Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sox/Cubs; it may be season like this that sets rivalry’s true significance

I’m not sure what to make of the six ballgames being played this season between the Chicago White Sox and their dreaded opposition, the Chicago Cubs.

Another chapter in the 112-years-and-still-going story of Sox versus Cubs is being written this week. Photograph provided by state of Illinois.

Perhaps the scheduling says all that needs to be said. The three games held earlier this season at Wrigley Field were played at the exact moments that the NATO Summit was in Chicago – and there were people who had to cope with all the extra security measures throughout the city just to get to a ballgame.

THE THREE BALLGAMES being played now at U.S. Cellular Field are on weekdays (not weekends, which always manage to result in smaller crowds), and at a time when the weather has reached excessive temperatures.

There are those who believe Monday is likely to be the hottest day of 2012.

So people (many of whom have to work Tuesday morning) were asked Monday night to show up on the Sout’ Side to sweat like crazy just to see the White Sox beat up on the Cubs.

Or perhaps the Cubs can manage to pull off a lone victory during the 21st Century equivalent of the City Series of old.

ALTHOUGH I SUSPECT Cubs fans are going to consider their victory to be Dayan Viciedo being struck out by Kerry Wood – who was so enamored with one final moment of tiny glory that he immediately retired after that ballgame.

In short, in the ongoing saga of South Side versus North, as exemplified by our city’s professional baseball clubs, it doesn’t seem that 2012 is going to add many great anecdotes.

Or will it?

Because, personally, I’m inclined to believe that a real rivalry is one where the fans of the two ball clubs care about the outcome even if it has no real bearing on anything significant.

NO PENNANT RACE is at stake (although there are those people who will argue the White Sox’ chances of winning their division title is bolstered by the fact that they’re getting to beat up on the Cubs for six games).

It’s purely about the bragging rights, which will mean the fans of both ball clubs will be able to let loose with their most irrational hang-ups.

A rivalry at its most pure.

Keep in mind that I consider there to be a difference between a “rivalry” and a “significant series.” The latter is a set of games between two teams that are actually fighting it out for something during the season.

THOSE MOMENTS WILL get intense. But they’re not rivalry.

Take, for example, the Chicago White Sox versus the Minnesota Twins – which in the past decade were ballgames that always meant something because the two teams were always at the top of the pile of teams trying to win the American League central division. Or I can remember when I was a kid and everybody claimed that Los Angeles Dodgers versus Cincinnati Reds were a “rivalry.”

Yet there’s nothing about those teams or those cities that really engenders any sense of distaste or dislike, or a need to brawl.

If that were a rivalry, there’d still be a sense of battle. There isn’t. Those games are just a few more played every season – no more important than games against the Kansas City Royals. It’s not Chicago Cubs versus St. Louis Cardinals – and never will be.

BUT WHEN IT comes to the games played between White Sox and Cubs, those take on a meaning – regardless of who is fighting whom for a pennant race or how many people actually show up at the ballpark.

Personally, I haven’t been to a White Sox versus Cubs game since 1999 – and don’t think I would ever go to one again (I just don’t care about beating the Cubs, everybody does it) on account of all the extra ding-dongs who turn out at the ballpark for the games.

But it doesn’t change the fact that if the Cubs can actually manage to win two of the three ballgames played this week, I’m sure it would give Cubs fans something to gloat about. We likely wouldn’t hear the end of it – even if the White Sox manage to win their division and the Cubs finish in dead last place in their own.

It would easily be the highlight of the Cubs ’12 season,

IF ANYTHING WE’RE getting to see the character of the White Sox/Cubs rivalry at its most pure – in that it’s not getting all bogged down in a whole lot of other trivial detail being played up to bolster the marketing departments of both ball clubs.

Those people who argue that the games don't matter as much, and should be cut back to perhaps one three-game series per year are missing the point. Then again, they probably grew up in Phoenix or Denver and are trying to adapt to Chicago ways, but just haven't caught on in full!

There may also be one other benefit for those people who bother to show up at U.S. Cellular Field through Wednesday – the heat may well let them burn off a few pounds, just by sitting back at the ballpark and watching the most interesting sport known to man.

That is, assuming they’re not just putting it right back on with all the Polish sausage and beer and other overpriced edibles they’re consuming!


No comments: