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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Must Mention the White Sox

White Sox = World Champions. Now there is a statement that has not been true for a very long time. I plugged into the Sox when I hit the Chicago area in the late 1970's - I was at opening day in old Comiskey Park in 1977, cheered for the "South Side Hitmen" owned by Bill Veeck. Harry Carey and Jimmy Piersal were in the broadcast booth. Richie Zisk, Greg Luzinski, Oscar Gamble (with the cool 'fro). Chet Lemon, LaMar Hoyt on the mound, etc. etc. The shower in the center field bleachers. I followed the Sox with great interest until old Comiskey was pulled down in 1990. The new Sox Park is uggg-leee. I drifted away - I re-married, had two more children with my beautiful new wife, and found that baseball was not a high priority. But I missed the game. Forgive me - I even started going to see the Cubs because Wrigley Field is so marvelous. This past season has forced me to re-engage as a Sox fan.

The 2005 White Sox took off like a rocket - a 15 game lead at the beginning of September! Of course, none of the long-time Sox fans believed that this could continue, and it did not. The lead shrank to 1 1/2 games by the end of September. But the collective spines of the Sox stiffened and they won the division. Then real magic began - The World Champion Red Sox - swept out in 3 games; the former World Champion Angels - handled in 5 games; and the "never done nuthin" Astros - swept in 4. So Ozzie Guillen and his crew - Konerko, Dye, Podsednik, Crede, Garland, Garcia, Jenks, Uribe, and, yes, even Geoff Blum - have made all White Sox fans deliriously happy and connected to each other.

Why do we care about baseball or any team sport? Here is my theory - humans are gregarious creatures that crave community. We have organized in large urban mobs that make it hard to connect and love each other. Baseball teams (and football and basketball) are our proxies for the large extended families we all want. After the Sox became world champs, I could join a large family here in the Chicagoland area simply by wearing my Sox cap. Strangers smile at me and we have shared experiences that we can speak about together. White, black, Latino - we are family when we talk about Uribe's dive into the stands, Konerko's hitting, Dye's sterling offensive and defensive play. Yes, sports are a blessing to humans.

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