Just another team.
Once in the not-too distant past, that was all we as fans aspired for the White Sox to be. Quiet. Unnoticed. Winning every now and then.
Going unnoticed would have meant no one was taking cheap shots at the awful new park Jerry Reinsdorf had blackmailed the state into paying for. Going unnoticed would have meant the team hadn’t made SportsCenter highlight reels only when some jackass ran onto the field to punch out an umpire or another team’s coach. Going unnoticed would have meant there were no spectacular playoff letdowns to talk about. Going unnoticed would have meant we saw more of our outfielders go to the All-Star Game than to jail for fighting a fan beneath the Milwaukee bleachers.
But that was then, and times change.
After all that went right in 2005, and all that went wrong last year, the Sox are essentially back where they started, albeit with tickets at a significantly higher premium. The team’s long tradition of roster purges and losing any and all free agents is still in full effect, with two-fifths of this year’s pitching staff long gone and Mark Buehrle and Joe Crede already being fitted for Cardinal and Yankee uniforms, respectively.
How do I know this? By virtue of being raised with the Sox fan mentality: don’t look forward. Ever. Looking forward means getting excited about impending first-round losses, banking on superstar injuries, buying into pools on what other team essential players will defect to, and just what ridiculous thing the team will do next to leave fans wondering what the front office is on. Selling the starting times to the highest bidder? Awful trades? Engineering a players’ strike? Having to rename the park in order to finally make it into something respectable fifteen years after it first opened?
True, they won in it all 2005. True, there are more people coming out to the park these days. True, Sox gear is no longer to be worn only in secret and in shame. True, it’s possible the Twins and Indians won’t revert to their old habits of embarrassing the rest of the division. True, there’s a chance the 2007 Tigers will fall short of expectations in a way we haven’t seen since. . . well, since the 2006 White Sox.
It doesn’t matter. A win yesterday means nothing compared to the possibility of a loss tomorrow. To the Sox fan, that’s the way it is. Losing is not cute and never acceptable, but winning everything now is never enough.
To those new fans we say welcome, but don’t expect too much more than what the Sox faithful have been wanting all along. Just under 3 million people are going to come out to the park this year to see the Good Guys play some just-above-average baseball in an okay park. Finally, tragically, the Southsiders have a chance to be what we always knew they could be.
Just another team.