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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Dealing with Denial

All the White Sox Need is a Good 12-step Program

Denial is a powerful and sometimes destructive thing. Alcoholics live for years denying their problem even though their drinking may cost their jobs and ruin relationships with important people in their lives. Yet, they will continue to deny they have the problem even as their world is falling apart around them.
Like the alcoholic, the White Sox organization lived in denial big time during the Ď90ís even though it was hurting the franchise in the long run. The White Sox were and are still in denial about many things. However, Comiskey was the teamís largest denial issue, and the organization is making progress on that.

It was easy in the beginning. From 1991-93, the Sox averaged well over 2.6 million in attendance. The team was playing well, winning the division in 1993. At the time of the strike, the Sox were in first and still were packing them in. Why should the Sox listen to complaints about the new stadium? There were plenty of fans that wanted to come to the still new ballpark to see a pennant contending team. Like a cozy ballpark so much? You could go watch the last place Cubs on the North Side.

The strike changed everything. The sellout crowds were gone, and the Sox couldnít even play .500 ball when they returned in 1995. Suddenly, the ballpark was a bigger issue than it ever was. Fan alienation worsened. But the Sox stayed in denial.

Opening Day 2002 demonstrated the Sox have begun to face up to things. They did several things to show they were responding to past fan complaints.

One was an unpopular. The Sox didnít allow upper deck ticket holders to have access to other parts of the park. As one fan who had an upper deck seat, I wasnít crazy about this, but I saw the logic. In the past, fans let it be known that the lines in the rest rooms and concessions in the lower deck were too long and unbearable. The Sox recognized two things. First, they saw that many fans dislike the upper deck so much that they would rather stand the entire game in the lower deck. Secondly, the influx of upper deck fans made conditions in the lower deck deplorable. So instead of remaining in denial and just telling complaining fans to shut up, they did something. Others were pissed but you canít please everyone and you shouldnít try.

Second, despite the shrubbery, the center field renovation is a good thing. And the idea of letting fans see through the green mesh without distracting the hitters is a neat concept. I was not able to go into the lower deck so I didnít see the other renovations there. But the mere fact the Sox are addressing issues is a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the team can no longer delay in changing the upper deck. That place just canít be tolerated. Sitting in the lower rows isnít too bad, but the higher you get, the worse it gets. If there isnít money to make renovations, find a way to get it. This problem has gone un-addressed for far too long. (And to the whiners upset that opening day wasnít sold out: the biggest patches of blue that day were in the highest parts of the upper deck. You canít blame someone for not wanting to spend $18 to sit up there. That is a waste.)

Now that they have faced up to a few things, they Sox can get off the denial train about a few others. They can admit the 1994 strike and the 1997 White Flag Trade severely damaged the franchise. And finally, they shouldnít be satisfied with just a winning season, wild card berth or division title. Itís time to bring a World Series championship to Chicago. Now, not 100 years from now.

Meet Dan Helpingstine at Anderson's Bookstore in downtown Elmhurst, on Saturday, April 20 from 2-4 pm.

Editor's Note:† Dan Helpingstine is a free lance writer living in Highland, Indiana.† In the early 80's, he worked as a stringer for The Times, then based in Hammond, Indiana, covering business-labor news.† For six years, he worked as a part-time sportswriter for the Merrillville Herald, a weekly that was a part of a chain of weeklies in Lake and Porter Counties.† He covered high school football and basketball.† In 1995, Helpingstine had a short story published in a murder mystery anthology entitled Murder Is My Business.† He also has had articles on the JFK murder published in the Post-Tribune of Gary.† His new book is titled "Through Hope and Despair."† It is the story of one fan's roller coaster ride with the luckless White Sox.

More features from Dan Helpingstine here!

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