Saturday, August 16, 2008

Do you Swing Both Ways? I sure do

There are about 40 games left in the baseball season, and I'm just trying to keep it together. I have been a Cubs fan for as many baseball seasons as I can remember (about 34 of my 40 years). I have been a Sox fan since 1983 (though I felt a certain interest building during the 1977 90-72 season of the unbelieveably cool Southside Hitmen). To those of you who don't believe such a thing is possible, that it's cop-out, let's just say you and I grew up in different worlds.

If you grew up on the Southside or the Northside of Chicago, surrounded by perhaps multiple generations of family and friends nearby all rooting for the same team, it was easy for you to choose your allegiance. Easy enough that maybe it wasn't a choice at all. Neighborhood allegiances may now be a thing of the past anyway, since there are no more real neighborhoods.

In any case, Chicagoland is a sprawling place, and for a lot of us, the choice wasn't that easy. If you had a grandfather who spent some formative time on the Southside and grew up a Sox fan, as mine did, but a father who grew up in a small town up near Wisconsin, as mine did, (call it the extreme Northside), things start to get complicated. Anyway, I'll say more about my evolution as fan in future posts...

Compartmentalizing my dual passions for many years was not an incredibly difficult challenge. There certainly were people who knew me more as a Cubs fan and others who knew me more as a Sox fan, but for most of my growing-up years, there were no crosstown classics (and even when that started, it was only exhibition). Interleague play raised the stakes, but these games are still more like rowdy fun than truly meaningful, occurring early in the season as they do.

Now, however, those of us who Swing Both Ways (and I know there are plenty of us), are being called to the mat. The Cubs and Sox are closer then they ever have been to a Subway Series, a Crosstown Classic to Beat All Classics, a Windy City World Series. Sure, there's a long way to go--the Sox are barely hanging in against the Piranhas, and the Cubs still have not only the Brewers to contend with but the unkillable Cards as well. Yet, this Cubs team is the best in my lifetime and would be the best in my father's, were he still alive (as a six-year-old in 1945, he remembered V.J. day, but not too much about the Cubs World Series appearance, except that the Cubs won the first game, and lost another on a homerun by Hank Greenberg.) My grandfather was five years old and oblivious when the Sox won in 1917 and didn't live to see the 2005 winners (he was annoyed about the 1983 playoff collapse, but not as much as he was by the 1959 WS loss to the Dodgers).

Everything feels different this year. Skill and luck and guts are pushing us toward a major event. I'm all in. We can root all year every year for both Chicago teams to win (and for each of them to win the interleague games that take place in their respective home fields), but now we have to make a choice. If you are a true Chicago baseball fan (not Sox, not Cubs, but Chicago, the home team they both play for), you want them both to make the play-offs and then the World Series. Despite what it will do to your heart, you want that World Series to go seven games. But, who do you want to win it all?

Someone else who Swings Both Ways said to me the other day that if the Cubs and Sox meet in the World Series, she would have an emotional conundrum. She seemed afraid that it might happen, not excited by the thought. I'm excited. I will finally make my choice. Now, we just need for this thing to happen. I'll be posting after every Cubs and Sox game the rest of the way. I'll talk about the things that happened in my life that made me Swing Both Ways, what I love and hate about both teams, why you must finally make a choice and how well they are doing toward fulfilling the SBW wish for a Red Line Rapture. Enjoy the next 40 games.


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