We sing the songs our fathers sang when they were growing up
Rebel songs of Erin’s Isle in South Side Irish pubs
And when it comes to baseball, we have two favorite clubs
The Go-Go White Sox, and whoever plays the Cubs!
– “South Side Irish,” by Tom Black and Terry McEldowney
On the morning of the Cubs’ parade and victory rally to celebrate their 2016 World Series victory, I had a television assignment that took me to Grant Park in the pre-dawn hours and kept me there until the moment when the fans were let in.
It was a little after 10 a.m., and the sea of blue-clad Cubbie fans soon turned into a tsunami.
That’s when I decided I’d walk home. It took me about an hour to make the journey, as I was one of the few humans in downtown Chicago who were EXITING the area. At one point a couple of friendly Chicago Police officers actually helped carve a path for me, as one of them said, “What are you, nuts!”
No, not nuts. Just a White Sox fan.
There was a time when I adhered to that “South Side Irish” line about actively rooting against the Cubs. Over the years, though, my attitude mellowed. As a fan of baseball, I enjoyed going to Wrigley Field. (I wouldn’t root for the Cubs, but I wouldn’t root against them.)
I have a number of relatives and close friends who are hardcore Cubs fans. As the Cubs were marching to the World Series in ’16, it seemed silly to be rooting against them and thus rooting against people I really cared about having the chance for the moment I had when the White Sox won it all in 2005.
Still. It never occurred to me to stick around for that rally after my work duties were completed. For me, a Cubs World Series parade and party had all the significance of a championship celebration for the Golden State Warriors or the New England Patriots or Manchester United.
Some Sox fans will tell you the Cubs have always been the glamour team in Chicago, always had the most media coverage, always been the darlings of celebrities and fair-weather fans.
That’s not historically accurate; there were long stretches of time when attendance at White Sox games far outnumbered attendance on the North Side, when Wrigley Field was like a ghost town in August and September as the Cubbies fumbled and bumbled their way to another disastrous showing.
But yes, the Cubs DO seem to occupy a more exalted place in the national consciousness and in the popular culture these days.
That doesn’t mean the White Sox haven’t had their moments of pop culture significance.
Check out the underappreciated “Only the Lonely” (1991) sometime. It’s essentially an update on the classic “Marty,” with John Candy as Danny Muldoon, a 40ish Chicago cop and lifelong bachelor with an overbearing mother (Maureen O’Hara). When Danny works up the courage to take a shy young woman (Ally Sheedy) on a date, they go on a picnic — on the field at Comiskey Park.
In “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997), Cameron Diaz plays Kimmy, whose family has a skybox at Comiskey. (Remember those terrible blue seats from that era? Yeesh.) There’s a key scene in the women’s restroom at Comiskey, and I could be wrong, but I think that’s the only time a bathroom in a ballpark has been the setting for a pivotal scene in a major motion picture.
The “Black Sox” of 1919 threw the World Series in one of the worst scandals in the history of sports — but hey, at least we got “Eight Men Out,” one of the better movies about baseball, with John Cusack as Buck Weaver, Charlie Sheen as Hap Felsch, David Straitharn as Eddie Cicotte and D.B. Sweeney as Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Shoeless Joe Jackson also appears in “Field of Dreams,” with Ray Liotta coming out of the cornfield to play some ball. (How the filmmakers could turn Jackson from a left-handed hitter into a righty is beyond me. Come on guys.)
Oh, and there’s this. You know that tradition where a visiting celebrity or a former Cubs great leads the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at Wrigley? And everybody talks about how it started with the legendary Harry Caray?
That’s true. It did start with Harry. On the South Side.
When he was calling games for the White Sox.