A random entry from off by one

T Mon Mar 14 12:21:41 friendly confines vs. us sellout field:

I will definitely miss Wrigley Field.

I will not miss U.S. Cellular Field (formerly known as Comiskey Park).

In Chicago, a lot is often assumed based on your answer to the question "What baseball team do you root for?" It's a little, but not completely, ridiculous. There's a lot of history and ugliness that goes into the question. What side of town do you live on. What kind of money do you have? Who is better than who?

The Cubs play on the North Side in Wrigley Field, the second-oldest (by 2 years to the Red Sox Fenway Park in Boston) ballpark in Major League Baseball. [Wrigley Field was originally called Weeghman Park when it was built for a new baseball team in the ill-fated Federal League]. The Cubs are now owned by the Tribune Company, which publishes the more traditional, white-collar, and philosophically conservative Chicago Tribune. The Park is smack dab in the bustling North Side near Lincoln Park, the lake, and sandwiched between the hip Belmont and Irving Park neighboorhoods. You can fall off the bleachers at Wrigley and into any one of a number of hip sports bars or comedy clubs. This is because the North Side of Chicago is the so-called "right side" of the tracks, and the Cubs have -- if you believe the hype -- the support of the wealthy, the snobby, and the white.

On the other end of town, across the freeway from the projects (no, really), stands Comiskey Park... I mean, U.S. Cellular Field (U.S. Cellular bought the naming rights a few years ago). It is way down past the loop in the middle of run down housing projects, industrial areas, and 8 lanes of freeway traffic. If you fell out of the seats at Comiskey, first of all, you'd die the seats are so high, but secondly, there's nowhere you'd probably want to go unless you're comfortable with the neighborhood. And if you believe the hype, White Sox fans are all blue collar or minorities (or maybe just South Siders).

The truth is always more complicated than the stereotypes. Simple geography means that most North Siders root for the Cubs (or at least attend games at Wrigley), and most South Siders root for the Sox (or attend at Comiskey) -- it just takes too long to go to the other park. And hey, don't we like to have a team to cheer for and a team to boo for? What's a little cross-town rivalry among friends? Also, as it stands *nowadays*, the North Side (at least where Wrigley is) is economically better off than the South Side (at least where Comiskey is). Property values go up and down, and that affects ticket prices and availability. Wrigley is smaller and supply and demand makes ticket prices higher, and it hasn't always been that way. Comiskey is huge and rarely sells out, which keeps ticket prices cheaper in comparison to the Cubs.

But the truth is also that socioeconomic and geographic and historical realities dictate that the crowds at Wrigley are whiter and wealthier than crowds at Sox Park, and that reality is hard to miss. Unfortunately, the factors that have gone into creating that reality are not just chance and the invisible hand of the market. Perhaps someday, if we all live long enough, rich cyborgs will all go to Cellular field to watch games and the poor will scrape their credits together and go to Wrigley. Who knows.

I'm not making light of the disparity -- honestly, it disgusts me -- and frankly, the worst part of Cubs games are the obnoxious, fratty fans. But I think the ugly side to the Cubs/Sox rivalry is really a symptom of a larger inequality -- and the stigmas associated with both teams (depending on what side you're on) won't change until the underlying inequalities do.

So I guess that one more thing I won't miss is all the crap and analysis and guilt and evil that goes into just saying which baseball team you like more.

Anyway, I'm going to miss Wrigley Field, and I'm not going to miss Comiskey.

Wrigley Field is how baseball was meant to be played. The park is beautiful. The outfield walls are covered in ivy and you can see Lake Michigan from the stands and as the sun sets at the end of a day game it makes you feel like you're in a dream. You really can feel like you've gone back in time and you're sitting in those seats in the 1920s watching Babe Ruth call out his homers. Sox Park by comparison is a gigantic, ugly, concrete monstrosity out of the 1990s. The upper deck seats are so steep, you really feel like if you stood up and fell, you might land on the field. Plus, you're so far away, it's like you're watching from the Goodyear blimp. Worst of all though, the seats are so narrow, you can't help but invade other people's personal space. Even most of the die-hard Sox fans I know lament the loss of the historic Old Comiskey park.

The Cubs are the North Side's team. Due to whatever history (good, bad, and indifferent), I ended up living on the North Side, and that's the team we root for up here. I'm sure that if I lived on the south side, I'd root for the Sox. I just wouldn't like my ballpark as much. I'd probably make cracks about those cake-eating Cubs fans. And Cubs fans would annoy me even more than they do now.

Lastly, I'm a sucker for the loveable underdog. And the Cubs have definitely been that... they haven't won the Championship since 1908.


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