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White Sox Fans, the Blackout Game, and the Power of Myth

It’s time to set things right, and upend the sad finish to 2008.

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox Jamie Squire/Getty Images

[On this, the 13th anniversary of 2008’s Blackout Game, we’re running two features devoted to it — and with the White Sox’s recent announcement that all 2021 home playoff games will be “blacked out,” the timing couldn’t be better. Enjoy!]

As the 2021 White Sox season glaciates to completion, with an AL Central Division title long since all but wrapped up, the attention of both team and fan base have turned to what will be the first home playoff game in 13 years. You will be hard-pressed to find a conversation on that upcoming game to be hosted at Guaranteed Rate Field without hearing two words coming up repeatedly: Blackout Game.

The greatest myths only grow larger and more impressive as time passes. Goliath gets taller, David has less and less stones to sling, the testicle size of Nicky Minaj’s Trinidadian cousin grow bigger and more pronounced. The meanings and importance of events become shaded in our minds by the myriad of emotions and feelings that come along with the story. With every retelling the details begin to blur and distort, and as with Trinidadian testicles, they begin to expand beyond the edges of reality.

The 2008 version of the White Sox weren’t the most likable team in team history, nor were they the most talented, but there was enough fan favorite stalwarts left over from the 2005 championship team to dream big when it came to a playoff run. Ozzie was a maniac, Buehrle was lovable, AJ was a jerk, and Paulie never seemed to stop talking. Finishing 4-6 in their last 10 games and in a tie for the division lead with the hated Minnesota Twins, the Sox were faced with a rare, play-in game to decide which team would move on to face Tampa Bay in the ALDS.

With the team having finished third and fourth in the division the two years following their incredible 2005 World Series run, White Sox fans were desperate to feel anything close to that same excitement. Enter the Blackout Game.

Part marketing scheme, part fan engagement tactic, the White Sox encouraged everyone coming to the game to unleash their inner goth teen and don their darkest duds. Whatever the origin, Sox fans bought in big time and packed the stadium in black shirts, with an intensity to match. You know the rest: Danks deals, Thome does what he’d end up doing more than 600 times in his career, and Bobby Jenks, hyped up on P.O.D.’s Boom and what I imagine to be copious amounts of Mountain Dew Livewire, closes down the win for the Sox in Game 163.

With an ending like that, it’s no wonder fans more than a decade later are still longing for another dose of that Blackout Game goodness.

One small issue, though: That wasn’t the end of the story. The Sox still hosted another two home games in 2008 before being eliminated, with nary a whimper: A Game 3 win led again by Danks and Jenks, followed by a sputtering-out elimination game where the White Sox managed just four hits on the way to a 6-2 loss.

The energy from that play-in game never carried over to the postseason, and the Sox were both gassed by the frenetic finish and outclassed by a much better team. The collective will of Sox fans, however, seem to black out and forget these details in the retelling of the 2008 story.

So, what is it that makes the Blackout Game still resonate so strongly for so man, even with the less-than-storybook ending? White Sox fans are desperate for traditions. A history of scandal and questionable promotions, but with little success on the field to speak of, leaves fans looking for something worth remembering. Those touchstone moments that transcend normal life and have you remembering where you were when they happened.

Back to the present, and a lot of fans are getting exactly what they have been clamoring for: Blackout Game Part 2: Electric Boogaloo. The team heard the outcry, and are once again are encouraging fans to show their faith with fashion in another opportunity to pack the ballpark on the South Side with black clothes and White Sox pride. And most importantly, this year is a chance to rewrite the story of the 2008 White Sox coming up short.

One thing is certain, the 2021 White Sox are not their 2008 counterparts. This team is as likable and as talented as the franchise has ever seen. The bar has been raised and hopes are high, but with good reason. The players are as hungry for glory as the fans in the stands.

The goal for the season is a World Series title, what would be just the fourth in team history. This current White Sox team really has a chance to give fans exactly what they have been chasing since the team’s inception in 1901, a team that gets better and better as we look back; a team worth remembering.

I don’t know about you, but I already have my black shirt picked out. Go Sox!