Slate's Sports Nut: Chicago's Other MLB Team

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The Chicago White Sox have finally overcome decades of losing to secure a place in this year's World Series. Slate contributor Mike DeBonis offers his thoughts about the Sox and their history as Chicago's "other" baseball team, perennially shadowed by the Cubs.


When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last fall, so went baseball's most heralded practitioners of loserdom.


Mike DeBonis is a journalist and, for his sins, a Chicago White Sox fan. So he's pretty excited about the Sox making the World Series, which begins on Saturday. Strangely, he doesn't sound excited.

DeBONIS: The Chicago Cubs are now the undisputed carriers of baseball's dignified loser mantle, but be glad, sports fans of hardened hearts, to know there's another way to lose: the Chicago White Sox way. Yes, Chicago's Sox have now made it to the World Series for the first time since 1959. But even if they do win it all, there won't be hundreds of books and special edition DVDs that exhaustively document the final moments of anguish and misery on Chicago's South Side. When the sports world's most mundane epic losing streak ends, it'll go quietly.

The White Sox--who last won the World Series in 1917--haven't lost in heartbreaking ways like the Red Sox always did. These Sox just lose; that's it. The team's futility has no romance, glamour or meaning. When they lose, they still can't win. The White Sox aren't even the losingest losers in the Second City. You might think nobody cares about the White Sox's losing ways simply because the team is overshadowed by the Cubs. That's true, but the more important point is that we Sox fans don't dwell on our losing streak. It's not that Sox fans don't complain about losing. We complain all the time, but we complain about being bad. We complain about bad players, bad coaching and bad management. You'll have a hard time finding any `Woe is us' moaning now. Unlike the Red Sox and the Cubs, there's no talk of a curse, even though the White Sox have the strongest case for a curse cause and effect of any pro sports team. This is the franchise, after all, that threw the 1919 World Series and never won it again.

So why doesn't mawkishness gain any traction in White Sox nation? For one thing, because there is no White Sox nation. Most shy Sox fans live on the South Side of Chicago, the south suburbs and northwest Indiana, my childhood home. Without a diaspora, it's impossible for the team's woes to spread very far. We also lack a raft of celebrity fans who make a public spectacle of their tortured loyalty. To give you some idea, our Ben Affleck is Dennis DeYoung of the band Styx.

Forget sporting romanticism, too. It's easy to let your mind wander to yesteryear in Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, with their quirky outfield walls and hand-operated scoreboards. The White Sox blew up their baseball temple, Comiskey Park, more than a decade ago and replaced it with a parking lot. New Comiskey--also known as US Cellular Field--is a bland, symmetrical stadium that just missed the now-obligatory neo-retro trend.

So as much as sportswriters labor to load this team with historical significance and greater meaning--and it's now in full swing--the White Sox will soldier on in the most humdrum, forgettable ways. If this year's team loses, it won't be held back by the Black Sox curse, but rather the curse of not enough offensive production. That'll be fine. It's been pretty comfortable here in the shadow of every other loser in baseball. And if they win, there won't be some mammoth catharsis as we slough off our losing reputation. That's fine, too. Unlike Red Sox or Cubs fans, we won't have to re-evaluate our relationship with our long-time losers. Our Sox can just go on winning or losing, whatever.

CHADWICK: Opinion from Mike DeBonis. He's a senior editor of the Washington City Paper and a contributor to the online magazine Slate.

(Soundbite of "My Kind of Town")

Mr. FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) My kind of town. Chicago is my kind of town.


CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from I'm Alex Chadwick.

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