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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Arizona Heat
by Pascal Marco

Arizona Tailgate

by Pascal Marco

The Sox drubbed the San Diego Padres 14-7 in Peoria, AZ behind eight strong innings split equally between John Danks and Gavin Floyd vying now for that coveted fifth spot in the Sox rotation.

Yes, Danks did get touched in the bottom of the second and blasted in the bottom of the fourth but he sandwiched that between two, three-up, three-down innings: the first and the third. The two homeruns Danks allowed, along with a center field wall-shot double, were certainly aided by a strong wind which made the flags stand straight-out, alternately to left and center the whole game. He certainly was a lot stronger, though, than former Sox-turned cry-baby David Wells, looking a bit ragged for the Padres since, some Sox fans speculated, he was starting the day after St. Paddy’s Day.

The Sox will find their fifth starter, no doubt, in either Danks or Floyd. Just ask--or rather, listen--to any Sox fan in the stands. What is it about die-hard, devoted, Sox fans that make them so knowledgeable not only about the game itself but about their team? I’m sure it’s not just one thing but that there are a multitude of reasons for this. I’m convinced there’s something about White Sox fans that truly make them different.

I’ve always sloughed-off an attempt to find an answer to this thing that separates us from other fans due to my bias as a life-long Sox backer. I didn’t do this because of a feeling of superiority over other fans in baseball, but growing up I always felt that Sox fans somehow just knew more about the game. And it wasn’t until today when I believed for the very first time that I could finally put my finger on what it is that makes this difference: White Sox fans love one another.

There. I said it. That’s right. I used the “L” word. Call it politically incorrect. Call it crazy. But it was never clearer to me than it was today. We may be the most suspicious and unbelieving fans in baseball but there’s no doubt in my mind we have the most love.

I saw it everywhere I went today. From the impromptu tailgating I did with four fans from Whiting—yes, Whiting—Indiana, to the stranger who approached me out of the blue and sold me his single ticket for a little more than less than half its face value, to the guy from Barrington who sat in front of me with his wife, children, their spouses and grandchild, all cheering in unison for the Sox.

“I’ve been a Sox fan all my life. Told my daughters no one can marry into the family without being a Sox fan,” quipped Nat from Barrington, IL. Nat knew baseball and knew the Sox. He was a walking (sitting, that is) encyclopedia of past and current Sox facts and stats. You didn’t have to guess if he loved the game, his team or his family. All you had to do was look at his progeny seated to his left and right for four or more seats in each direction and feel the love.

“It’s our first spring training here in Arizona. This is so beautiful,” he said to me, looking back over his shoulder as I listened to the shear emotion of his undeniable, nasal-toned, Chicago voice. “This has been great. We love it. Everyone should come out an enjoy this.”

“These are my two buddies. Their both from Chicago,” said Marc, the enterprising San Diegan stranger who sold me the extra ticket he had for the game, which was right next to his. “They love the Sox.” He pointed to his buddies, Dan and Bill, who are brothers.

“We grew up in Canaryville. What other choice was there for us other than to love this team?” Dan said, decked out in Sox cap and jersey.

“When we moved to Belmont and Diversey, we still loved the Sox,” Bill chimed in. “I’m in North Carolina now and we’re all pretty much spread all over the country now but we would do anything to be with each other here watching the Sox. We love it that much.”

A family sitting together and loving a common thing as one. Friends reuniting in the Arizona heat not letting distance keep them apart. What better place to do it than at a White Sox game—a game and a team they all love.

Paul from Whiting, and his wife, Angie, had invited me to a small tailgate party they had going on with two of Paul’s friends, also from Whiting. All live full-time in Arizona now. Later, when Paul invited me to sit with them in their seats down the third base line, just past the Sox dugout, two more guys from Whiting were there, meeting them for their very own version of a Sox love fest.

“Half of Whiting must be here,” I said to Paul. “I’ve never seen so many people from Whiting all together at one time outside of Arnie’s Dog House (“Where Man Bites Dog”) in my whole life.”

“We all love the Sox,” Paul said. As Ryan Sweeney approached the plate in the top of the eighth, Paul continued. “And I love this guy, Sweeney. He’s had all the at-bats he’ll ever in the minors. We need to find a place for him on this club.”

Sweeney proceeded to deposit the next pitch over the wall for a two-run homer.

Love was definitely in the air. The beers flowing, Paul and his high school buddies made jokes about the Lever Brothers and American Maize plants whose shadows and smells they grew up in not so long ago. The lovely, immaculate blue sky like the one at today’s game was not a thing they typically experienced back in Whiting, nor did I as I grew up across the state line from them on Avenue N in Chicago.

The game in hand, they yelled epithets at their favorite Sox players encouraging each of them as they came in and out of the dugout just a few feet from them. Things like, “Nice going, Josh,” and “Mow ‘em down, Matt,” and “Hey, Ozzie, we love you, man!”

There’s that “L” word again. White Sox baseball always seems to bring out the best in us--the love of strangers, friends, family, and baseball alike.

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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