such as Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett raised our expectations. Unlike 2000, I had the feeling that the Sox could do some damage in the post-season. Sox management failed to do the one extra thing that team needed to win the division -- fire Jerry Manuel -- until it was too late. I'm happy with Ozzie Guillen as manager, but they needed a managerial move last year, when they had their one shot with that collection of players. Look at the Marlins -- they had one shot with Ivan Rodriguez in their lineup and they took it.

Here come the trade possibilities again 

ChicagoSports.com - Yankee's bad luck could be Sox boon This story by Phil Rogers of the Tribune outlines some trade possibilities that may present themselves to the Sox because of Yankee third baseman Aaron Boone's knee injury. One possibility involves Paul Konerko and Jose Valentin leaving and Darin Erstad and one of Anaheim's starters -- Jarrod Washburn, Ramon Ortiz or John Lackey -- coming to the Sox. I like this possibility. The Sox need change. This would put Juan Uribe into the lineup as SS. Sure, he's not shown much at the plate, but if he can bat .250 and play great defense, it would be a plus. Rogers suggests that Carlos Lee could move from left field to first base, with Aaron Rowand moving to left and Erstad playing in center. Given Erstad's battles with injuries in recent years, I'd prefer to see him at first -- not to mention that he's played there before. Look, Lee isn't going to win a Gold Glove in left field, but he's decent out there now, after learning the position as a major leaguer (he was a third baseman in the minors). I guess the theory would be that he can do less harm playing first than left field, and that the overall outfield defense would be greatly improved. Maybe. Of course, the problem with trading Valentin is that Kenny Williams said yesterday that he won't be trading him. I will say this for Williams: He has been clear throughout the offseason about trade rumors. When he's said things were dead -- think Garciaparra -- they were dead.

How I came to my present misery 

I'm exaggerating. And actually, how I came to my present misery is really just a combination of poor moves by the White Sox at a time when the Cubs are prospering. But what I mean by that title is, here's the story of how I became a White Sox fan. I am a lifelong North Sider. I don't come from a family of South Siders who moved north. How I became a Sox fan is somewhat lost to the fading memories of everyone in my family. I know I went to my first Sox game in June 1978, just before my seventh birthday. Sox beat the Indians 6-5, and Thad Bosley had a huge day: 5-for-5, 5 RBI. I must have become a Sox fan sometime before then, because my father wasn't a baseball fan then. He didn't grow up in this country and didn't know anything about baseball until I started playing Little League. I think I had been begging to go to a game when Dad came up with four tickets in the front row just past the third-base dugout. What I do remember clearly is how fascinated I was at the game that afternoon. I wanted them to keep playing -- I wanted to see the Sox hit in the bottom of the ninth, even though they were leading. Hey, I was new to the game. From that day forward, I was constantly lobbying to go to more Sox games. Thad Bosley, of course, was my favorite player for a while. Then Ralph Garr. Heck, I loved them all -- Wayne Nordhagen, Bill Naharodny, Francisco Barrios, Britt Burns, Bill Almon, Jim Essian, Jorge Orta, Chet Lemon. Especially Chet Lemon. I loved his batting stance, the way he dared the pitchers to come inside and risk hitting him. This was all reinforced when a new family moved next door to us. They had a son who was five years older than I was. He didn't have a little brother, and I didn't have a big brother. He was a White Sox fan, too. He prepared me for the scorn I was sure to get from Cubs fans, as we were growing up in the near north suburbs. Next time: Why I came to despise obnoxious Cubs fans.

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