Monday, October 17, 2005

Shut Up and Cheer

I am very happy this morning, because for the first time in my life -- and I just turned 37 on Saturday -- I will get to witness a World Series in which a Chicago team is participating. I am thrilled the White Sox got there, admiring of the way they have played most of the season and in the playoffs, eager to attend a game if economically feasible, non-conflicted in my intent to root strongly for them to win and ready to celebrate when they do.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be the case, because I am also -- and even more so -- a Cubs fan. And according to the great arbiters of all things, this is blasphemy. If you are a Cubs fan, you should hate the White Sox, want them to lose and despise their fans. Well, I don’t. Although I have always been a pretty major sports fan, I have never been -- and even less so as time goes on -- too vigilant about it. Watching sports brings enjoyment to my life and at times I get as rapt up in a team’s fortunes as anyone, but it’s not life or death and I don’t treat it as such. I always am bemused when a world tragedy or an athlete’s untimely death -- such as Jason Collier’s this weekend -- causes players, managers, announcers and fans to say, “This really puts everything in perspective; it’s just a game.” And then, a full 4 seconds later we once again lose perspective.

So you can call me a frontrunner, a bandwagon jumper, a waffle, a fair weather fan, etc. OK, I am. Shoot me dead. But I root for anyone I enjoy rooting for and damn the contradictions. I’ll never deny that there are far more devout White Sox fans -- who deserve and will enjoy their current success far more than I -- and even more devout Cubs fans. When the two teams play, I typically root for the Cubs and would certainly rather have them win a World Series than the Sox. But the Cubs have been embarrassing on and off the field the last couple years and haven’t really been a team that makes you want to root for them. And while the White Sox have always existed in the shadow of the Cubs -- for me, the city and the national perspective -- it’s not like I didn’t root for the South Side Hit Men in 1977, or attend the first game of the Carlton Fisk/Greg Luzinski era in 1981, or buy a Winning Ugly T-shirt in 1983 or watch every playoff game they’ve been in during my lifetime, in ’83, ’93 and 2000.

I’ve never much cared what other people think and I really don’t now. It’s not like anyone is trying to stop me from rooting for the White Sox. But even as reflected on local sports talk radio and Internet message boards this glorious morning, the ardor with which people ascribe the purity of being a Cubs fan or a Sox fan is ridiculous to me. I didn’t go to the University of Illinois, and neither did a lot of other people who were rooting for them during their basketball team’s incredible run this year. Without pretending that I’m “diehard” I’ll avidly follow any local team that’s worth following, be it the Blackhawks, Northwestern, DePaul, etc. And while pretty solely devoted to the Bears and Bulls within their sports, too often team management in Chicago -- and resultant suckage -- has made it hard to unconditionally cheer for anyone at all times. And again, this isn’t life or death. I remember mentioning to a hardcore Bears fan a few years back that back when the Green Bay Packers were in the Super Bowl in the mid-90s, I rooted for them to win and admired Brett Favre. You’d have thought I insulted his Mother.

Relax folks and enjoy it. Chicago has a World Series for the first time in 46 years, and just the second time in 60. And that’s good enough for me. Go Sox. Go Go Sox!