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WSI News - Season Features

September, 2000.  The magic number, sports talk radio, and making history are on the minds of Sox Fans down the stretch! 

Thoughts at the Home Stretch

by Hal Vickery

You're right. I haven't been able to sustain a single thought long enough to support a complete column, but a number of things have come up in the past week that are worthy of comment.

Magic Number: As I write this, the White Sox magic number is 11. I decided this weekend to revive a tradition I had at another school in the early '90s by putting the magic number up on my chalkboard and updating it whenever it changed.

So I printed, and you'd know why if you ever saw my handwriting, "MAGIC NUMBER: 14" on the board. Now I realize that I do teach a fairly long distance from the city, but I was still rather amazed at the large number of students who had no idea what I was writing about. I guess the Windy City Sox Fans shirt I wear every Friday on our "casual day" just wasn't enough of a clue. I had one student ask me when I explained what a magic number was, "Are you a White Sox fan?" A Danny Thomas "Maxwell House spit" would have been an appropriate response, but being a good teacher, I simply said, "Why, yes, I am."

Attendance: The next time I hear a Chicago radio sportstalk host ask why attendance is so low at Comiskey Park when our team has the best record in baseball, I may just destroy the radio. I don't know how to tell them this, but attendance should be down this year.

First of all, the season ticket base is the lowest it has been in recent memory. That crowd of 20,000 means that 12,000 non-season-ticket holders have purchased tickets either in advance or as walkups. A crowd of 30,000 means that 22,000 have decided to see the Sox play.

Second, the Sox weren't supposed to be this good yet. That means that pre-sales of tickets were going to those who either just plain love baseball, are die-hard Sox fans who can't afford season tickets, are incredible optimists, or who had amazing foresight about these guys.

Third, there is all that construction on the Stevenson. Driving to the ballpark from Joliet, a distance of thirty-nine miles from my driveway to my parking place in the Sox lot, took me an hour and twenty minutes. It would take forty-five minutes without the construction.

Fourth, the media themselves aggravate the situation. Does anyone think that the Chicago Tribune doesn't have an ulterior motive for paying more attention to Sox attendance than they do to what goes on on the field? Does anyone think that Bill Simonson's little foray into Armour Park and his ranting about it for days on his radio program didn't have a deleterious effect on Sox attendance? Does anyone think that by the commentary accompanying the stories about low attendance, usually about how Sox fans are such whiners doesn't make casual fans think twice about going out with people like that to see a game?

Fifth, the media may be right about the Sox fans being whiny. The contingent calling sportstalk shows certainly fit that description. Do we really need to hear about the 1994 strike, or how Carlton Fisk was treated in 1993, or that the upper deck is high, or that the seats are blue again? Hell, I don't want to go to games with people like that! What the casual fans don't seem to realize is that those are the ones who aren't in the ballpark, and that those of us who are there are having the time of time of their lives. I do think the whiners keep people away, and I repeat what I said after they bitched and moaned after opening night this year, "Just SHUT UP!"

Eyewitness to History: The sad thing about the non-attendees is that they will in later years lay claim to being at some of the games that will go down as high points of this unexpectedly great season. As for myslef, I'm saving my ticket stubs as proof.

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 physical sciences at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL.  He obviously likes to drive because he commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with Lee, his wife of 25 years, their son Jeff, and Buster T. Beagle.

Hal's opinions are strictly his own and do not necessarily reflect those of North Boone High School, or Buster T. Beagle.


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