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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Peeling the Onion of Sox Fandom

by George Bova

The 2007 season is shaping up as one of the most exciting campaigns on the South Side in several generations. Six weeks are in the books and so far four different ballclubs have established legitimate credentials for winning the American League Central Division title. Not even a torrid recent pace by the defending league champion Tigers has been enough to open up any breathing space for the division leaders. The fall from first to fourth can happen in as little as one weekend's worth of games.

Chicago's greatest baseball chase since the 1967 Sox' Improbable Nightmare season? It's still far too early to say... but stay tuned!

Taking the games and each series as they come can be the only rational way for Sox Fans to approach this 2007 season. How well other teams are doing isn't nearly as important as how well our Sox are doing themselves. Thus the next series of games is about as far into the future as most Sox Fans ought to bother to look ahead. And coming up on that schedule is our intra-city rivals. Thus what better time than right now to take stock of just how far this ballclub -- and the fan base that supports the team -- has come?

Who are all these Sox Fans supporting their team to the tune of nearly 3 million annual paid? Where were they before?

The answer may not be as difficult to find as you might think. And it's an answer not all Sox Fans are going to like hearing about either.

The White Sox are a Chicago sports team and to the exact extent that they aren't, they fail. It's Sox Fans themselves who play a leading role in the club's fate.

You can believe me or not. But it's there for every doubtful Sox Fan to see with their own lying eyes. It's wandering the concourses and permeates the atmosphere at Sox Park as surely as the aroma of grilled brats and deep-fried churros.

Green Sox apparel.

Mind you, it's not the green Sox apparel per se that the Sox franchise either sinks or swims with. Quite the contrary. The fans wearing the green Sox garb are amongst the most loyal Sox Fans you'll find anywhere. No problem there. It's what else the green Sox garb says about Sox Fandom that pinpoints where the problems for the Sox and its fan base really begin.

It's a Sox thing. The Sox have been playing within a few hundred feet of the same patch of South Side sod for virtually every home game in the franchise's history. First the north side of 39th & Princeton, then to the north side of 35th & Shields, and finally to the south side of 35th & Shields. In 108 seasons, the only exceptions were a pair of truly misguided attempts to play "home" games in Milwaukee. For putting down local roots, the Sox more resemble a college team than a professional one. They are exceptional.

There is everything to celebrate about having strong local roots, and perhaps the green Sox garb celebrates this bit of unique Sox history. But don't bet on it.

It's a South Side thing. Nothing wrong with that either. The City of Chicago once was the nation's second-biggest city and there wasn't 50 miles worth of suburban sprawl radiating across the Illinois prairie either. With such a narrow and deeply-concentrated reserve of potential fans, the Sox could be supported by only the southern-half of the metropolitan area -- especially since virtually the entire population lived inside the city limits already.

There is everything to celebrate about having a South Side personality. Perhaps the green Sox garb celebrates the South Side? Don't bet on that one either.

It's a Comiskey thing. Nothing wrong with that either. The Old Roman was the founder of the White Sox. It was his vision of moving the ballclub from St. Paul into Chicago to directly challenge the established National League in the fastest-growing city of the time. He was of Irish descent and rightly proud to build upon what his father had established in both business and political connections on the Near South Side.

There is everything to celebrate about Comiskey's Irish roots. Perhaps the green Sox garb celebrates the ballclub's founder? That's the worst bet of them all!

No. What the green Sox garb really celebrates is parochial identification. It grows in meaning in direct proportion to the wearer's own parochial identification. And here, Sox Fans, is where the problem lies.

Who are the "true" Sox Fans? You know... the 5,000 or so frost-bitten souls who showed up for frigid night games back in April, 1987 watching the Sox recover from the 1986 campaign's 90-losses, by watching the '87 team stumble towards 85 losses -- only to repeat the exercise in futility twelve months later to freeze watching the same losers stumble to another 90 losses in 1988?

They are South Siders, right? Not so fast all you residents of Taylor Street! You may live 1100 South, but no "true" South Sider would ever confuse your neck of the West Side woods with the true South Side.

Ah, they must be from the "true" South Side, right? Not so fast all you denizens of Beverly and Mount Greenwood! Nobody living in Canaryville or Bridgeport would ever place their "true" Sox Fan claim behind their former neighbors now living with you near the city limits, whether inside Chicago or just across the border in places like Evergreen Park or Oak Lawn. They claim "true" Sox Fan status above yours for the very same reasons you as "true" South Siders living near the city limits look down on your former neighbors "true" South Side credentials for having turned what were cornfields in Tinley Park and New Lenox into their new homes. The Bridgeporters will set you straight, You moved, and they didn't. On the "true" Sox Fan bandwagon, you're all sitting in the backseat while they sit up front.

Those "true" fans must be Bridgeporters, right? Not so fast, Jose! You may be striding the same 150 year-old streets that the Old Roman once traveled, but you aren't the same person he was. You may not even claim English as your first language. Somebody else is laying claim to what otherwise would rightly belong to you.

Anyone living east of I-90/94? Your "true" credentials are dismissed out of hand for reasons you probably know too well.

You 4 million-plus Chicago suburbanites? Just shut up. You don't count at all.

And all you Northsiders, city dweller or otherwise? Hell, you're the enemy.

I'm sure I'm not the only Sox Fan who has seen the "Yuppie Scum Go Home" home-made bedsheet sign. It flew at Old Comiskey. It flew at New Comiskey. And though the sign may not be around lately, the sentiment can still be heard in the seats all around the current Sox Park, too.

South Sider. And Bridgeporter. And Irish. How many fans meet this narrow criteria? Not nearly enough to even fill 5,000 measly seats for 81 dates. Peel back this onion of "true" Sox Fandom and you wind up with absolutely nobody worthy of being granted a major league ballclub to support. Their numbers are too small to support anything larger than Morgan Park Academy.

Makes you feel good to wear green Sox garb, eh?

The White Sox need all of Chicago to embrace this team, or at least all of Chicago that gives a damned about baseball played to win. Fans willing to support a winner are not a minority of fandom in any corner of the United States. Don't believe for a minute that Chicagoans have some unique affliction that embraces lovable losing. That's a fairytale for Chicago's biggest mediots to spin to the most-gullible members of their audience -- many of them tourists without a clue from Iowa.

When the entire city joins the party -- like everyone did on October 28, 2005 -- the Sox are a force to be reckoned with. And when the "Yuppie Scum Go Home" sign waves in the wind, the masses that represent the coming of age for the franchise rightly are turned off. The Sox are losers without their numbers. They become a ballclub not worth supporting -- as 5,000 frozen souls sitting amongst 37,000 empty seats will attest.

Can the White Sox win World Series drawing 1.5 million? A ballclub supported by 1.5 million fans isn't likely to win many championships -- especially if they're more interested in showing off who has the greatest claim to "true" fan status.

Sox Fans can be their own worst enemy. The simple fact the ballclub feels obligated to dress the team in this stuff -- the better to sell replicas to the teaming masses -- is more an indictment of motive than a celebration of Sox Fandom. They don't even bother with the Saint Patrick's Day excuse anymore. Wear the green anytime, just pay first.

If you love the city... and if you love baseball... and you want Chicago to be world champions... because you believe baseball is played to win... and there is never any good reason for ever tolerating the excuses that go with a losing effort... then YOU are a "true" Sox Fan. Anyone who would claim they have more "true" credentials -- including those wearing green Sox garb -- need to check their attitude at the door.

We Sox Fans are damned lucky. We're damned lucky for while we actively seek those who support winning baseball, our crosstown rivals actively seek those who support losing baseball. We are blessed to have this "idiot filter" to bring forth only the "true" baseball fans to watch and support our Sox.

Bridgeport... Beverly. Mount Greenwood... Munster. Oak Park... Oak Brook. Park Ridge... Park Forest. Streeterville... Naperville. Hyde Park... Highland Park. And everywhere else, too.

They all must be welcomed with opened arms. It is their presence, in numbers counted in the millions, that is the living embodiment of what makes supporting the White Sox such a good cause. Not for the Irish. Not for the South Side. But for Chicago.

Chicago, the City of Winners.

Go Sox!

George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at

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