If there really is purgatory – as in a place where a less-than-pure soul has to spend some time in suffering before being admitted to Heaven – then fans of the Chicago White Sox got a taste of it this past weekend.
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Seeing the last shards of hope of a playoff spot come October go up in smoke by watching the White Sox blow a seven-run lead (losing 9-8 to the Detroit Tigers) was an agony that will be repeated for many, many years (Remember The Sopranos’ Paulie Gualtieri formula for determining a purgatory sentence?) before being admitted to eternal paradise.
YET AS AGONIZING as that moment was for some (personally, I accepted the idea that 2011 was “over” for the White Sox about a month ago), this may well show the difference between the fans of the Sox and those of the Chicago Cubs.
For all those people who try to claim one ballclub or the other as truly representing the character of Chicago baseball, I’d argue it is the split in support that is the true character.
So while White Sox fans are going to remember this weekend (needing the possibility of a sweep, and instead going into Sunday with the chance of being swept) for what happened on the field, fans of the Cubs are going to remember 2011 because of another loss.
Of Old Style.
AS IN THE cheap beer that some of us drank in our younger days because it was inexpensive, but which Cubs fans have deluded themselves into thinking it somehow tastes good and adds to the character of the 97-year-old ballpark.
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This hasn’t been a secret. It seems that the manufacturer of Old Style beer wants to put more effort into making other brands – perhaps something that real beer drinkers would enjoy. The contract they had with the Chicago Cubs to manufacture and sell Old Style at Wrigley Field ends this year.
And the brewer has no interest in renewing the deal.
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So after Sept. 21 when the Cubs play their final home ballgame (ironically enough, against the Milwaukee Brewers) of 2011, you won’t be able to get an Old Style at Wrigley Field. You’ll have to pay your roughly $7 per cup of brew for some other brand come 2012.
BELIEVE IT OR not, there are Cubs fans who are thoroughly upset. In fact, I think Cubs fans are more upset about losing Old Style than White Sox fans are about losing to the Detroit Tigers so badly on Saturday.
Even the Associated Press is picking up on this, having disseminated a dispatch about how fans are upset about the loss of the brand of beer. If anything, it is moments like this that make me think the Cubs are a civic embarrassment to the city of Chicago.
Knowing that the nation (and possibly, the world) now knows about Chicago baseball fans getting worked up over losing a brand of cheap beer at the ballpark makes us all look like a batch of boobs.
I know occasionally, you’ll find an old White Sox fan who will remember that they used to sell Schlitz at Comiskey Park (the real one located north of 35th Street). But then he takes a sip of his Miller beer product and gets back to watching the ballgame.
PERHAPS CUBS BASEBALL gets to be so bad that it can only be appreciated when inebriated.
But getting all worked up over Old Style is just so trivial, it strikes me as something only a Chicago Cubs fan could possibly do.
Heck, I don’t remember this much outcry when they quit selling Hamm’s Beer at Wrigley Field – which was another brand that had been a part of the Cubs’ scene for decades.
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At least that brand is memorable for its marketing (my brother, now 41, still gets a chuckle when thinking about the animated Hamm’s bear and his antics promoting Hamm’s Beer), if not for its actual taste.
AS FOR THOSE people who are now complaining that Wrigley Field won’t be the same if an Anheuser-Busch product (with its long-time associations with St. Louis and the arch-rival Cardinals) is sold there, I’d only argue that it was Harry Caray himself during his 17-year Cubs broadcasting stint who used to proclaim himself, “a Cubs fan, and a Bud man.”
So where do we go from here? There are just a few more weeks left in this season, which I suspect most White Sox fans are going to want to forget (similar to 2006 when the team managed to be the only ballclub that won more than 90 games that did NOT make it to the playoffs, even though they had been pre-season favorites to do something significant).
’11 will be yet another lost season on the South Side, as well as on the North Side. No championship hopes for the White Sox fan. No cheap beer for the fans of the Cubs.
That, more than anything else, may well describe the difference in character between the supporters of the two ballclubs.