"Cubs suck!" "Expletive!" "Cubs expletiving suck!" Homophobic t-shirts! Veiled racist t-shirts! Drunken fights in the stands! Oh, and baseball.
I've seen a lot of memorable moments in person since the Crosstown Classic began in 1997. I saw Frank Thomas blast a home run at Wrigley Field. I saw Ray Durham's 14th-inning walk-off single from the last row of the upper deck at pre-renovation Comiskey Park. I saw the fight and both of Tadahito Iguchi's home runs. I saw A.J. Pierzynski hit a grand slam at Wrigley Field the next year. I saw Ryan Theriot perfectly execute a squeeze to lead the Cubs to a win. I saw Nick Swisher hit a grand slam. And last year, I had a perfect view into the Cubs' dugout to see Carlos Zambrano go postal on Derrek Lee.
Those are what I think about when I think of Cubs-Sox. Unfortunately, off the field, my memories aren't as positive.
"Wrigley Field: World's Largest Gay Bar" t-shirts everywhere. "Carlos Zambrano mows my lawn" or "Ozzie Guillen mows my lawn." People inserting "Cubs" or "White Sox" into George Carlin's seven words you can't say on TV bit. Fights starting because I'm drunk and angry that you think your baseball team is better than my baseball team. All in the atmosphere of a Cubs-Sox game, I guess.
I'm not one who is easily offended, and I can hardly say I'm offended by what goes on at Cubs-Sox games. Annoyed is a better way to put it.
Don't get me wrong, the atmosphere at Cubs-Sox is great as long as you're away from the lowbrow fans—which, for the record, exist on both sides of town. I want the Sox to beat the Cubs more than any other National League team. But I'd rather the Sox beat the Twins, Tigers, Indians, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles Rangers, Mariners, Athletics or Angels (note: the Royals are exempt, but I'll get to that later).
I'm totally cool with wanting to beat the snot out of the Cubs. But, at the end of the day, feeling satisfied with four out of six wins from the North Siders is mindless.
Take this year, for example. If the Sox win the coveted BP Crosstown Cup, they'll have taken the season series from a fifth-place team in the National League. In a vacuum, that's really not much of an accomplishment. It'd be like celebrating a series victory over San Diego with fireworks and an awkward trophy presentation.
Or the Cubs, in 2007, when they thoroughly dominated the White Sox. The White Sox were a terrible team that year, evidenced by the fact Andy Gonzalez hit second on numerous occasions. For the Cubs, the White Sox were of no concern as they stormed to a division title.
But I'm not stupid, and even the most cynical commentator on Cubs-Sox has to admit there's added enjoyment to beating your crosstown rival. The fact that so many people put an emphasis on beating the Cubs or beating the Sox is what makes these games fun—again, as long as you're at a safe distance from the people who go so far to wear offensive t-shirts or start fights.
I'm still pretty young—for the record, Dayan Viciedo was born about two months after me—and not too long ago, I was part of the group that really hated the Cubs. It probably was because I was in such close proximity to immature Cubs fans, being an immature high school student in Oak Park. Getting away from that for four years—and gaining some maturity—put a half to my loathing of the Cubs.*
*Of course, it made me kind of dislike the Cardinals and gain an odd soft spot for the Royals.
Being away from the Cubs, along with growing up, cured me of any hatred of the North Side club. I don't obsessively check Cubs scores anymore to gain a little bit of pleasure from another team's loss. I don't dismiss the Cubs in any way. I thoroughly enjoy going to games at Wrigley Field and overpaying for Old Style (which, I was surprised to find out, isn't all that bad anymore). When I do go to Cubs games, I'm not that jerk who wears Sox stuff there. Neutrality. The Cubs are like Switzerland.
It's really not that hard to stop caring about the Cubs. You don't have to live in another state to do it. Just concentrate your fandom on the White Sox and the AL Central instead of reserving some of it toward a disdain of the Cubs.
This isn't a plea, either. If you want to go on hating the Cubs, go on hating the Cubs. I suppose there has to be enough hatred on both sides to make this thing worthwhile to play.
Just don't count me in as one of the haters.