With the Chicago White Sox headed to the World Series, downstaters are examining why there is no local following of Chicago’s better baseball team. After all, there are large numbers of Cubs fans here, why not so for the Sox? And while we all examine our lack of interest in the Sox, we wonder about the seemingly strange phenomenon of the Cubs-Sox rivalry in the Chicago area.
Growing up here in Springfield, I was completely unaware there was such an intra-city rivalry until I started coming into contact with large numbers of Chicagoans in college. It became even more clear at my first post-college job in Northwest Illinois where I worked with two Chicago transplants –one a diehard Cubs fan and another a Sox true believer.
These guys would go at it constantly and it never made any sense to me. I would step into the middle of their insult-fests and remind them, too logically, that their teams never even play each other in the regular season (this was in the mid 1980’s). They didn’t play ANY of the same teams. Their leagues even had slightly different rules. Under those circumstances, I would argue, how was it even possible to determine which was the better team. I would go on to tell them about a REAL rivalry, one I grew up with, between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Now THAT was a rivalry, said I. Sometimes my coworkers would listen to me politely before getting back to their my-team’s-best-a-thon. Most times they would momentarily unite to dismiss my lack of understanding of one of the great conflicts of nature.
Now, of course, these days the teams do play each other and there is some inter-league intermingling. But that means little to Chicago fans. The rivalry is as it always has been. My only explanation is that it is similar to the Cubs/Cards rivalry here. We gain our loyalties through family and friends without regard to any logical reasoning. In fact, logic might dictate we not waste so much time on a fairly boring spectator experience.
UPDATE: I just realized there is a potential Cubs fan rivalry brewing. Say the Cardinals win the playoff series and go on to meet the White Sox in the World Series. In this instance, downstate Cubs fans will be rooting for the White Sox while their Chicago brethren, hating the Sox, will favor the Cards. A house divided.