Unlike most of the nation, I have been watching the World Series (which, for those of you who couldn't care less, features the Chicago White Sox vs. the Houston Astros). Having grown up in Northern Illinois and lived in Chicago for more than 15 years, I tend to root for Chicago sports teams, despite living in Portland. Well, I don't really care about hockey, college football, or basketball, so I root primarily for the Chicago Bears, and, to a lesser extent, the Chicago Cubs. I generally pay a little attention to what the Chicago White Sox are up to, but not much.
Chicago is one of the rare cities that boasts TWO major league baseball teams. The clubs are eerily similar: both have been in existence for more than a century. Both also have a miserable record of ineptitude in regards to making it to the World Series. The Cubs last were there in 1945, and last won a Series in 1908. The White Sox last were in the Series in 1959 and last won a Series in 1917.
Think about that for a moment. Neither team has won a World Series since the end of the First World War.
Now, given this excruciating legacy of crapitude, one might think that, while there would be a friendly rivalry between the two clubs, if the Sox or the Cubs were to make it to the Series, the entire city of Chicago would root for that team.
One would be sadly mistaken.
White Sox fans have a long history of HATING the Cubs. Cubs fans tend to be happy to return the favor. This despite the fact that one is a National League team is one is an American League team, and thus each clubs' performance has no effect on the other.
The reasons for this animosity are complex. The Cubs play on the north side of Chicago and the Sox on the south side. So there is a regional aspect. Also, the south side tends to be more "blue collar" and the north more "white collar." So there's a social aspect to it as well...a plumber from the south side is likely to be a Sox fan. A marketing executive from the north side is invariably a Cub fan. Personally, I think a lot of the conflict has to do with Cub games being broadcast on WGN, one of the first cable superstations. Everyone across America had a chance to watch the struggles of the Cubs and relate to them, and thus the Cubs became a sort of "lovable loser" club -- the "Ziggy" of Major League Baseball. Meanwhile, the Sox sucked in relative obscurity, and Sox fans are understandably envious of the Cubs' notoriety. After all, it's not as if the Cubs have achieved a lot more success than the Sox. In fact, the opposite is true.
While I would prefer the Cubs to be in the Series, the fact that ANY Chicago team is there is a reason to rejoice. After all, historically a Chicago team winning the series has been more rare than Halley's Comet! Therefore, I will watch the games and root for the Sox. Don't get me wrong...I'm not going to run out and buy a Sox hat and a Paul Konerko jersey and yell "Woooo! I'm a Sox fan!" That would be, at best, disingenuous. But there are a few Cub fans I have talked to who can't STAND the idea of the Sox being World Champions. They would rather the Yankees win it again, which is akin to saying "I'd rather Bill Gates won the Powerball rather than my stupid next door neighbor! I don't CARE that my neighbor is a quadriplegic living in poverty!"
Now I understand what the new Iraqi government is up against. Tribal allegiances are artificial constructs, but nevertheless more powerful than common sense and rationality. But we can hope that the Sunnis and the Shiites have more sense than Cub fans and Sox fans.