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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Arizona Heat
by Pascal Marco

Spring Training World Series?

by Pascal Marco

Believe it or not, this is how some scalpers hooked shoppers on Phoenix’s version of Craig’s List to promote the sale of tickets to last Sunday’s sold-out, record-breaking attendance, Spring Training game between the White Sox and the Cubs as they hawked their wares to those who didn’t have the foresight to buy tickets in advance.

“The World Series of Spring Training?” C’mon. Give me a break.

This marketing ploy, I theorized, was a fantasy conjured up by desperate Cubs fans in their ever-hopeful minds as to what it might feel like to taste the sweet nectar of participating in a World Championship game—like their city brethren Sox fans did in 2005.

This delusional thinking reminded me of my dear old grammar school classmate, Billy Bosnick. “Boz,” as he was affectionately called, used to bet me every year that his Cubbies would have more wins at the end of the season than my Sox. I took his twenty-five cent per game wager unflinchingly. The year was 1962. The Cubs had finished 64-90 the year before, the Sox 86-76, a 22 game spread. At two bits per game, I felt certain to win at least five bucks--a lot of dough back then--if the Cubs kept playing as poorly as they did, which in my one-sided mind seemed a cinch.

During the next five years of our annual betting match, the Sox outpaced the Cubbies in victories by a total of 117 games or an average of 23+ games per year, netting me a whopping $29.25. But I won more than that. Those formative years in my life sealed my belief in the White Sox that no matter what any die-hard Cub fan believed or still believes, the Cubs were not and still are not the better team in Chicago.

As I watched the Sox drub the Cubs 13-2 today, I also reminisced about the yearly “series” between the Sox and Cubs in what was called the Annual Boys Benefit Charity game sponsored by Chicago Tribune. It was played during the All-Star break or around Memorial Day in by-gone days. After its run, it was later followed by the also well attended and always exciting (for Sox fans historically) Windy City and Crosstown Classics, both played, respectively, a few days before Opening Day.

I’m really not a statistics hungry fan. For those who know me, you probably would describe me as more of a “feelings” type of a guy. And if my feelings are right, my memory says that the Sox won most of these respective series and probably even holds the overall edge. I’ll even wager without doing the research that in all games played between the teams of any kind, the Sox come out ahead. Maybe someone can look that up. Me? I’d rather spend my time figuring out my interest on Boz’s twenty-nine bucks.

So. Why do Cub fans continuously strive to postulate that they’re the better team?

I spoke to about a dozen or more people today at the game. In my unscientific, feelings-based study, I purposely picked-out people attending the game where one was a Cubs fan, the other for the Sox. Three were couples--married or engaged--two others were attending the game on a date. I also interviewed several father/son combinations. I asked them each a series of questions ranging from the obvious of “How do you manage to get along at home?” to the sublime of “Did you know he (she) was a Cubs fan before you decided to marry/go out with him (her)?”

The most interesting answer from any of them, however, came from this question: “Which team has more pressure on them to win it all this year?” Without hesitation, all of the Cubs fans, save for one, answered, “The Cubs.”

“Why do you think that?” I asked as a follow-up question to each of their replies.

“Because we spent all that money,” they all unhesitatingly said. “We better win it all.”

“Is that what it’s all about, the money?” I then asked them.

And this is when it became suddenly cloudy. Not in the sky, that is, because it was an awesome late winter day in Mesa with temps hovering in the high seventies. But hazy rather in the looks on their forlorn and somewhat confused teddy bear faces. I could sense that they all desperately desired to have what Sox fans experienced, the feeling of a champion. And that feeling is one that doesn’t come with throwing a lot of money at the problem.

It’s a spirit (an attitude as one of the Sox fans so assuredly said) of knowing you’re the best; and knowing you have what it takes to be the best--in the Sox case, again. The one Cubs fan, Wayne, who answered differently than any of his fellow Cubs fans, told me without pause that the pressure is more on the Sox this year than on the Cubs.

“You’re the first fan, Cubs or Sox, to say that,” I pointedly told him. “Why do you think that?”

“Because,” he said, “the Sox still basically have the same team they had the year they won it all. I think that puts the pressure on them more so than the Cubs. Their team may not be around much longer. Anything can happen.”

He went on. “Every Cub fans hopes each year that we can do it. The Sox and their fans know they can. There’s more pressure in having that in the back of a player’s mind, I feel.”

Oooh. That word “feel” again. Well said, Wayne. I’ll pass around your “feelings” of baseball wisdom. He didn’t even mention one stat in his answer. And, so, as such an insightful fan, Wayne, you might want to mention to Cubs management they would have earned a lot of interest on that $300 million they spent. Just like Boz might have on his $29.25.

As for the Sox, you’ve got something money can’t buy: you are World Champs. Don’t stop believin’.

Go Sox!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pascal Marco is a free-lance writer who splits his time between Scottsdale, Arizona (where he formed the Arizona Sox Posse in 2005) and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, he has been a Sox fan since the unforgettable Go-Go White Sox days and has contributed to White Sox fan web sites such as www.whitesoxinteractive.com. He can be reached at reply85254@aol.com.

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