by John Jonelis
Here in Chicago, we’re blessed with two professional baseball teams. I root for them both—yes, for me it’s Chicago against the world. But how many fans do that? Almost nobody, right? Whenever I betray my crosstown allegiance, people look at me cross-eyed.
One Too Many
It’s as if our town has one team too many. People identify with one and hate the other. I say phooey on that! Two teams mean two shots at a winning season. Hey, my relatives come from the North Side, the South Side and the Burbs. Do I love one clan and hate the other? No! And I cheer for any small victory one of them might unexpectedly pull off. Every surprise needs celebration! It should be the same with brothers, business, and baseball.
I know, I know—you’re saying, “Jonelis, you’re way too countercultural.” I understand that. I know the great herd regards my attitude with suspicion and disapproval. I don’t anticipate anybody will follow my lead. But there’s a larger principle at work here. It seems clear that proximity polarizes people, and I offer that as an axiom. The closer two opponents reside, the more intense their rivalry. And whadaya know—it looks like that’s true for groups of any size, engaged in pursuits from politics to business to sports.
It’s human nature. It’s based on turf. People stake out a small patch of ground and defend it.
Where do subversive attitudes fester and bloom into conviction? Childhood! Between 1st and 6th grades, I grew up in a demilitarized zone populated by Sox fans AND Cubs fans. I loved the Cubs. But the Sox shot off fireworks, so I loved them too. For a long time I believed I had to choose one team over the other and that was hard to do. So, as a small boy, I methodically switched teams each season. It takes a lot of gum to nail down the best baseball cards for two teams, but it’s worth it. As time passed, I simply adopted both.
Now a lifetime has gone by, and face it—those that rooted for the Sox eventually got lucky. Those that pulled for the Cubs and only the Cubs are still waiting for a World Series victory. It’s all good to me. Hey, I’m getting too old to say, “Maybe next year.”
Aha, you say, “Who do you pick for the Cubs/Sox games?”
No problem. I can answer that.
These are games with a long and noble history—my favorites of the year. The rivalry goes way back. It’s the original Subway Series because the Red Line directly connects the two stadiums with real train tracks. After the 1906 World Series between these same two clubs, they played annual exhibition games, even though it didn’t count toward league stats. Then in 1997, inter-league games became official. Besides a lot of other names, it’s been called the Crosstown Classic, the Chicago Showdown, the Red Line Series, and as a charity, the Windy City Classic. Now I see it billed as the Crosstown Cup, and it sports a real trophy. So it’s one of those things that goes way back in time and nobody’s got it figured out yet or ever will—probably.
I’m watching the game on TV. You know as well as I do that those industrious media mavens gather all kinds of video footage of the fans. This time, they catch three couples sporting hats from opposing teams—three couples that still show some sort of affection for one another in spite of their divergent team allegiance. Two of them actually attempt a perfunctory kiss. Naturally, they edit these into cameo snippets and show them during slow moments of the game. Hawk Harrelson babbles some remark like, “Aw, ain’t that nice,” and Steve Stone, who is bright enough to know better, talks about civic unity or some such gibberish I don’t precisely recall.
I say hogwash. All those swarms of cameramen only found three examples in a stadium filled with thousands and thousands of people in full view of everybody. And how do we know the happy couples didn’t just momentarily reconcile after some nasty nagging domestic quarrel based on the geography of their youth?
My mind has strayed and I haven’t answered the question. How do I handle the Cubs/Sox games? I know exactly what to do.
When Chicago plays another city, naturally I back Chicago. Sox, Cubs—whichever plays in that game. It’s my hometown. It’s geography. I use the same logic at a Cubs/Sox games, and always pull for the home team. When the game’s at Wrigley, it’s the Cubs. When at the Cell, it’s the Sox. And I back my team with firm conviction and frantic emotion.
It’s human nature. It’s based on turf—bigger turf.
Images from MS Office. Flags from MLB online and WGN Flag & Decorating.
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.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved