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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Still Living in the Shadows

by
Guy Bacci

Mere minutes after the Boston Red Sox were crowned World Champs, our Chicago White Sox started getting national attention. The day after Bostonís sweep, an article on Page 2 of espn.com suggested White Sox fans were next in line for nationwide sympathy. The story even went so far as to recommend that the White Sox be adopted as Americaís Team.

Excuse me while I pinch myself.

This is all too fantastical to believe. As was eloquently written by Jayson Stark of ESPN, many baseball fans feel as if theyíve awoken from an odd dream, in which the Red Sox rallied for four straight wins over the New York Yankees and followed that up with a stunning sweep of the powerful St. Louis Cardinals. The end result for Chicago fans is that theyíre all alone on the dark island of ineptitude, with Bostonians being rescued by Captain Schilling and the S.S. Ortiz.

The ripple effect, as many have anticipated, will result in the White Sox getting a lot more attention for their near-century of failure. What that means for Sox fans is unclear. More exposure could mean more pressure on management to actually win something, although Sox fans know better than to hold their breaths. More exposure also means a more critical eye placed on the organization and the fans, who arenít exactly media darlings to begin with.

For example, Mike Greenberg (sadly, a fellow NU alum) already took a swipe at the Southside on his national radio show, saying the empathy should now shift to the Cubs, and that there is no such thing as a White Sox Nation. Greenberg is nothing more than a Cubbie-loviní former CLTV anchor, but there are many others who share his viewpoint.

Whether or not Southsiders deserve the countryís love is likely to become a hot debate topic. Thatís distressing to Sox fans, because theyíve become accustomed to living in the Cubsí shadow and arenít thrilled about having their worthiness put up for debate. The White Sox donít have a cute, cuddly curse involving a four-legged mammal, and thank goodness for that. But they do have a potentially dark curse involving a team that threw the World Series, which nobody has much sympathy for. As a matter of fact, the Page 2 article on espn.com mentioned that the Sox deserve to be cursed. Sox fans would prefer to be ignored rather than treated to such abuse.

But now that Boston has finally won the ring, there is an upside for White Sox fans. For starters, itíll no longer be trendy to root for the Red Sox. The past few weeks have been painful, watching people cheer for a team that has an astronomical payroll as if they were the Montreal Expos. The Red Sox are no longer the cursed underdogóthey are another wild-spending franchise gobbling up free agents.

But more importantly, with Boston in the rearview mirror, the White Sox may start to be treated like a franchise that has been around just as long as the Red Sox and in fact has been cursed longer than the Red Sox.

A day before the Red Sox won the Series, I listened to a pair of Seattle sports radio jocks attempt to identify which team was suffering from the second-longest drought (after the Cubs). We all know the answer to this question, but the two Seattle buffoons had no clue. I listened in amazement as they rattled off nearly every damn team in the Majors: San Fran, Houston, Montreal, Milwaukee, Texas ... they finally seemed to settle on Cleveland as the answer to their question. Not once were the White Sox ever mentioned.

The reality is, the casual baseball fan needs an education on the rich history of the White Sox, and with Boston fading into the background, the opportunity to enlighten the baseball world has arrived. The fear, of course, is that the mediaís attempt to educate will be painfully flawed. Will they look beyond the Ď80s and the uprising of WGN and Harry Carey? Will they note that the Sox were Chicagoís premier baseball team for many decades? Will they understand that Sox fans donít flock to the stadium like Cub fans because they demand a winner? Will they recognize that Sox fans are the only Chicago fans smart enough to send a message to management? While pathetic Bulls and Bears fans continue to support some of the worst managed teams in their respective leagues, Sox fans wait for ownership to give them a product worth watching. But you wonder how many in the media will accept that reasoning.

The irony of the current circumstance is that the Cubs are losing grasp of their lovable image. After a season of high expectations and disappointing results, Cub fans surprisingly showed signs of dissatisfaction. The whiny, underachieving Cubs foolishly pitted themselves against a beloved color commentator. Steve Stone is one of the best in the business, but he turned in his resignation last week, saying heíll never broadcast for the Cubs again. This kind of stuff just doesnít happen on the Northside.

Now more than ever, the Sox can swoop in as an enjoyable alternative. But Kenny Williams has a lot of work to do to make that happen. It appears his first off-season move will be to acquire shortstop Omar Vizquel. I personally like the idea; Omar is still one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, and heís a career .275 hitter. Thatís quite a difference from Jose Valentinís .243. Sure, Valentin offers 20-30 homers, but the Sox proved last season they had more than enough power and not nearly enough consistent hitting.

But Vizquel is a small part of a large project. Who replaces Magglio Ordonez? Who is the starting catcher? Who is the fifth starter? Who is the closer, or who is the bridge to Shingo? White Sox Nation eagerly awaits the answers.

That is, if you believe there is a White Sox Nation.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back. He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player. His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay). Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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