People love dualities. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Left and right. North and south. East and west. Up and down. Black and white. Democrats and Republicans. Crips and Bloods. Cubs and White Sox. In each of these cases there can only be one.
The Crosstown Classic is my favorite part of baseball season. Two weekends. Six games. One long season of bragging rights. The whole concept of the White Sox playing the Cubs is genius and the fans love it. It has the energy of a small town high school rivalry game — but at the big league level. All the local news channels cover the game. The Wrigleyville bars are packed; tailgating at The Cell is an all-day experience. Fans leave work early to prepare for a long day of cheering and drinking. It’s like Opening Day in the summer. No matter how bad the teams are it’s always a big deal.
I am one of the rare individuals that switched allegiances. That’s right, you read that correctly. I was once a Cubs fan and am now a White Sox fan. Before you fill the air with expletives and punch your coworker — wondering how the hell this is possible — please continue reading.
I grew up a Cubs fan in a Cubs house. My dad was a Cubs fan and turned my mom into a Cubs fan (although her father — my grandfather — is a die-hard Sox fan). As a kid, we went to Wrigley, sat in the bleachers, and cheered the shitty Cubs. Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson posters lined my bedroom. My friends and I spent millions of hours arguing over who was better: Mark Grace vs. Frank Thomas; Sammy Sosa vs. Magglio Ordonez; Harry Carray vs. Hawk Harrelson; Wrigley vs. Comiskey. You name it, we argued it. I bled Cubby blue. Then 2003 happened.
We all remember the 2003 NLCS. Cubs go up three games to two against the Florida Marlins, with Games 6 and 7 at Wrigley. Surely, the Cubs could win one more game — especially with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood scheduled to pitch–and be in their first World Series in almost 100 years. The pennant was all but won! This was the year! It’s Gonna Happen! In Dusty We Trusty! Screw you, billy goat!
But, the Cubs lost Game 6 in the famous Bartman game. Then they lost Game 7. The expansion Florida Marlins would go on to win the World Series, their second since becoming a franchise in 1993. Of all years, 2003 was the year. And it still did not happen. The Florida Marlins (?!?) had two World Series rings, and the Cubs had shit. As a fan, I was crushed. Devastated. Sickened. Furious. Numb. After Game 7, I walked through my parents neighborhood to clear my head. My thoughts led to one conclusion: I was done. This abusive relationship was over. I quit the Cubs.
I was a free agent fan for a couple years — watching baseball, but not really cheering for anyone. When Ozzie Guilen was hired by the White Sox in 2004, I will admit, I started watching more Sox games. I liked Ozzie as a player and thought the South Side needed his energy. Plus, on any given night, Ozzie might get ejected or have a hilarious press conference (or both). He could have a blowup with an umpire that was must-see TV. In a town that cherishes fiery coaching personalities, Ozzie was the Spanglish-cursing version of Mike Ditka.
When the Sox won it all in 2005, Ozzie accomplished what no one had done in Chicago for 88 years — bringing a World Series to the South Side. While I did not consider myself to be a Sox fan, (24 years of being a Cub fan is not easily forgotten) this “crazy Mexican” made the Sox fun to watch and nationally relevant. I refused to be a bandwagon jumper, but the Sox had an attractive program. Would I dare switch allegiances?
My transformation to the dark side was complete when I signed a White Sox contract in 2007. It was clear the universe wanted me on the South Side. It was ultra legit when I went out and bought my first ever White Sox hat, at the age of 27. While half my buddies called me a traitor and other unprintable names, the other half treated me like I was the greatest free agent pickup of all time. Now, I live in Bridgeport and take my daughter to Sox games. And that is the story of how I crossed over to the Sox Side.