Friday, June 20, 2008

City Series not worth the hype

This weekend is far from the first time Chicago's two major league teams have faced each other. Take this 1909 confrontation at the West Side Grounds. Photograph provided by Library of Congress collection.

Every year in Chicago sees two weekends when the local population gets absolutely stupid – the weekends when Major League Baseball so decrees that our White Sox and the Cubs ought to play against each other.

Considering that the two teams have actually managed to last this long in their respective seasons in first place in their respective divisions, fans this year are getting particularly ridiculous.

ANY CHANCE OF actually getting tickets (without paying a ticket broker’s ridiculous price markup) for this weekend’s three-game series at Wrigley Field (or next weekend at U.S. Cellular Field) is long gone.

Many people are planning their weekends around the concept of being able to watch the games on television – including the Sunday night game, when ESPN has so decreed that the Sox/Cubs matchup will be broadcast nationally.

So am I the only Chicagoan who is willing to admit I could care less about this series?

I am bracing myself for the pompous rhetoric that will be spewed by the fans of whichever team manages to win at least two of the three games in each series, trying to claim that some “great moral supremacy” is conveyed by that fact.


This weekend could very well turn out to be the most over-hyped event in Chicago sports this year (and Second-most over-hyped event in sports nationwide behind any match-up between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox).

Now don’t take this as some sort of sign that I hate baseball. I don’t.

In fact, it is a particularly pleasurable sport, as I have always enjoyed the “head game” (as prominent writer Roger Kahn refers to the dueling nature that occurs when a pitcher faces a batter). And I am interested in seeing how the White Sox turn out (with mild delusions that they can actually hold on through season’s end in October to win their division) in 2008.

BUT THE CIRCUS atmosphere that crops up every year around the Sox/Cubs series manages to turn me off of actually watching the games. Nothing that actually happens on the playing field will warrant the attention (not even if there’s a repeat of the incident when a brawl resulted from White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski plowing through a former Cubs catcher who was improperly blocking home plate) given to these games.

Having to listen to the ridiculous rhetoric is just more than I can take.

This will be one three-game series where I will be content to look up the box scores after the fact to see how the players did, and if anything truly significant happened.

For those who are now going to say I can’t be much of a baseball fan if I’m not willing to watch the actual games, I’d say that’s absurd.

SINCE THERE’S NEXT to no chance I could actually get tickets to attend any of the games (I’m not willing to spend that kind of money), I would have to watch television. And the simple fact is that watching a sporting event on television is (first and foremost) watching a television program – not a ball game.

I can get wrapped up in the pitch-by-pitch activity of a ball game while watching from the stands, particularly if I can get a seat on top of the infield where I can make out what the pitcher is throwing. Watching on television is just too distracting, particularly if the broadcast crew gets hung up on trivial activity or on showing off their newest graphic elements (like the crew with Fox Sports always does) that usually add nothing to one’s understanding of baseball.

So I likely will try to find some other way of getting a live baseball fix (a part of me is considering a trip to Gary, Ind., to see the Railcats of the Northern League take on the Schaumburg Flyers – all the other Chicago-area minor league ball clubs are on the road this weekend).

Besides, even if I could get tickets to the Sox/Cubs match-up this weekend, I’d probably take a pass. In the same way that New Year’s Eve is for amateurs, so is a Sox/Cubs game. Too many halfwits who only come out because they think the games are an “event” where they “must be seen” to prove they are “somebody” populate the stands.

THAT WAS MY experience the one time in my life I actually did go to a Sox/Cubs match-up (in 1999 at then-New Comiskey Park). Even then, the attraction for me was that I went with several of my co-workers, most of whom were Cubs fans who experienced a deep funk when the Sox came from behind in the 9th inning to win.

Too many of the people who will be in the stands this weekend will be the clowns who are determined to show they are “man” enough to wear a Cubs jersey on the South Side and scream stupid epithets, or to wear blackface with white lettered “Sox” logos on their cheeks while sitting in the sun at Wrigley Field.

This is the weekend that Chicago’s real baseball fans shudder. Those of us who find a beauty in the game will be disgusted at the way in which it is buried under a mass of trivia.

The fact that both of these teams are in first place only complicates things, since everybody wants to envision the scenario by which the White Sox personally crush the Cubs’ hopes of winning a division title. (Nobody with any sense seriously envisions the alternate result).

PEOPLE OF CHICAGO, repeat after me. “It’s only June.”

If both Chicago ball clubs are still in first place come Sept. 1 (as they were in 2003), then we can seriously start talking about the possibility of both Chicago ball clubs making it to the playoffs and possibly having an all-Chicago World Series (the first, and only, since 1906).

Anyone who brings up the subject before then is being ridiculous.

And anyone who tries to turn this into South Side/North Side warfare is being ridiculous.

SO I DON’T want to see anymore of the car commercial featuring managers Ozzie Guillen and Lou Piniella skipping rope and riding bicycles together. I don’t care what the Las Vegas gambling geeks set for odds on this series – or the chance either/both teams win their respective leagues’ pennants.

And I definitely don’t want to know the results of the Chicago Sun-Times self-promotional contest to determine whether the skanky women who exist at Wrigley Field are better looking than the tough Sout’ Side broads one finds at U.S. Cellular.

All I can think of with regards to this “contest” is one of the most honest moments I have ever seen in a film – 1997’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” which starred Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz, and set their climactic confrontation in the women’s wash room at “the Cell.”

Seeing the two about to get into a fight while surrounded by a bunch of toughs wearing various styles of Sox jerseys reminded me of some of the women I have encountered at the ballpark throughout the years – none of whom I would guess will be in attendance for the “silly show” posing as baseball this weekend and next.


EDITOR’S NOTES: My childhood memories include the 1977 baseball season when both (,1,4835846.story) Chicago ball clubs were in first place through the end of July. Neither team won so much as a division title, let alone a league championship.

What’s more likely to happen? The White Sox will win their second American League championship ( in four years, or the Cubs will go for their 100th straight season without a World Series victory.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who realizes that the baseball played this weekend (,2_2_AU16_TWOCENTS_S1.article) and next is not the “make it or break it” moment for Chicago sports.

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