Even though the baseball season started last week, today is the White Sox’s home opener against the Detroit Tigers. I’m feeling like E:
In Chicago, baseball permeates the whole town, whether you like the game or not. Some of this, I’m sure, is due to the insane traffic jams and public transportation snarls that the home games cause. It’s good to know, for example, when the two Cross-Town Classic series (White Sox v. Cubs) are scheduled so that you can plan your path around the city accordingly. But it’s more than that. Baseball contributes to the cultural identity for lots of people around here. There are lifelong Cubs fans who can trace their families’ loyalty to the team back to the beginning, and the same is true of Sox fans. Saying that you are a Sox fan, for some people, is on par with saying “I’m South Side Irish.” It’s part of your heritage.
(As a side note: that’s why it’s so fun to watch politicians try to navigate their way past the question, “Cubs or Sox fan?” No one wants to alienate a good chunk of the city on a team preference. Personally, I like to see the candidates own up to their loyalties — just come right out and say it. I can respect that more than the convoluted verbal dance around a straightforward question.)
I am not a Chicago native, although I have lived here longer than anywhere else in my life. When I first moved here, I went to Cubs games because 1) Wrigley Field was closer to me than the old Comiskey Park; and 2) it was easy to get there by public transportation. I sat in the bleacher seats and got sunburned even as I froze in the chilly winds during the early spring games. It was awesome.
My husband’s extended family are diehard Cubs fans (and given that S’s dad was the oldest of 11 kids, his family is E-X-T-E-N-D-E-D when you take into account all the aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids). All of them love the Cubs, except my husband and his brother who are both Sox fans. I’m still not sure how that happened.
When I married S, one of his aunts came up to me at our wedding reception and told me that she expected me to “bring him back into the fold.” The Cubs fold, that is.
Later, when our first child (M) was born, this same aunt gave us the complete Cubs gear for a baby: Cubs rattle, Cubs bottle, Cubs onesie, Cubs baby hat. As I opened her gift, she leaned in towards me and said with a slightly menacing seriousness, “I trust that this baby will be a Cubs fan.”
Fast forward to 2005. M was in first grade and just beginning to become aware of baseball. S’s brother just happened to get tickets for a White Sox home game, so he took M and S. They had a blast. M watched the game and ate tons of hot dogs, ice cream and all sorts of junk food. He came home with a new Sox hat and an appreciation for ballpark cuisine. Later that same year, he hung out with us as we watched the Sox make the playoffs and eventually win the World Series. That sealed it — M was a Sox fan, just like S. By the time the twins knew anything about baseball, I had already converted — for the sake of the children, you know.
I’m not sure his aunt has ever really forgiven me.
How about you? Baseball fan or no? Do you love a particular team or are you just happy to watch your kids play Little League?