Last week's story about the history of SportsVision sparked an interesting debate. I still believe Eddie Einhorn's attempt to put the Sox on pay-TV 30 years ago did not push a generation of baseball fans to the Cubs. But it got me to thinking: How and why does one become a White Sox fan?
I suspect that most of us are here because we either grew up on the South Side of Chicago or in the southwest suburbs. Or our parents grew up on the South Side/burbs and passed their fandom on to us. That was the case with me. I grew up in Beverly, my family was full of White Sox fans, and I grew up a Sox fan.
SportsVision didn't kill White Sox baseball in my house. Living in Chicago, we didn't get cable until 1988. If we wanted to watch the Sox on TV, we had to wait for the games to show up on Channel 32, or we had to watch them at my grandparents' house in Palos Hills. They had cable. More importantly, they had SportsVision.
I guess I was alone. According to most writers, all of the other kids in the neighborhood were watching Harry Caray and Steve Stone on Channel 9. They would become lifelong Cub fans, move to Wrigleyville, and turn their backs on their White Sox parents (I believe this was the plot of "The Jazz Singer").
I don't buy this one bit. I was born in 1980. I attended my first White Sox game in 1985. We would probably hit two or three Sox games per summer. That was without Sox games on free TV. We kept up that pace after we got SportsVision/SportsChannel in 1988.
SportsVision should only have affected one group of Sox fans. The White Sox returned to WGN-TV in 1990. To put it in perspective, children born the year the Sox got regular national exposure on cable have graduated from college and are now looking for jobs. Cable TV went from a luxury in the mid 80's to a fact of life by the 90's.
So TV may be part of the Sox fan experience. But it is not the determining factor. Good teams make Sox fans, not TV broadcasts. How many people became Sox fans because of 1983? How many people jumped on the Sox bandwagon in the early 90's? 2005? A kid who was 10 when the Sox won it all will turn 18 next year. Four years from now, they'll be out of college ... and free to spend lots of time and money on Sox games. Will they?
So my question to you is this: How did you become a Sox fan? Family tradition? South Side Tribalism? TV? Good teams? Your answers could help solve an attendance mystery that's almost two decades old.