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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Who's Obsessed?
by Hal Vickery

It was been most interesting listening to reports coming from the Cute and Cuddlies as their caravan and then their convention put them in front of fans and media last week.. For years Sox fans have been told that we are obsessed with the northsiders while they and their fans couldn’t care less about the Sox and their fans except for six games a year.

Well apparently that isn’t quite true, and it’s not just Cubs fans that seem to now be obsessed with the Sox but also some of their players.

According to Paul Sullivan in Saturday’s Cubune, a fan prefaced a question to Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker by stating that “White Sox GM Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen were ‘smoking cigars with their feet up and laughing at us, laughing at you guys, laughing at the North Side.’”

I find this to be truly amazing! After all, of what significance are the White Sox to the Cubs and their fans? Why should Cubs fans care what Williams and Guillen do? After all, if you listen to them, this is still a Cubs town no matter what the Sox do. Of course this questioner could be an anomaly. He could be one of those rare Cubs fans that actually cares about something other than beer, sun, cell phone conversations, and ogling members of the opposite sex when going to the ballpark.

And apparently this obsession with the fact that the Sox have actually won something while the Cubs continued to flounder isn’t just limited to distraught fans. Even players seem to have an obsession with the Sox.

The first such indication that maybe the Cubs organization actually does care about the Sox’ success came from Michael Barrett on WGN-TV last week. Sportscaster Dan Roan showed tape of the Sox victory parade in October and then interview Barrett who said about the parade, “You know, we feel like those Sox were parading down our streets back in October. It took a lot of guts for them to do that. Now it's our turn to win it all."

The argument could be made that King was baiting Barrett by showing the parade footage. On the other hand, the fact that he had to say anything negative about the Sox shows that this World Series championship sticks in the craw of players. It’s hard to own a town when those nasty hoodlums on the other side of town stick actually winning something into their faces by parading in the streets of their city.

Michael, do you really want to take the streets back? Try actually winning something! Until then, you might just want to leave off the part about your streets and limit what you say to something like, “The Sox did a great job this year, and I think that this year will be our turn.” Otherwise, you’re the one with a lot of guts and no brains.

The sharpest barbs against the Sox, though came from a former Sox pitcher, Bobby Howry. Traveling with the Cute and Cuddly Caravan in Peoria, Howry was asked what it was like to now be on the North Side of town.

Howry, who also shot off his mouth about Sox attendance late last season while he was still pitching for the Indians quipped, “You mean the popular side? I'm happy for them that they won it all. But it's still a Cubs town. I saw the celebration they had and the people who showed up. I can hardly imagine what would happen if the Cubs won it. I would love to be a part of that."

I’m glad Howry was happy for the Sox. But by having to say that Chicago is still a Cubs town Howry is admitting something that must be shaking the Tribune Co. all the way up to the CEO’s office. The Sox have one something. They can market a World Series champion. What can the Cubs market? The same old stuff: a ballpark, sunshine, chicks, and beer.

In a town in which both teams have a long record of futility, this might sell. However, the general public is notorious for jumping on and off whatever bandwagon happens to be passing by. Sox ticket sales have skyrocketed during the off-season. SoxFest was sold out months in advance. It’s obvious that people want to see what the club on the South Side has to offer.

And the Cubs know that, from the Andy MacPhail down to the bat boys. Marketing what Wrigley Field “saw” over sixty years ago isn’t going to cut it anymore and they know it.

However, MacPhail and Jim Hendry are in a bind. The Tribune Co. is currently in a financial bind. As a result their player budget isn’t going to go up for 2006. There is too much money tied up in has-been and never-was pitchers like Greg Maddux and Kerry Wood. The middle of the Cubs infield right now seems to be a giant hole between first and third base. In short, the Cubs don’t appear to be contenders for anything more than a possible Wild Card, and that’s only if they get lucky.

The Cubs are marketing the fact that summer is coming in February when their precious tickets go on sale. Of course, any pre-sales shortages can simply be transferred to their in-house scalping agency. The big difference between this year and the past is that now those tickets will compete with hard-to-find Sox tickets.

So it is no surprise that the Cubs have come out swinging against the Sox. Fans are fickle, and they can already see the Sox stock rising as theirs continues to fall.

Who knows, it might just happen this year that the Sox will once again outdraw the Cubs and take the mythical “attendance championship” that they and the Cubs and their fans. The day that happens will be the day when we really find out whether or not the Cubs and their fans really care about what the Sox do, but from the early returns, there is a definite indication that they really do.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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