Monday, August 13, 2012

Characterizing the Fanbases #6: Chicago White Sox

Welcome to the latest installment of Characterizing the Fanbases! In this series I’m attempting to present the psychology of every MLB fanbase. This series, as you would expect, comes with a disclaimer: These characterizations are based on my own perceptions and opinions, and no offense is intended by them. I freely admit that I’m only one man, and my view is therefore limited. I’m fully aware that many fans will not fit the profile I depict, and that’s to be expected, because it’s impossible to make blanket statements about large groups of people. If you want to contest anything I write here, feel free to leave a thoughtful, civil comment. Otherwise, sit back and have fun reading. Perhaps I might even say something insightful!

I’m a White Sox fan as well as a Cub fan, so right up front I don’t fit the stereotype. Most diehard Sox fans flat-out loathe the Cubs, and I’m not always completely accepted among them when I reveal my dual fandom. Having an insider’s perspective though, I think I’m qualified to give the assessment that follows.

Frankly speaking, a large number of White Sox fans have an inferiority complex. On a national scale they’ve been overshadowed in their own city by the Cubs, despite the fact that they’ve had more success over the years. They frequently feel like victims of media bias (not altogether unjustifiably), and many of them react with an “us-against-the-world” attitude. While they outwardly resent the lack of respect, they also sort of like it, because it gives them something to rally around. Remember when the Sox had the AL’s best record in 2005 and still got ignored by the national media going into the playoffs? You’d better believe that being doubted made winning the World Series that much sweeter for Sox fans.

The South Side of Chicago is known for being the blue collar section of town, and as such, many Sox fans love players they see as scrappy, gritty, gutsy, and all those other terms that became so popularly maligned during the heyday of Fire Joe Morgan. In the era of pitcher-friendly Old Comiskey the Sox were often built on smallball and defense, so fittingly, Sox fans were used to watching guys who seemed less like supermen and more like everymen.

Even though the Sox have become better known for their home run power since New Comiskey opened, the old mentality maintains some presence among the fanbase. To reference the 2005 team again, the fact that the Sox won it with a balanced roster whose primary strengths were pitching and speed (as opposed to a lineup anchored by superstar sluggers) couldn’t have played into the traditional Sox fan ideal any better.

White Sox fans don’t quite have a national reputation, because the media has never really paid much attention to them. 1918 was a part of baseball lore for many years as a symbol of aching futility in the face of eternal devotion, while 1917 was a year no one had any particular reason to know anything about. When the Sox finally ended their drought, there was no league-wide fanfare like the Red Sox got the year before, just a simple congratulation before everyone moved on with their lives. Unfair? Perhaps a bit, but Sox fans wouldn’t have it any other way. They thrive on their spot in the shadows, and they’d go through an identity crisis if their team were suddenly one of the cool kids.

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