A native Iowan, I’ve never subscribed to this parochial, North vs. South Side rivalry that’s divided generations of Chicagoans. As the late, great Chicago-based writer Studs Terkel told me in an October 2005 interview, it all boils down to a “sophomoric feud,” which it is.
I’ll never begrudge the Sox their success, including the ’05 World Series championship that happened soon after I talked to Studs. I had the privilege of helping cover the Sox’s four-game sweep of Houston for Bloomberg News, and will never forget the experience. I’ll also never forget the t-shirt Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski was wearing when he strolled into the clubhouse after a Game 1 win – printed on the front of the shirt: “It ain’t gonna lick itself.” Classy, A.J.!
Nothing, in fact, would make me happier than a “Red line,” Cubs-Sox World Series going to Game 7 (with the Cubs winning, of course). Kill me the next day and I’d die with a smile on my face.
Nonetheless, mine is apparently a minority view, and the rivalry rages on. It’s a rivalry fueled by long-running misperceptions and outdated stereotypes. Some versions of those stereotypes characterize the “typical” Cubs fan as a Cabernet-sipping, investment banker from the North Shore who is too busy pecking away on his BlackBerry to pay any attention to the game.
The “typical” Sox fan? Quite possibly a mullet-sporting, tatted-up pipefitter from Beverly who still has most of his original teeth and considers himself a “real” fan of the game. Chip on shoulder included.
Neither stereotype is always born out in reality. Contrary to their blue-collar, shot-and-a-beer image, the Sox count some of the most prominent businesspeople and politicians in Chicago as fans – including Mayor Richard M. Daley and John W. Rogers, Jr., CEO of big fund manager Ariel Investments. Personally, I can think of several workaday, born-and-bred South Siders I know who somehow are life-long Cubs fans. You never know.
We talked to a few Sox fans at the Cell Wednesday in an effort to shed some light on this infernal, intracity conflict. Asked how he feels about Cubs fans, Bob Sailer of Villa Park (pictured at top) didn’t mince words.
“I hate ‘em,” Salier said. Why? “Every time we play (the Cubs) and they win, I get a phone call” from Cubs fan friends. “Every time we win, I don’t hear from them.”
Adding to Sailer’s indignation: When he showed up for Game 2 of the ’05 World Series at The Cell “there was a Cubs fan in my seat,” Sailer said. “They’re bandwagon jumpers.”
So much for my effort to punch holes in this myth. Okay, there’s still many Sox fans who loath their Cubs counterparts and vice versa. It will always be that way, and that’s fine. It’s one of many things that makes Chicago, in my opinion, the greatest sports city in the country. (Check out this good story written last October by Andrew Harris, a former Bloomberg colleague of mine, for additional perspective).
By the way, the Sox beat the Angels last night, 6-2. Though the Sox lost today, 9-5, they still took two of three from Los Angeles, and are two games behind Detroit in the American League Central. Here’s hoping North and South sides of Chicago and all points in between can enjoy a late-summer playoff chase.