over the last few weeks in chicago, much has been made of the fact that the white sox are in the playoffs and the cubs are not. among a number of debates, a central debate is whether one can be "just a chicago fan" - in other words, root for whichever team is in the playoffs that year. i may be oversimplifying that a bit, but that's the general issue: in a city with two teams, can you root for both?
no. no, no, no. you can't. at least not in chicago.
that is the nature of rivalry. and what chicago has is not simply two baseball teams, but an ongoing rivalry between two baseball teams. sure, one is in the american league and one is in the national, and they only meet head-to-head six times a year (and potentially in the world series). but in reality, they meet and compete every day, angling for the support and encouragment of their city (or, at least, their portion of it). much has been made about how even though there are two teams, this is a cubs town, and arguments have raged over what has made that so (hint: starts with Tribune, ends with Company). so there's a topdog/underdog dynamic, and there's a regional dynamic of northside/southside.
ok, we know all that. my point is this: when all of these battle lines have already been drawn for so long, when all of these epic struggles have been waged over the decades, someone rooting for both teams is an impossibility. you are a fan of one, or the other. if that's not the case, you're not a fan at all. i wouldn't want cubs fans to root for the white sox this post season, just as i did not root for the cubs in 2003 (as a transplant to chicago, my allegiance to the white sox was cemented by BoyCat's south suburban upbringing). i want cubs fans to stay cubs fans, and be proud of it. insult me about the alleged cavernousness of The Cell, make fun of our spasm-waiting-to-happen of a manager, taunt us for being second class and not worth the time. that way, i can with a clear conscience taunt you about the fact that "the world's biggest beer garden" isn't meant as a compliment, and how i've never encountered such an unknowledgeable fan base, and well, Jeromy Burnitz is just ugly.
see? isn't this fun? it's what rivalry is about. it's life or death, self versus other - it is about how we define our very selves. it's about what we are not - that hated "other," that thing-that-is-not-me. that means that i can respect that something is "other," and yet at the same time stand in opposition to it at all times. it makes the whole engine go.
an example: a more elemental allegiance in my life than the one to the white sox is the one to the boston red sox. i was born and bred in massachusetts, and therefore i am a red sox fan (don't get me started on people who try to be hardcore fans of teams located in places from where they did not come. that's a whole 'nother post). i also, therefore, hate the yankees with a white hot hatred that makes my eyes glaze. it's part and parcel. however - i have friends who are yankees fans. i have watched yankees-red sox games with these friends, and managed not to have the evening end with blood spilled all over the floor. this is because i respect their existence as yankees fans (again, as long as the requistite residency requirement was filled at some point). i also do not hesitate to mock them mercilessly for having been born a yankees fan, all the while understanding that without yankees fans, you couldn't have true red soxs fans.
don't understand? you must not be from the I-95 corridor. or from chicago.