Happy Independence Day, White Sox fans. I hope you’ve finished shop-vac’ing the sewer water out of your basement and are readying yourself for another year of blowing off illegal fireworks in the alley with your neighbors, like true South Siders.
This past Sunday, I was stress-flipping between the White Sox vs. A’s game and the Chicago NASCAR race (is NASCAR race redundant?), and like many Chicagoans, became scandalized by the lack of Chicago White Sox presence in the opening montage:
“Of course, there are plenty of other paths to our hearts. Like breaking a century-old curse.”
Excuse me, NBC Sports, the network home for the Chicago White Sox, but maybe it escaped your attention that it was the South Side, not the North Side, who ended Chicago’s World Series drought of 88 years, and in dramatic fashion. This was another classic case of White Sox erasure, and it pissed me off.
They affectionately featured the Chicago Bears, who can only boast two Super Bowl appearances and one win in the history of the franchise, which, as ultimate titles go, the White Sox have them outnumbered.
Tied for World Series wins with the White Sox are the Chicago Cubs, who were featured prominently in this intro. Is it because WGN throttled a captive audience of bored rabbit-ear antenna’d households with Cubs games on a national level before the team was exclusively claimed by Marquee Sports Network, and are therefore deemed more digestible to national viewers? Or is the reasoning more nefarious?
No other Chicago sports team had an entry in the NASCAR race, but the White Sox sure did, driven by none other than NASCAR racey boy Ty Dillon.
I could not be more excited for this opportunity to represent the @whitesox and @BeggarsPizza! As a diehard sports fan and an avid @MLB fan, it’s so cool to have the White Sox on our race car for the @NASCARChicago. pic.twitter.com/R4BiJOyY6f— Ty Dillon (@tydillon) June 8, 2023
How does a team with a win more recent than both the Chicago Bulls and Bears championships, a more city curse-breaking World Series than the Cubs, and a sponsored car in the actual race get ignored so casually?
This isn’t a NASCAR problem, or even a more recent one. Why have the Chicago White Sox repeatedly been ignored, shunned, or erased from Chicago’s history, and why do national outlets hate Chicago so much?
I knew this story was a big undertaking, so I had to prepare before heading down the rabbit hole. But first, I had to wake up from the deep slumber I surrendered to while watching race cars drive down a wet Columbus Drive slower than my dad on a casual trip to his favorite car wash.
It’s no secret that the media has sensationalized crime in Chicago, but I hadn’t realized how exaggerated it was until once, while on a necessary trip to Florida, I experienced a horrified reaction to my place of residence by a local.
“Oh my gosh, you’re from Chicago? Are there really bullets flying all over the place?”
I didn’t even attempt to correct her delusive beliefs with this Forbes article on the 15 most dangerous cities in the US, on which Chicago doesn’t even appear, so I gave her the deadpan lie.
“Yes. Every day.”
Upon investigating further into what perpetuates our city’s bad rap on Reddit, I couldn’t believe the cavalcade of fear-mongering posts, exclusively authored by out-of-towners and pearl-clutching suburbanites. The posts aren’t even noteworthy, often just illustrating the imaginative coping mechanisms they employ in order to convince themselves that they love living on the outskirts, even though we all know that’s impossible.
As a now decade-long North Sider, I can say with relative certainty that the South Side Bad lies aren’t discussed in my neighborhood, and I’ve only heard that narrative from people who don’t live in the city. I also have more White Sox fan neighbors on the North Side than I ever did on the South Side, if we’re speaking of actual fans and not geographical lip service, or the hat you’re supposed to have, so it’s not the North Side creating the divide.
So if it’s not North Siders, who is it? I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities.
Possibility: Mediocre area’s news anchors
While it’s true that there are some parts of the city that have a more concentrated crime rate due to gang activity, Guaranteed Rate Field is not in one of those areas. Bridgeport, as many residents can tell you, is full of welcoming neighbors, great restaurants, safe streets, and nice parks. But that’s not what the news broadcasts tell you when they’re sensationalizing Chicago crime.
I will once again point you to the statistics, without touching politics: St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Memphis are examples of large cities that have tended to have higher murder rates than Chicago in recent years, whether measuring by city limit or metro area. Why is there never any talk about the tourist-heavy cities whose crime rates far surpass ours, but the news has been incessantly shitting on Chicago for years? What would they gain from making Chicago, and specifically the South Side, look so bad?
At this point, we can only speculate, but I’d imagine it has something to do with a large number of the smaller cities’ news media trying to make people feel better about living in Tennessee or Indiana. I get it, I would be dreadfully jealous of Chicago, too, if I were stuck in some two-bit shitcosm surrounded by flat fields.
But Illinois taxes are high! Yeah, and I’ll gladly pay them to live in a world-class city on a beautiful lake.
Yeah, but I can afford a huge house for a quarter of the price out here in the sticks, so you guys are getting ripped off. I mean, again, I would rather have a smaller home in a world-class city than live in even the nicest landlocked culture-starved commerce bubble, but if having a huge house is important to your own perceived wealth, that still has nothing to do with Chicago, and everything to do with you. Also, have you ever eaten Chicago food? I’m reminded how spoiled we are every time I take a trip out of town, and am often let down by the food in even the most celebrated culinary cities.
OK, but I could never live around that many people. Yeah, there’s a lot of people here because so many people want to live here. Also, the neighbors in my building and on our block go out to dinner together, see shows, and enjoy the community events in our neighborhood, so the social climate alone is worth a crowded crosswalk on Michigan Avenue, or more walkers on the Lakefront Trail. When I voluntarily lived in an unnamed suburb for a stint, I was surrounded by weirdos, to put it kindly, and for some insane reason, creativity, friendliness, not going to church, and not having a conventional job made me a weirdo to them.
It’s highly unlikely that a person who’s so outspoken about how much they hate Chicago are happy where they live. There’s no other reason that a city would live rent-free in their heads, unless they’re deeply disturbed, or have some other hate-filled agenda. Maybe they’re watching too many news reports about how Chicago is unlivable and worse than Iraq. But would the chorus of even a thousand news anchors affect the South Side so badly that an entire baseball team is ignored? Probably not. Maybe it’s a more localized issue. Maybe the problem is coming from our own backyard.
Possibility: Big Wrigley
The large majority of annoying Cubs fans I’ve met have admittedly been out-of-towners, i.e. suburbanites, who treat the area around Wrigley Field like a bar without a live baseball game. These Wrigley Rats may or may not know how many strikes a batter is given before he’s out, but they’re great at throwing garbage on the street, parking like dickbags, puking on my car, or washing up in my neighborhood after games, not knowing how they got here. A little-known secret amongst those of us with Cubs fan friends who actually like baseball: They also hate those Cubs fans who barrel into Wrigley and treat it like the dilapidated piss palace that it is, enough to leave games early to avoid the slovenly crowds.
Most of my North Side neighbors are vocal about being White Sox fans, a delightful surprise I didn’t plan for before I moved here a decade ago. Sometimes, on rare occasions, I’ll see an errant Cubs shirt. I actually see one right now as I’m looking out my window. A person in Cubs gear is usually an indicator that there’s a game, and one only need to follow the Cubs logo to make it slightly south to Wrigley from here.
Even my Cubs fan friends can acknowledge that Guaranteed Rate Field far surpasses Wrigley in food, cleanliness, parking, family events, ticket prices, giveaways, traffic, accessibility, and more, and that the majority of Chicago baseball fans they know from the city are also White Sox fans. So besides being from out of town, where do these Cubs fans come from? More importantly, who gains from White Sox media eradication?
That’s right, Big Wrigley. If there’s only one baseball team on the radar in Chicago, even if they’re a worse team than the White Sox, they stand to benefit, and they don’t even need us locals to be fans. The Chicago Cubs’ national exposure for generations has produced a nation of random Cubs fans who are too scared to venture outside of the friendly confines, and probably only because of that moniker. With the built-in, low-standards fanbase, there are guaranteed ticket sales. And with the addition of the Draft Kings Sportsbook rectangle of purgatory that they added onto Wrigley Field (which somehow made that black hole even more of an eyesore), it’s clear that the powers-that-be are more focused on making money than they are on winning championships. I can say the same thing, and worse, about the White Sox ownership and front office, but the White Sox have nothing to lose if the Cubs are successful. Having no competition, a perceived “friendly” area, and the promise of feeding their addictions to both gambling and booze, Big Wrigley stands to gain a lot with White Sox erasure.
But wait, that can’t be it either, because Big Wrigley has nothing to do with national news, rankings, or NASCAR. If it’s not the news or the competition across town, what is it? Lori Lightfoot? No, she’s not mayor anymore. Urlacher’s hair? No, that doesn’t even really exist. Wait, maybe that’s it.
Possibility: Goodbye, Chicago?
Maybe the White Sox don’t exist, or they won’t in their current iteration in the future. Owner John Fisher purposely sabotaged the once-great Oakland Athletics organization to implosion, both literally with a crumbling, feral cat nest-supporting Coliseum, and figuratively by stiffing his minor leaguers and forgetting to pay the rent, all in preparation to move the team to Las Vegas while turning a profit off loyal fans.
By pissing off the majority of fans in moves I refuse to rehash for the millionth time, is it possible that Jerry Reinsdorf has kicked off his version of “silent quitting?” Does he want White Sox fans to keep up the chorus of “sell the team” so he can walk away with a guarantee to a buyer that the fan base will be exhilarated upon the sale, opening their wallets wide in anticipation for a competitive season? A new owner, a fresh front office, and another from-scratch rebuild would be something an exhausted White Sox fan base would welcome, even if it means suffering a losing team for another decade during a rebuild. As long as we’re sold hope, we’d buy anything at this point.
The likeliest possibility is that maybe it isn’t that deep. Maybe the White Sox are just a team forgotten, in a neighborhood whose city invests less in potholes and public transportation, because no one thinks the South Side is worth investing in for whatever reason.
But as a now-permanent North Sider with South Side roots, I guarantee you, White Sox fans, that the South Side will rise again, one way or another. Happy Independence Day, and let’s go, Albuquerque White Sox. I’ll root for anyone before I root for the Cubs.