“They f*@$in’ suck. I’m turning it off,” my dad, a lifelong White Sox fan says in one of his 20+ texts to me during games.
Watching the games together via text is a lot like being on White Sox Twitter; there’s a lot of swearing, and the histrionics are laughably outrageous. He doesn’t believe what he’s saying, and neither do I — it’s our way of joking, and maybe it’s the way that most of our parents without a therapist deal with frustration. The surrender to loss is in good fun, especially if the team is doing well. At the beginning of the season, if the White Sox lose a game, we say, “Go Bears!” in facetious resignation of the entire season.
Some might think this attitude is curmudgeonly or fair-weather, but my dad is using his hilarious coping mechanisms to make me laugh. I remember him taking me to a game at Comiskey Park during one of our losing seasons when I was a kid, just the two of us, and he watched the whole game while cursing loudly (I loved the swearing because I was a little edgelord).
“They f*@$in’ suck. At least there’s fireworks!” he said to me with a smile, revealing that he enjoyed it no matter how the team was doing. Even though he jests, and there’s nothing on the Earth that would take away his White Sox fandom’ it does hurt to lose, and after a while, it’s hard not to see things in black and white. I find this same way of thinking reflected in many White Sox fans’ attitudes: It’s all-or-nothing on the South Side when there’s a chance we can win the whole thing.
This year, the attitude is prevalent, because the White Sox are so good. It’s been a roller coaster year from the very beginning, despite the winning record throughout most of it. Our South Siders have been both hot and cold, healthy and injured, like The Yerminator with a burger named after him and Yermín threatening retirement from Triple-A in an unremarkable Instagram story.
I empathize with the deep desire to win the whole show, and I long for those big wins as much as any fan. After all, if we dejectedly claimed to be satisfied with losing, we’d be Cubs fans. We’re not lovable losers. We hate losing.
With five capable teams going head-to-head, the American League Wild Card race is heating up and growing more exciting by the minute, as is the race for home-field advantage. With three weeks to go, this adds to our adrenaline when watching any game, and it’s normal for our buttholes to clench with every White Sox loss, injury, or lackluster start, even when the team is in first place as far as they are.
You know what they say —clinching is in the air, so thusly clenches our derrière. (They actually don’t say that, and I made it up just now.) But here’s the thing, White Sox fans: Our team isn’t losing, so we need to unclench! The White Sox have a winning record and are first in their division by double digits, and it is there where they will remain until the end of the season.
Yes, I get that it’s scary to watch our team cool to room temperature when in the first half they were blazing-hot despite injuries. It’s alarming to witness our top players return to the injured list, especially if one of those injuries was from an errant nightmare rocket ball into the dugout, like Eloy’s latest.
It’s downright distressing to watch our boys score 17 runs in one game against the hopeless deadbeat Cubs, only to be shut out the next day by those same losers, who, surprisingly, aren’t playing Nick Madrigal in his full-body cast (he’s their best player, even on one leg, fight me).
I feel the same way that you do, but let’s give ourselves a break from this perfectionist prison of our own creation. Sometimes teams lose — even the best teams — and our division isn’t even close this year. The White Sox won’t lose up the division, but even if we start cooling down before the playoffs, I’m asking you to do two things to make your lives less stressful.
1. Trust in La Russa
I understand your hesitation. I’m still on the fence about him after an entire season, and I’m not sure I’ll ever warm up to Tony. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not better than La Russa because you’re not Connie Mack, who died in 1956. We’re all couch managers, couch major league players, and couch owners, and of course we believe that we know better than the professionals, because the best professionals make it look easy.
In reality, they can do things in their sleep that we can’t imagine doing in real life. La Russa knows the pieces of the team better than we do, he’s been in more postseasons than we’ve watched from the stands, and he knows what he’s doing — whether you like him or not.
His expertise doesn’t reflect the content of his character, and that’s a great thing, because his character is questionable. His sour re-entrance into our world of the White Sox was his very public DUI, which we learned about before we even saw him in spring training action. We’ve watched him yell at lovable rookie Seby Zavala like a drunken sailor. We saw him publicly deride Mercedes and defend the opposing team, perhaps ruining the rookie’s confidence and driving a nail into the coffin of his burgeoning stardom. I won’t even get into the nodding off at press conferences.
Like him or not, La Russa is doing his job so far, so you don’t have to like him. Let’s surrender our stress, and allow the old sleepy savant to do his job, when he’s awake enough to do it. I believe he’ll do what the White Sox are paying him to do, and stressing about it will suck all the fun out of this upcoming postseason for your personal experience. Let go and let Toe.
2. Go with the flow
The White Sox are one of the best teams in baseball, whether you like it or not, reader. Their pitching is stellar, regardless of your argument about Dallas Keuchel being washed up. I dare you to choose your favorite offensive player without listing the other 10 of your favorite players in ranked order, because it’s that difficult to choose. Our utility players are clutch, and every one of them has stepped up during necessary times and proved that injuries wouldn’t keep the team from winning.
We all know this, and yet, this fear of losing looms in the background. Who can blame us, when we’ve heard the same muted misgivings about the team from major media outlets for years? This isn’t new. The 2005 World Series Champion White Sox were jeered at for sweeping the Astros, their detractors claiming it was a “boring” series (it wasn’t). The White Sox can’t win over the mainstream media even when they win it all, and after a while, it’s bound to get to fans. This contrarian attitude from news outlets is definitely a contributor to the black and white thinking of many South Siders.
The most exciting and nail-biting seasons are all drama. One of my favorite White Sox games in history was the 2008 American League Central tie-breaker (Blackout) game. Just thinking about that 163rd game of the regular season gives me chills to this day, and those neck-and-neck races are what make legendary baseball.
The White Sox will not get a game 163 this year, because they’re better than that. Their magic number is 9, and the end of their regular season will result in celebration. Things are not either good or bad, black or white, or easy to define in a bubble, as much as we want to be able to do that in a 162-game marathon. There are gray areas, and these are not the Chicago Black & White Sox. This is a winning team, and that can’t be argued.
The real excitement will begin after October 3, and the White Sox have what it takes to go all the way, whether or not the masses are behind them.
Start believing, South Siders. This team is special, capable, and is made up of powerful talent, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of them yet.