On becoming a White Sox fan…
I was born at Edgewater Hospital in Chicago, located at 5700 N. Ashland. That’s hardcore north side. I was born into Cubs country.
Through second grade, I lived in West Rogers Park, after which point my parents and I moved to the near north suburb of Skokie. Rogers Park and Skokie? Cubs country.
As I grew up, baseball was never really part of my life. I was never pushed to join little league, I never traded baseball cards, and I definitely couldn’t stand the thought of watching a major league game for longer than an inning. All around me, though, kids were falling full in love with the national pastime. That point was made clear to me on a fourth grade school bus ride which I remember with surprising clarity. Dave Allen, a schoolmate of mine who as an adult found regional success in jam band Mr. Blotto, was showing off his Cubs fan club card to friends. The card had some sort of printed indication that he’d been a fan practically since he had first left the womb. I remember thinking at the time, “He’s seriously into the Cubs,” and then, “How come I don’t know or care about baseball? Am I a dork?” To address those thoughts in order: Yes, he was. It was just the environment I was raised in. I read comic books with intense regularity; so, yes.
Years (and years) later, in 2005, I was well into my radio career. I was rounding the corner on my fourth year at 94.7 the Zone, and though the ratings didn’t reflect it, I felt like the station had finally settled in to a consistent position and brand. The ratings were unkind (okay, godawful), but I felt that a turnaround had to happen at some point.
Meanwhile, through friends and coworkers, I’d slowly become aware that the Chicago White Sox had been dominating the entire season. “Best team in baseball,” my friend Dave would say whenever the Sox came up.
In September of ’05, the Zone airstaff was brought into a room. The station was going to be flipping to “oldies,” effective immediately, we were told. At that moment, I was officially unemployed. You never forget your first radio firing…
As I emailed resumes and went on interviews, the Sox made it to the playoffs. Their success was running in the opposite direction of my life. Chicago baseball was happening in October, and as it was happening, my beard went unshaven, my gut grew, and my general hatred for myself and mankind increased daily.
By the time the Sox faced the Angels in the ALCS, I was watching every game. I had nothing else to do, after all. In the moment, I was too cool to admit that I was enjoying the games, but I knew that I was slowly getting hooked.
And then, the World Series. Sox vs. Astros. Every night, games 1-4, that was my new routine. The White Sox schedule was the only one I followed while I was without a job.
A voice inside me said, “But wait, you were born on the north side, you can’t like the White Sox.” But I did. No doubt about it. Players whose names were unknown to me a year before quickly became rock stars to admire: Konerko. Buehrle. Dye. Contreras.
In 2006, I started going to games whenever I could afford to. And once I started going, the two most prominent apocryphal “truths” I was told during my youth were quickly proven to be bullshit. To wit:
“Sox games are a pain in the ass to get to!” Not at all. The Cell is right off the expressway. Easy. Try driving to Wrigley from the north side on a Saturday afternoon game day.
“The fans are trash!” The percentage of dirtbags is no higher or lower at a Sox game than any other sporting event or concert I’ve ever been to. I reject elitist comments like this in every possible way.
So here I am, dying for April to begin. Renouncing a baseball-less childhood. Asking for some backup when I say…Let’s go White Sox. Clap. Clap. Clap clap clap. Let’s go White Sox