Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Cubs Won the World Series! So How Come a White Sox Fan Inspired Me? by R. Lincoln Harris

Ever since 2005, Chicago White Sox fans have been able to play a devious game with Cubs fans like me. I never bothered to find out if the game was intentional, but I suspect that it was. And it went like this:
When the White Sox finished off their four-game sweep over the Houston Astros (then of the National League), their fans went out and bought shirts, hats, car flags, and everything else they could find with the declaration that they had triumphed in the World Series that year. Every fanbase does this, and it's not the least bit surprising that the White Sox did it, too. To the victors go the bragging rights, after all.
But here in Chicago, those reminders took on an added bite. The Cubs narrowly lost out on the 2003 World Series, and the Boston Red Sox -- Chicago's partner in classic ballparks and epic misery -- punched their ticket out of the losers' club the following year. So the White Sox' title not only removed them from baseball's version of purgatory, but it left the Cubs all alone in the certified losers club. A century of futility was now staring Cubs fans in the face, and the White Sox fans -- always in the pronounced minority of Chicago's baseball fans -- could gleefully wave from the promised land.
As the 2005 White Sox gradually left Chicago for other locations, and most left the game altogether--only Brandon McCarthy still plays at the major league level in 2017 -- the team's victory shirts faded, but they rarely, if ever, were thrown away. If nothing else, the Cubs continued to be on the outside looking in. And as long as that was the case, the 2005 World Series title could be weaponized against Cubs fans.
But all that came to a screeching halt on November 3, 2016. When Kris Bryant threw across the diamond to Anthony Rizzo for the final out of the World Series, a lifetime of waiting ended and  two-thirds of Chicago's baseball fans -- at least -- exploded in joy. The other one-third -- give or take a few handfuls -- realized that their game was over. No more could they hold the 2005 Commissioner's Ttrophy aloft and expect Cubs fans to covet it. Not only do the Cubs have their own trophy now, but we're also a lot closer than the White Sox are to getting another one.
But before the victory parade and rally on the Friday after the Series ended, my family and I drove to the ballpark to see the famed red marquee for ourselves. And the sight of it brought me to tears, it was so beautiful. "WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS" What more needs to be said?
We drove down Addison Street, to a spot in front of Sports World, which is located across the street from Wrigley Field. Nearly every other building in the area -- on both Clark and Addison Streets -- has been torn down and is waiting some new development to be built on the spot. But Sports World Chicago is doing a thriving business, selling W flags and all of the bragging shirts and hats and car flags that White Sox fans bought eleven years ago now.
I stopped the car on Addison, put my flashers on, and got out to enjoy the scene. There was an excitement in the air, still lingering from the happy news out of Cleveland the night before. As I returned to move the car, --since Chicago tow trucks are always ready to spring into action, --I noticed a White Sox fan, talking on his cell phone, and looking at the scene with a resigned disgust. He was looking at the same marquee that I was, but it wasn't bringing a tear to his eye or a song to his heart. I was struck by the dissonance between euphoria and  contempt, so I took his picture to remember the moment.
For the next few days, life was about as good as it could be. I spent a moment at Ernie Banks' grave in nearby Graceland Cemetery, and talked to a reporter who was at the site. Every Cubs fan should have had a reporter to speak to, but mine wrote up a story in the New York Daily News, and I became the grinning face of all Cubs fans for a 24-hour period. I didn't mind that at all.
And then came the election, less than a week after the Cubs won. All of the unpleasantness of the 2016  campaign was coming to an end, once and for all. The Cubs were a big story in their own right, but it was magnified because it allowed us to somehow forget that one of the two main candidates was actually going to win the presidency. Seeing a "Theo Epstein 4 President" sign outside of a Chicago bar after the victory rally made me wish that it could become a reality. He'd certainly win in Illinois, and probably in Massachusetts and all of New England, too. That's not enough to become president, but it's a pretty good start.

I was a reluctant Hillary supporter at first, since Bernie was my guy in the primaries. Nobody will ever be able to convince me that he wouldn't have beaten Trump, either, but the worst part is we'll never know for certain. But she seemed to be able to handle Trump in the debates, and that sealed the deal for me. So Hillary wins, goodnight everybody, and let the good times roll.
But that's not what happened, was it?
I woke up on November 9 in a profound state of shock and fear. A lot of other Americans did, too. Sixty million people voted against Donald Trump, and yet he still won, anyway. He said he would only accept the results if he won and -- it still pains me to type this out -- that's just what happened. So now what?
I went through the pictures on my smartphone that morning, looking for something that could cheer me up. Perhaps putting a post to Instagram, and sharing it with my Facebook and Twitter accounts, would make me feel better. Something needed to do it, after all. And that's when I found the defiant White Sox fan from a few nights earlier.
I realized that I felt just like he must have felt outside of Wrigley Field, a few short hours after the Cubs had finally ended their championship drought. He was upset, certainly, but he was also representing his team and standing his ground in the process. Cubs fans were probably too euphoric to pay him much mind, anyway.
I looked at the picture and saw myself in the shot, not as a White Sox fan but as someone surrounded by a scene he didn't much enjoy. I realized that if he could stand the scene at Clark and Addison Streets the day after the Cubs won the World Series, there's no reason at all why I can't stand my ground in the emerging United States of Trump.   
In Chicago, Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by a ratio of almost 7-to-1, so I'm pretty well insulated from any sort of Trump-mania in the city I call home. But it's out there in this country, and I better learn how to cope with it. As long as I can make like that White Sox fan, I should be all right. And we still have that trophy, don't we?

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