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White Sox Versus Cubs: Digging Deep

October 27, 2004. The Beachwood Inn, a bar on Chicago's near Westside, is full of patrons, but eerily quiet. There is a once-in-a-century spectacular lunar eclipse in the warm night sky and the Boston Red Sox, the most famously hard-luck team in the annals of sport, is about to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years. As St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria grounds into the final out and the Boston players start whooping and celebrating in the infield, nobody in the Beachwood has much of anything to say. "Huh," one of the bartenders opines. "Did you see that moon tonight?"

Since time immemorial, the annual Chicago baseball ritual has been watching somebody else play in, and win, the World Series. The Chicago White Sox haven't appeared in the fall classic since 1959, and were last world champions in 1917. The Chicago Cubs played in the 1945 World Series and have yet to return. Their last world title was in 1908. The only thing that truly connects these two franchises is their relative geography and utter lack of success. Other than that, they could hardly be more different.

The Cubs play in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, an ancient and storied park on Chicago's Northside. Old-timey ambience, ivy-covered walls and beery sell-out crowds make it one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Wrigley draws plenty of dentist/lawyer yuppie dudes and their scantily clad ladyfriends and because the tickets are more expensive, especially for the good seats, they're usually the folks you see on TV.

The White Sox home is U.S. Cellular Field, a rather drably designed stadium where, if sitting in the upper deck and the stiflingly polluted summer air isn't too thick, one can see the notorious Robert Taylor Homes standing out across the Dan Ryan Expressway. It can be argued that the White Sox have a much larger black and Hispanic fan base than the Cubs because they draw so much support from the largely black Southside.

Caucasian White Sox fans from the surrounding neighborhoods tend to be one of two groups: auto mechanics or construction workers out to get drunk, or zealous baseball fanatics out to get drunk. The vibe of the place can be nasty. During a game two seasons ago, a father/son duo jumped out of the stands and attacked a Kansas City Royals coach right out on the field. A scant few weeks later another disgruntled fan emerged from the crowd to tackle the umpire.

Chicago baseball has led me to renounce God. I wish that was a joke, but you weren't there in '84 to see Steve Garvey run around the basepaths with his fist in the air while mighty Cubs hurler Lee Smith could only dig at the mound with his huge cleats in defeat and disbelief. I was inconsolable and 10 years old, and my Mom put me to bed crying like an infant; from that tearful night forward, The Lord and I just didn't see eye to eye.

It's the great baseball riddle: how could my team lose? I have forsaken members of my own family (Uncle Stu, why be a Cardinals fan? Pujols is a bum and you have terminal brainfog from pounding too much Busch!). I have taunted strangers on Chicago streets wearing Yankees hats from a moving car. "Hey Dame Dash," I lustily shouted once, "What borough are you from?"

This fuels my unquenchable and unceasing Yankee-based eruptions of jealousy. My utter awe at their winning providence turns my heart into fire every summer, even when I'm trying to do normal person things like eat deep-fried Twinkies and shop for toilet paper and feel up some rump to the Crooklyn Clan on Friday night. But tonight was good. Final score: Sox 2-Yanks 1 in the Bronx. The White Sox still have the best record in the bigs. Who knows. Maybe this is our year?

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