Choosing Sides

We moved to Chicago in 2010 and told Robert straightaway, “We have to pick a team. Cubs or White Sox.” For Robert, there was no picking to be done: he was a Cubs fan. Not a die-hard fan, but fan enough to have owned a ratty old baseball cap since his first year of college in the city, and fan enough to have taken me to see the Cubs play the Astros when I visited him in Houston once. He doesn’t love baseball, but he doesn’t see the point in being contrary when we live in the heart of Cubs territory. Plus, our favorite thing about the sport is the history of it, and that’s about the only thing the Cubs have going for them.

I wasn’t sold. I’m a contrarian by nature. When my family lived in Columbus, Ohio for five years and my dad’s job was affiliated with Ohio State, I found an old University of Michigan t-shirt at a resale shop and wore it everywhere. [How obnoxious, right?] I also perpetually root for the underdog. That’s really the reason I went to law school to become a criminal defense attorney — criminals are the only group of people who don’t have lobbyists. Now, I know the Cubs are technically the ultimate underdog, but it doesn’t feel like it in Chicago, not when Wrigley is nestled in one of the wealthiest areas in the city and U.S. Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park) is in the beleaguered South Side. I didn’t want to be just another post-college yuppie living in Lakeview and half-heartedly rooting for a legendary team, even if they are bad.

Not being a baseball fan, I got away with not making a choice for two years. Today, though, I made up my mind. I left work at 6:00. That’s one of the perks of my new job, that I can do that sometimes. I left work at 6:00 and I made it to the subway platform moments before a train pulled up. It’s always crowded at this time of day, but tonight it was impossibly so. Lines 5-6 people deep spanned the length of the platform, and the train was already overflowing. I had to let three trains go past, and noticed that they all chugged along slowly, under the weight of their rush hour cargo. When I finally squeezed onto the fourth, I started to wonder who all these people were. It wasn’t the normal commuter crowd. It was louder, and more unpleasant. One guy kept screaming “Nudge, don’t push!” when people tried to get on the train behind him, never mind that he was practically climbing on top of the unobjecting girl in front of him. Another girl kept squealing and grabbing her friend my the shoulders whenever the train jerked, as though she’d never been on public transportation before. Three red-faced Big Dudes made a tight circle in the middle of the car and intimidated everyone else out of their sacred space, even though the rest of us were rubbing against each other, pressed into seats and the ends of the car. I saw a handful of cubs hats and shirts, but no more than you’d see in any gathering of people in this city. And then I started to look more closely. I saw blue collars poking out of fleecy winter coats. I saw baseball caps on heavily made up girls who would otherwise never be caught dead in such sporty attire. I saw people who were too drunk to be coming home from work at 6:00. When the train emptied out at Addison, which is just a block away from Wrigley, I knew I’d solved the mystery. It’s a game day. I also realized that I’ll be facing many similar commutes in the coming months, and that the perk of being able to leave work at 6:00 is completely undone when I can’t catch a train until 6:30 and then the train takes an hour to get me where I need to go and I can’t even read a book because I need my arms up to defend against aggressive baseball freaks.

So that’s it. That’s enough for me not to like the Cubs. It’s not enough for me to like the White Sox, but I can spend the rest of the season being curmudgeonly, which is good enough for me. I came home and I told Robert about my decision. He shrugged and said, “Let’s root for the Milwaukee Brewers.” I told you he wasn’t committed to baseball.

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