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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Franchise in Crisis

The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.  That statement in itself was at one time just laughable.  We Sox fans would just laugh at the notion because we just figured it was some delusional Cub fan taking another trip through Wonderland.  But this is reality, and there’s nothing funny about it -- a  bullet the Sox franchise narrowly avoided earlier this week. 

The Cubs had the Marlins down 3 games to 1.  I have been waiting for a Chicago type baseball collapse, but watched anxiously right to the glorious end of the NLCS.  Other Sox fans fondly remember 1984 when the Cubs were one game away and blew it.  Until Josh Beckett started throwing lights out in Game 5, the Marlins were really never in this series.  The Cubs should never have let this one slip away and nothing short of the World's Biggest Choke prevented it.

So if the Cubs had made their first trip to the Series in almost six decades, we Sox fans would have to face one cold fact: Since 1959, when the Sox went to their last Series, every major league Chicago franchise will have gone to the finals in their sport with the exception of the White Sox.  If the Cubs had won the Series, the Sox will have been the only major league Chicago team without a world championship in the last four plus decades.  It is an understatement to consider that a dubious distinction.  We Sox fans will be truly miserable because we will have no company... and we came five measly outs from it happening!

Some Sox fans say what the Cubs do has no impact on the Sox.  Well, consider this: Any time I go to a bookstore, I see ten Cubs books to about every three about the Sox.  There are countless books on the 1969 losers, beautiful Wrigley Field and other hum drum stuff on the Cubs.  I hate to see what happens after this post season.  The propaganda will be flowing, and the Sox will be adrift in an ocean of Cub giddiness.   

This is not just a case of jealousy. Every team wants and needs to get the message out about their squad.  The White Sox were never good at this anyway, but it will be much worse if no one in the media is paying attention.  What does this mean?  More than ever, the White Sox will have to do their thing on the field.

And by that I mean something much more than a division title.  The Cubs have raised the bar.  Winning the division and going out in the first round won’t mean anything.  Lamenting over a limited budget won’t cut it.  Another round of blaming the fans will solve nothing.   

Fortunately, the Sox are not a team devoid of talent.  However, some serious decisions have to be made because the team needs to take it to another level.  Only by taking some strong action during the off season will help the Sox counter the sheer magnitude of attention the Cubs will be getting between now and the next post season.  If the Cubs are contenders next season, and there is no reason to think they won’t be just that, the White Sox will even have a more difficult time competing for the baseball entertainment dollar in Chicago.  The Sox have a hard time when the Cubs are hopeless losers; just think about it will be if the Cubbies are walking around with World Series rings on their fingers. 

But then again, maybe the White Sox organization doesn’t care.  Maybe it is more profitable to have a lower attendance with a lower payroll.  Maybe the team just cares about beating the Cubs in inter-league play and let the North Siders break Chicago baseball attendance records. 

My idealistic side hopes for different.  After all the Sox made some aggressive moves to make a division run in 2003.  They’ve been trying to upgrade their ballpark to make it more appealing.  They even stopped the fan baiting that has been so prevalent since the strike of 1994.

Speaking of 1994, next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the strike that ended a decent shot at the Series for the Sox.  Cub fans will revel in the memory of the 2003 Series.  The Chicago White Sox will have to make an overall tough decision.  Will they be satisfied with being the “other” team in Chicago?  Or will they truly do something to finally and forever turn this franchise around?

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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