Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sox vs. Cubs – the Box Score Series?

I can’t say that I bothered to watch much of the baseball played this week at U.S. Cellular Field.
Photograph provided by State of Illinois

While I fully appreciate the idea of Chicago White Sox versus the Cubs and the way that the tensions between the two ballclubs’ fans have worked their way into the very character of the city, the actual games just weren’t that big a deal to me.

PART OF IT was work on Tuesday night. Earning some money was more important to me than watching television, so I only caught the last couple of innings because of the nearly two-hour rain delay. While on Monday, I just didn’t feel like giving up some hours to watch the White Sox blow a three-run lead in their loss to Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs.

Watching baseball on television these days feels too much like watching television rather than watching baseball. I probably will get out to U.S. Cellular Field at some point this season – perhaps the beginning of August when the New York Yankees return to Chicago to play a series against the White Sox that won’t feel phony like their recently-completed series against the Cubs always does.

As far as the White Sox/Cubs, I am interested in the outcome of the games, but more out of interest in seeing if the White Sox can finally quit being a team with a losing record. In short, I would just want them to win. The fact that it’s the Cubs they’re playing doesn’t matter.

We all know the Cubs stink. Nobody disputes that fact. If the Sout’ Side ballclub is truly a pennant contender, they ought to be beating up on weak teams like the one that plays in “the dump” at Clark and Addison streets.

AND IF THEY can’t, then maybe they deserve the ridicule they will receive.

There is evidence that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Reports made much of the fact that the smallest crowd ever for a White Sox/Cubs game was achieved on Monday (36,005 tickets sold), unless Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s games manage to go lower.

As though we’re supposed to be embarrassed that 4,000 more people didn’t show up to fill the stadium to capacity.

Personally, I think a weekday game crowd of 36,000 people is very good. Then again, I have always thought it absurd to think that sports teams believe they ought to have capacity crowds for every single game.

OF COURSE, I am not enthused about going out to the ballpark itself. Not for this series.

For it always seems that these six games bring out the stupid and trivial in some people – usually those who don’t really care much for baseball proper, but want to turn it into a spectacle that they can participate in.

Some times, they also bring out the stupid and trivial (manager Ozzie Guillen kicking a catcher’s mask after being ejected from Monday’s game?) in the on-field participants.

Definitely not something I feel the need to catch on television. Nor do I feel the need to venture to the Armour Square neighborhood (even though many White Sox fans prefer to think of the stadium being in Bridgeport) to see for real.

ONLY ONCE IN my life did I attend a White Sox/Cubs game live – and that was back in 1999. That one game (the Cubs managed to blow their lead late in the game) gave me enough of a feel of how superficial some of the “hostilities” between the two teams’ fans could become.

If anything, my vivid memory of that night was the after-game celebration at Schaller’s Pump, the long-time Halsted Street tavern that attracts the life-long South Siders who root for the Sox out of a sense of geographic obligation.

Hearing a spontaneous outburst of  “South Side Irish” was amusing, although one of my former co-workers with whom I attended that game quickly labeled it the “Stuck on Band-Aids” song – which got the chuckle from the Cubbie crowd.

Somehow, I doubt that any weekday evening game is going to create similar spontaneous reactions. People have to go to work in the morning. And if they don’t, they’re probably getting so liquored-up that their outbursts will be more gibberish than anything else.

IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, I probably won’t watch baseball on television Wednesday either – although I will be curious enough to check the box scores afterward to see just how effective Jake Peavy was as a pitcher in what has become yet another of his attempts to come back from injury.

Even then, I just want a sign that he might be capable of pitching in more ballgames this season, rather than demanding some overpowering appearance against the Cubs. Looking to the near future, rather than worrying about this week and who "wins" this portion of the city series.

Which means that for many people, this latest version of the White Sox versus Cubs may well have gone from being the “Cross Town Classic” to the “Box Score Series.”

It’s the one whose results we look up either in the newspaper or on the website, but don’t feel the need to sit through because it’s just three of the 81 home games to be played this year.


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