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Soxivus Week 1 companion: Why are you still a White Sox fan?

Tommy Barbee, Melissa Sage-Bollenbach, Dante Jones, Leonard Gore and Brett Ballantini explain how it is they remain devoted to this club

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Welcome to Soxivus 2023! For those of you actively following the White Sox, it may feel like you’ve never left. Between exiling players and announcers, canceling the lone semblance of fan interaction, and the steaming pile of “product” on the field, we’ve had plenty to complain about all year long.

And us? We had to write about it, talk about it, hope against hope that there would be a silver lining along the way.

For a split second, it happened with the announced firing of Ken Williams and Rick Hahn. It was the perfect opportunity for a fresh voice and perspective to oversee the organization. Instead, Jerry Reinsdorf promoted an internal candidate with a similarly underwhelming background in Chris Getz. Jerry also gave a once-in-a-lifetime, bumbling presser, where he sang the praises of one David Eckstein. You know, like a guy who clearly understands the game of modern baseball.

While all this is happening, the White Sox ticket office and social media teams have to pretend to be excited about the product and sell you, the fan, on that sad product.

With that in mind, we begin our Soxivus celebration by asking the simple question:

Why are you still a White Sox fan?

Seriously, why are we here?


Melissa Sage-Bollenbach

Usually, Mark Buehrle caught the first pitch, but of course, my luck was he was pitching that day, so I got stuck with Tim Raines. You don’t want to see the actual picture of me throwing the first pitch. I got booed; it was that bad.
Chicago White Sox

Why am I still a fan of this abhorrent team? It is a question I ask myself often, as it seems when I don’t think it can bottom out any further, it always finds a way to prove me wrong. The White Sox have it all: terrible ownership, awful front-office management, and atrocious on-the-field play.

Clearly, Chicago hits the trifecta and holds all the standout qualities one looks for when investing time and resources in cheering for a club. (Am I right?) But somehow, I can’t turn my back and leave. Despite one boneheaded move after another, here I sit, clicking away on my keyboard, searching my brain for the answer. Unfortunately, it’s my heart that holds the truth.

I don’t know what my life would look like if I weren’t a Sox fan. My fandom has always been an extremely meaningful part of who I am. Over almost 52 years, there’s invariably been something significantly connected to the South Siders in every nook and cranny of my existence.

Whether it was learning about the game in my childhood from my stepdad (who passed away more than 30 years ago), performing with my high school dance team on the field at old Comiskey Park, going to my first playoff contest with my now-husband in 1993, playing “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” as the final song at my wedding reception, throwing out the first pitch in a game at Guaranteed Rate Field, holding the 2005 World Series trophy on my lap in the hospital where my son was born premature and critically ill, or attending Game 3 of the 2021 ALDS with that same son who is now a completely healthy, grown-up teenager, all of those things serve as my core memories. And if I’m completely being honest, I just want to make more of them, especially now since the above-mentioned teenager loves baseball as much as I do.

Just typing it all out here gives me the warm fuzzies, and who doesn’t like that feeling?

I’m in there somewhere with my 1980’s side ponytail. I was so excited to be on the field, I plucked up some grass from the outfield.
Melissa Sage-Bollenbach

Could I pick a new organization, a better one with less grime and a lot more shine? Sure, and I’ve seriously thought about it. After half a century of living in Illinois, I hope retirement finds me in a state somewhere warmer and, preferably, one with a baseball team. And while I could no doubt enjoy sitting in the sunshine cheering on a new club, they would always play second fiddle. Why? For me, I can’t just tuck away all that history. Call me a sap for nostalgia, I suppose. I’ll forever pick my White Sox, stink and all.

ALDS Game 3 was a hot one! An absolutely perfect day all the way around.
Melissa Sage-Bollenbach

Tommy Barbee

Even before the 2005 White Sox season, it was straightforward to explain why anyone would be a White Sox fan growing up in the early 90s. The team, and (equally important) the brand, was cool.

Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at the Billboard Music Awards in 1993.
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Yes, kids, you used to see the Chicago White Sox hats in rap videos as a fashion statement, not merely as a geographical nod.

We had Bo Jackson and Frank Thomas on the same damn team.

Hell, we had Albert Belle and Frank Thomas on the same damn team.

Albert Belle and Frank Thomas look on as the White Sox are introduced before their home opener on April 4, 1997.
Beth A. Keiser/AP

Even the second-tier players in those days were better than most of the starters the White Sox have been trotting out in the last decade.

All of that explains my fandom growing up, but why do I still give a shit about this team now?

Hope.

There’s always a part of me that hopes that the White Sox will luck into a level of competency where they can figure out the right way to do things again. A part of me hopes that Luis Robert Jr. will realize his full potential and rub off on the guys around him so the White Sox can become something more than an also-ran.

There’s a part of me that hopes the White Sox have finally figured out how to scout, draft, and develop young talent so we have a next wave of players who flourish on the South Side rather than being a feeder for other, more capable teams.

My confidence in that happening is dwindling as long as Jerry Reinsdorf runs this organization, but stranger things have happened.

But, as they say, it’s the hope that kills you.


Leonard Gore

As my 40th birthday approaches faster than Jerry Reinsdorf’s wallet winching shut when he hears a free agent ask for a nine-figure contract, I’ve come to realize that being at the halfway point of a human lifespan means the available time left to enjoy the wonders of this world is precious and a resource that is not to be frittered away. That being said, these last two seasons of White Sox baseball have definitely given me so so so many reasons to jettison them from my life and try something else fruitful and joy sparking.

But. I. Can’t.

My life has been defined by the cosmic joke that I was born in 1983. On the South Side of Chicago. Taken to (and getting lost in) Sox Park as an infant. Sitting in a downpour of rain with my brother, willing it to stop so we could watch a game. Sitting in the stands with my soon-to-be wife in 2005, with a sign promising to marry her if the Sox won the World Series. Taking my son to his first Sox game. Taking him to see TWO walk-off homers in 2021, including Brian Goodwin’s Batflip to Heaven.

Jerry Reinsdorf can’t take those memories away, no more than he can take his billions with him when he leaves this earthly plane. I am a White Sox fan. For better or for worse. And what is life without hope that things will eventually get better?


Dante Jones

As one of the youngest members of the staff here AND someone with a father who loves the team on the north side, I could’ve jumped ship years ago. Hell, one of my first favorite players was Mark Prior.

But, for some reason, I’m still here.

After the news about Jason Benetti came out, and potential underlying reasons for his departure, I decided that was enough. I can take losing; I’m a Chicago sports fan born during the Jordan Years but not early enough to actually enjoy them.

What I can’t take is treating people like shit.

But, I realized something:

Literally every team sucks in some way, shape or form. If I stop rooting for the White Sox and pick, say, Seattle, what happens when the Mariners eventually do something idiotic? And as much as I love my father, the only way I’d even think about becoming a fan of that team is if Shohei signed there and at the same time it was announced that the Ricketts family sold the team to someone at least slightly less ghoulish.

Plus, Luis Robert Jr. has become one of my favorite players to watch, and he’s still here. And the tickets are so cheap that I can just say screw it and buy one just because I want to go have a drink or two with some friends while ignoring what’s happening on the field.


Brett Ballantini

Unlike my colleagues here, I have in fact lost my fandom. Sure, I still “love” the White Sox and follow, take solace in a mostly rich history that stretches back to 1900, and play game-show host on podcasts. But the relentless parade of dastardly ignorance, willful malice and empty promises has extinguished my passion for the franchise.

I’m here, and am a fan in name, because of this, right here.

South Side Sox.

There is an obligation to all of you, our readers and listeners, to be here to hold feet to flames, but also to celebrate even the smallest of victories in the years to come. And there also an obligation to the staff here, of whom I am enormously proud.

South Side Sox is my White Sox family. I may not care any longer, but I care deeply about those who do care. It’s why I remain, and why I’ll continue working my hardest to make SSS the best site covering the team you can find.


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