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Arizona Heat
by Pascal Marco

Second No More!

by Pascal Marco 

Stigma: a mark of shame or discredit; an identifying mark or characteristic. 

Being born and raised in Chicago has its pluses and minuses. During my college days, I had read where Chicago was given the distinction by a government study done in the early 70s as being the most segregated city in the United States. This was due mostly, the study reported, to the fact that the city’s neighborhoods were clearly demarcated as being either “good” or “bad” by its inhabitants or its would be inhabitants--those either permanent or those merely passing through. 

In the study, locals defined good neighborhoods as places you could walk through safely without fear of being “jumped,” a Chicagoan’s staid description of a mugging. (Getting mugged is something that only happens in New York.) Sadly, bad neighborhoods were often described as those inhabited by Blacks or Mexicans or Puerto Ricans--places smart white folks stayed out of day and night. 

Chicago has attempted to shed itself of embarrassing stigmas similar to this study’s findings for nearly two centuries, long before the emerging and troubling racial divide of the mid-twentieth century separated our city. Known for its corruptive nature even before its incorporation in 1837, the Encyclopedia of Chicago History gives this description of the city in the 1800s--

So wicked was the city's reputation that many saw the [Chicago] Fire of 1871 as divine retribution against a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.   Lawlessness after the conflagration gave no cause for optimism. “The city,” one newspaper reported, “is infested with a horde of thieves, burglars and cut-throats, bent on plunder, and who will not hesitate to burn, pillage and even murder.”   

Subsequent enigmatic scars foisted upon our beautiful city by the shores of Lake Michigan--such as the Haymarket Riots, the horrors of the Chicago Stockyards and its child labor abuses, the baseball Black Sox throwing of the World Series and the same year’s race riots of 1919, the appearance of Al Capone and the enduring scar left by the brutality of his organized crime, the months-apart riots in 1968 after the killing of Martin Luther King and the holding of the Democratic National Convention, followed later by the U.S. Constitution-bending Chicago Seven Trial--all in their own inimitable way vaulted Chicago to the top of the nation’s list of cities with the longest-running notorious disposition. 

To be fair, the Windy City has had its moments of redemption and grace.  The Republican Convention of 1860 delivered Abraham Lincoln, Illinois’ favorite son, to the people of the United States; the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 introduced our planet to a beauty and imagination never before seen with its celebrated White City; the creation of the skyscraper and unsurpassed achievements in architecture that still survive today; and the birth or emergence of citizens like Cyrus McCormick, Stephen Douglas, Jane Addams, Daniel Hale Williams, Ida B. Wells, Walt Disney, Carl Sandburg, Saul Bellow, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright, George Halas, and others two numerous to mention.  Some so famous they are known world-over by only their first names--like Oprah and Barack. 

Dubbed “the second city” for its population position behind ever-pretentious New York, Chicago lost its Avis-like ranking long ago to The City of Angels. The moniker remained, though, occurring and perceived as a derisive epithet used by non-inhabitants. Failing miserably for years to shed the dishonor the nickname implies, particularly in sports, the election of the first biracial president of the United States, who calls Chicago his home, has forever shattered this discrediting mark. 

But what’s more exhilarating, especially for Chicago White Sox baseball fans, is that Barack Obama is, in his own words, a “die-hard Sox fan.” He’s not a fan of the Cubs.  He isn’t playing both sides of that political coin.  This stance is a true measurement of a hardened fan of the major league ball club that plays its home games only a few miles from his South Side home.

No longer will Sox fans cringe as they have for decades, enduring the practice of prominent, national political and entertainment figures donning Yankees caps.  The omnipresent NY logo will no longer be thought of now as being emblematic of the message that comes when politicians and movie stars insincerely mix with sports for show.   

Barack Obama’s election has historical significance on so many levels.  It has shed the shame placed on our country as many of us held tightly to the belief that someone of his racial make-up could ever be elected president. And his election night acceptance speech showed the world that there truly is a more central and greater park in the United States than that one in upper Manhattan.  

This outdoor celebration buried the painful and embarrassing memory of the last time a political gathering of such magnitude came together in Grant Park in 1968 when “the whole world was watching.”  This time, the world watched for a different reason.  People tuned in not out of indignation or fear or hatred but out of awe of what could happen when one believes a dream can really come true. 

But maybe more than anything, Barack Obama’s historic election means that in our world of corporate sponsorship, unbridled spending, blatant lobbying, and questionable back-door behind-the-scenes maneuvering that go hand-in-hand with politics, the brand to be reckoned with for the next four years will be three, bold, script letters--S-O-X.   

Oh, and lest I forget.  After Senator John McCain conceded on election night, my dear friend, Phil, a long-time Chicago-born Sox fan, phoned me with this observation.   

“You know what this means, don’t you,” he began. “This means that something people all over the world doubted would ever happen actually happened. They didn’t think Americans could elect a Black man for President of the United States.  Not only is this one of our greatest achievements of all-time, we did it before the Cubs won another World Series!” 

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 is a regular contributor to  www.whitesoxinteractive.com.  He can be reached at reply85254@aol.com.

 

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