Dear Cubs fans,
We actually have a lot in common. We root for the Bears, the Bulls, and the Blackhawks side by side. Yet every April, these shared experiences are put on hold. You have your Cubs. I have my White Sox. We tolerate each other until November less by choice than necessity.
You probably think that I’ve turned into a Giants fan over the past week. That now the Cubs have advanced to the NLCS, I’ll be donning Dodger blue. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?
But that’s not what I’m doing. Strange as it seems, I’ve actually been pulling for the Cubs this October.
And I can see you rolling your eyes now. I bet you think I’m a fair-weather fan and and I support the Cubs now because they’re the best. Or—worse—that it doesn’t matter who you pull for. But here’s the thing: I still proudly support my White Sox. Nothing can shake my loyalty to that club.
I am a White Sox fan because it is in my blood. My dad has been a diehard since the 70s. My childhood home is the South Side of Chicago—prime Sox territory. My youth was spent cheering on underdog, overachieving teams featuring hustle players like Aaron Rowand and finesse pitchers like Mark Buehrle that were more “chemistry guys” than stars. Rather than imagining myself blasting game winning home runs and MVP trophies, I dreamed that I was speedster Scott Podsednik, stealing that extra base to make a walk-off single possible.
Until I took vows, October 26, 2005 may have been the happiest day of my life. Still tired from staying up for the 14-inning game the day before,1 I was tense as the Sox won a close game on some incredible defensive plays from Juan Uribe.2 When they called the last out, I couldn’t believe it. My heart was beating a mile-a-minute and I fell to the ground, joyful tears in my eyes. And then I found my brother and embraced him in an unbounded happiness.
And the graces kept coming: there was Buehrle throwing a no-hitter and later a perfect game, there was the dramatic end of the 2008 season where the Sox played 163 games to make the playoffs, and there were Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas’s numbers getting retired. Even the most die-hard of you can’t deny that those days were special.
And, like any South Side fan, I resented how my White Sox always play second-fiddle to your Cubs. When the Cubs signed with WGN in the late 1970s, it guaranteed that the Cubs could evangelize a national audience, leaving the Sox’s fan base to wither away in the shadow of Comiskey Park. A World Series run couldn’t even earn the Sox some respect: in 2005, it took until late May for them to be the lead sports story in the Tribune.
So you can’t hold it against me that during the Cubs playoff run in 2003, I actively rooted for your team to lose. I relished in the Steve Bartman stories and all the misplaced blame you shot at a fan. Deep-down I was convinced that until the White Sox got their fair share of support, there was no reason I should root for your team. You blamed the Billy Goat of 1945 or the black cat in 1969, and I chuckled inside. Looking back, maybe my delight was just a mask for my jealousy—frustration that our bad play made us the overlooked stepchild of Chicago.3
But back to the issue at hand: the Chicago Cubs, right now. My deep-seated love for baseball makes it impossible for me to ignore what’s happening. My Chicago roots make it impossible to ignore the scores. And there’s even something hypnotizing about this Cubs squad.
Most importantly, they have the pitching, with four top-notch starters and a real flamethrower at the back end of the bullpen in Aroldis Chapman. Throw in a little bit of Joe Maddon’s quirky style,4 and you have a winning formula. 25 players, all with different skills, coming together. They remind me of the team I fell in love with almost 15 years ago.
Your Cubs should be my bitter rivals, yet I cannot deny that these guys are fun to watch. The best team in the league is the scrappy North Side ball club. It’s not an unstoppable juggernaut of power but a team that keeps itself in the game and pulls it out in the late innings. Admitting this publicly makes me feel a little ashamed, concerned that I’m betraying my roots. But still, to my surprise (and disgust), I find myself pulling for the Cubs.
Maybe it’s because I see myself in you. Back in 2005, the White Sox hadn’t even won a home playoff game since 1959, the last time they made the World Series. I know the pain of a 70-year pennant drought and of a 100-year World Series drought because we were there too. And when I see the longing in your faces, the hope that this will be the year, I just want you to be able to feel that same unbridled joy I felt 11 years ago.
No team deserves to suffer this long. No team deserves the weight of such a curse around their neck. The White Sox broke their 88-year drought in 2005; maybe it’s about time the Cubs did the same. This October, I’m willing to put all the animosity aside. This year, it’s all about your Cubs.
So, if only for this October, Go Cubs Go!
Sincerely, your neighbor,
Sean Barry, SJ