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When the only thing left for White Sox fans is beating the Cubs

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, shown talking with reporters last month, says the team is "mired in mediocrity.'' Beating the Cubs won't change that, but it might feel good. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

The more tribal among White Sox fans will say that a good day consists of their team winning and the Cubs losing. And, OK, they’re not going to lie to you: The Sox losing and the Cubs losing isn’t a bad day either.

It doesn’t seem like much of an existence, this living for the failure of the enemy, but when your own team is struggling and has been for the better part of a decade, it might be all you’ve got.

I have good news for Sox fans: A provisional four-day New Year’s party is almost upon you – provisional in that it’s going to require your team playing inspired baseball. “Inspired” and “baseball’’ have not been a tag team on the South Side for what feels like ages.

The White Sox and the Cubs meet in the Crosstown Series starting Monday, with two games at The Cell followed by two at Wrigley Field. The Sox have fallen asleep at the table this season, foreheads in the mashed potatoes, with general manager Rick Hahn acknowledging Thursday what everybody knows, that the team is “mired in mediocrity.’’ What says “come out to the ball park!’’ more than that phrase?

But, as insignificant as it might seem to anybody else, beating the Cubs three of four might put a skip in the step of Sox fans, who feel like they have been kicking a can down a hot, dusty road since the 2005 World Series. Some of them would like a bone thrown their way. They are under no illusion that things are going to get better. How could they be after so many listless seasons? So a bone, a small one, doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

I’ve been in the middle of the mad wrestling match between Cubs and White Sox fans my entire life. And if I’m reading the current situation correctly, the Sox had better play better during this four-game matchup, or else. It’s not acceptable to start the season well and then fall off a cliff, as the Sox have done. But it’s really, really not acceptable to start the season well, fall off a cliff and lose to the Cubs in embarrassing fashion.

Sox fans have every reason to both roll their eyes and be envious of the Cubs. The fanboy lovefest on the North Side is out of control. Listen to enough of the talk shows on the team’s flagship radio station and your blood-sugar levels will spike. But the Cubs have built themselves into winners with a strategy of stockpiling draft picks, making shrewd trades and spending money on free agents. What’s there to hate about that?

A Cubs-like rebuild would be prudent for the Sox, but the question I asked in print the other day won’t go away: Do you want the same people who got the franchise into this mess doing the rebuilding?

The Sox aren’t just mired in mediocrity; they’re infused with it. Where is there hope? In possibly trading ace Chris Sale, one of the best pitchers in baseball, for top prospects? That feels more like embalming than rebuilding.

Not to bring up the Sox’ inability to attract fans – not to bring up the elephant smashing the furniture in the room – but they rank 26th out of 30 major-league teams in attendance. The Braves, who have the worst record in baseball, are 25th. To be sure, this is an age-old problem for the Sox that not even winning seems to be able to solve. But it’s another piece of the bog that is this franchise.

For too long, the South Side has been the place where baseball goes to die. Expecting the Sox to show signs of life against the Cubs is probably expecting too much. But what else do the Sox and their fans have? Flirting with a .500 record is like flirting with a mannequin.

Todd Frazier is a fine third baseman, and he was tied for the major-league lead in home runs with 28 heading into Friday’s game. But he also was hitting .217, which is so Sox. Frazier is somewhere on the Adam LaRoche-Adam Dunn continuum.

When the big news of the season is a player (LaRoche) retiring because the team asked that he “dial back’’ his 14-year-old son’s presence in the clubhouse, well, it’s not much of a season.

Look, the four games against the Cubs are about the only thing for Sox fans to embrace right now. The players themselves likely won’t be amped because they’re not emotionally invested in city bragging rights. Also, they’re still napping.

A split with the Cubs? Three of four? A sweep? A fan base can dream, even while mired.