Yes, I'm Salty: As a Sox Fan, Here's Why
It's a weird time here in Chicago. If you are one of the lucky people that has not heard - the Chicago Cubs have actually made it into the World Series since Harry Truman was President. Lots and lots of people, including most of my family, are ecstatic.
I am not. This pisses off a lot of the Cubs fans for some reason. When I express my displeasure and indicate ou I'd prefer they not win, man, you should see the comments I get. They tell me Cubs fans don't worry about Sox fans, but nothing lights up Cubs fans more than a Sox fan showing disinterest.
Yeah - that means I am "salty", they say. If that's so, call me Mr. Salty. You see, I am not rooting for the Cubs to win the series. I don't want it to happen. To understand why - let's go back.
You see, there was a time, I would have been right there on the bandwagon. I jumped on big time in 1984. I was there, rooting for the Cubs in the heart of Cardinals territory in 1989 - at Busch stadium, too. I was excited to see what would happen in 2003, too, but that was the year of Bartman and I was watching when it happened.
Then 2005 came. And my attitude there changed very fast. That was when I saw how vicious Cubs fans could be when it wasn't their team that looked like it was going to win.
2005 was a rough year for me. I was stuck in a job I hated at a company I despised. I was alone. I was depressed. Plus, I had health issues. When hurricane Katrina hit, I watched it all from a hospital bed because I had a case of Pancreatitis.
Oh, and I was bleeding from a place you never want to be bleeding from. Yeah - from here:
Of course, my doc was worried about my pancreas, so he put the bleeding on the back burner. He said that since it was bright red stuff, it was probably nothing, but the Internet did exist then and it was doing a pretty good job convincing me I had cancer or some other horrible disease of the colon.
I had one thing. One thing that made getting up worthwhile - the Chicago White Sox.
I grew up in a Cubs household, but at about the age of 4 or 5, I became a Sox fan thanks to a day spent with my uncle who was also a Sox fan. I was always the kid who wanted to zig while everyone else zagged. So, as soon as I found out there was another team in town, after years of only hearing about the Cubs, I became a Sox fan.
They were my favorite team and then they finally made it into the post-season, in my lifetime, in 1983. Quickly eliminated, I watched time and again as the team won the division, just to get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. It sucked. Then came 2005.
The team went to a 1-0 victory in the very first game of the season and that put them in first place. They would never fall out of it, despite a few stumbles along the way, including one bad one right near the end that had all of us Sox fans wringing our hands. That 1-0 victory also set the tone for the season. This was a team that could hit the long-ball, but mostly they won playing what is known as "small ball" by getting men on base, getting runners across the plate and then using outstanding pitching and defense to hold the leads. They would win a large number of games that season by one run and more than one by that magic 1-0 margin.
In about July, the team was in first place and had been for a while then. I am in a northern suburb known as Buffalo Grove, heading into a Walgreens. I am wearing a White Sox jersey I had at the time, but not bothering anybody. I was just walking into the store. Suddenly - out of nowhere, this old man comes up to me and gets right into my face.
"Ah, those guys aren't goin' anywhere. They're going to fall apart. You just watch!"
I realize he's talking about the White Sox. Again, I wasn't shouting Go Sox or anything. Just standing there. I am so flustered, I don't even know what to say.
"They're a joke and this whole thing is a fluke. You watch. They'll choke."
I can only laugh and blurt, "We'll see, I guess."
He storms off like I took a dump in his cereal.
So, the season goes on. The Sox are in the post-season. They are going to face off against the Boston Red Sox to compete for the Division.
I am still bleeding. I just spent a week in the hospital in August. My doctor schedules me for something called a flexible sigmoidoscopy. It will take place at Lutheran General Hospital.
What's a flexible sigmoidoscopy? It's this:
Yeah - and there's no anesthesia. None. So, the first day of the playoffs, I have to start the day giving myself not one, but two, enemas. By myself. Because I was alone and miserable, remember? And I haven't eaten since the prior evening.
I arrive at the hospital. Turns out, their parking garage is under construction, so, for outpatients, the only option is the free valet parking. I do that and head inside.
I then get that procedure done. I see the horrible bloody mess that is my colon on a big, flat screen TV. Just trying to breathe. Because - it hurts. A lot.
Turns out it's a mysterious infection. So, afterwards, I am told to fill a prescription. My doctor shakes my hand. I put my White Sox hat back on and head to the gift shop where I buy a Sun-Times - the only media outlet in Chicago providing decent coverage to the White Sox. Despite also employing the vile Jay Mariotti as a columnist, their coverage is excellent. The Tribune is owner of the Cubs, and barely publish anything and WGN is in the Cubs' back pocket, and barely acknowledge the team exists.
I hand over my ticket and wait for my car. I am uncomfortable, in pain, and just looking forward to the first game of the Division series against Boston. I sit down and start reading the newspaper, happy now, despite everything, excited. After a while, this young female person who is a part of the valet team comes over and leans right into me with a big, fake smile.
"Sir? First off, I just want to say: Go Boston! Second, due to the construction your car was parked pretty far away. He's on his way, but it's taking a bit longer than normal."
Stunned, yet again, by the vileness of Cubs fans, I smile and say. "OK."
She toddles away, smiling as if she has just said the greatest joke ever. I shake my head and go back to my newspaper. My car arrives and a young man gets out of the car. I get up and head over.
"Hey, sorry about that. Oh, and Go Boston!" he says.
I shake my head. I may have even tipped him. I drove away. Seething. They have no idea what I am doing there. I just went through a very uncomfortable procedure. For all they knew, I was there visiting my dying [insert random relative here]. No idea, and yet they felt it was appropriate to do that to me.
Cubs fans, right? So rude and never an apology.
When the Sox won the series, I so wanted to go back there and pull up, get out and dance in front of them and say "In your face!" But I didn't.
The World Series victory that year was the greatest thing for me. It meant a lot. It was the brightest spot in that horrible year. Not long after, I got a weird pain in my side that my doc thought might be another infection and they did an HIV test. It came back negative, but for an entire week, I was sure I was a dead man walking.
The White Sox. The World Series. That was what I thought about during those dark days. It makes my memories of that year happy ones instead of just the horror of what was going on to me or around me.
Since then, and starting even that winter, I have heard all kinds of things from Cubs fans:
- If a World Series is held and no one watches, does it really count?
- 2003 should have been our year! The Cubs deserve it more. Who cares about the Sox?
- The Astros sucked! They shouldn't have even been there. Of course the Sox won, they had it easy! (Ignoring the Red Sox and Angels, of course). It doesn't even count!
- Why are they called "World" champions? It's not like they played France or Germany or anything. It's a stupid title.
Of course, it hasn't helped that the Sox have been miserable since. For a variety of reasons. Getting into the post-season for both baseball and hockey is really hard and there were injuries and contracts and - baseball. Also, a notoriously cheap management. Plus, like they always seem to do, the White Sox management seem to do all they can to try and piss off their fans.
They got rid of manager Ozzie Guillen and brought in another former player to manage - Robin Ventura. He was a beloved player, but a sorry manager. A lump. The Sox went from the best, to routinely being hopelessly out of the race by mid-May. I spent a lot of years since then occupying my summers with other things besides baseball.
In 2016, things started promising with the Sox having the second best record, behind the Cubs, for all of April. Then the wheels came off in May and they could never right the ship. Ventura looked bored.
Despite the talent, he could not marshall the troops and our bullpen was a disaster. I was calling for the Ventura period to end and hoped an exhaustive search would begin for just the right manager.
Instead, it was like the Sox got rid of Ventura, stretched, looked around the room and said: "Hey, who's that guy?" "That's the bench coach, Rick Renteria." "Let's make him manager!"
Huh? Yeah, let's promote another member of the loser management/coaching team that has routinely led them into last or near-last. Great idea. I'd have promoted Julio Vinas, manager of their Triple-A Charlotte Knights who kept that team in the hunt for first place all season long, despite the Sox taking their best players every other week.
Then they sell the naming rights for the stadium. Already considered a joke by most of the city, did they name it something cool? Not even close. They make a deal with Guaranteed Rate Bank, whose corporate symbol is actually an arrow pointing downward. Do they make a deal where the park will be something like "Guaranteed Rate Bank presents Comiskey Park?" No - Guaranteed Rate Field.
Ick. What are ya doin' guys?
The Sox are not just in a dark place. They are in a hole, inside a tunnel that has collapsed and been buried beneath a mountain. A whole mountain range. There ain't a bright light anywhere in sight. It's rough.
And now the Cubs are in the Series. Already the city and people are acting like 2005 never happened. Overjoyed to finally forget it, apparently. And us Sox fans are patted on the head and told to just lay off the Cubs fans and either shut-up or join the party. The exact attitude, that sense of entitlement, that infuriates us as Sox fans.
It really is like being the red-headed step child as a Sox fan. It's like, you have this older brother who has done nothing but screw up again and again and again, for years, breaking your parent's hearts over and over again - but for some reason that brother is always more popular than you and gets break after break.
So, you do what you can, achieving things and working hard. People sort of acknowledge it, but it's still nothing like your screw-up brother. Then, all of the work pays off and you get some kind of full scholarship to Yale. The entire family, for one moment, focuses on you and says: Good job!
Then a few years go by and your older brother just keeps screwing up - but suddenly, out of the blue, he manages to achieve some things and suddenly he shows up and says: "Hey, I got into Harvard" and your family goes just ape-sh*t and goes on and on, throwing party after party, organizes a parade, gets his picture in the paper, gets the local news to do a story, and has an artist create a statue of your brother holding his acceptance letter to stand in the town square.
And people keep coming up to you going - so, what are you up to? And you're like - I made it into Yale, dammit! That's what it feels like.
So, no, I will not root for the Cubs in the Series. I do not hope they win. I am not jumping on any Cubs bandwagon and never will. My team already won and I wish Cubs fans and the city would remember that. Sadly, I know they won't.
And, for the record, I have been a secret St. Louis Cardinals fan when it comes to the National League for years. I think I may buy a Cards hat to wear around town next season. I'm already making plans with my friend to go see a game down there next season.
Go White Sox! Go Cards! Screw the Cubs.