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Baseball Mon Sep 15 2008

Meanwhile, Back At 'The Cell'...

It was an ironic move that wasn't lost on White Sox fans.

When ESPN made the necessary switch from the White Sox/Detroit Tigers waterlogged game Sunday (Game 2 of a doubleheader) to the dramatic conclusion of the Cubs/Houston Astros neutral-site game in Milwaukee, it was a microcosm of the 2008 baseball season in Chicago.

There were the White Sox, sloshing and slogging their way through a hastily arranged doubleheader on a dreary, grey, overcast slit-your-wrists kind of evening. Still, despite that depressing scenario and in front of a crowd only slightly larger than most high school graduating classes, the Sox had managed to stake a 7-0 lead, giving a national audience at least a glimpse of the kind of run-scoring ability they possess (Good thing they weren't around for their catnap against the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the week). And when the lead was cut slightly to 7-2, there was some concern but nothing to cause one to throw their giant White Sox foam finger at the television in anger.

Cut suddenly to the Cubs and yet another memorable asterisk on an already-charmed season (And yes, I know their success this season has come through hard work and not simply charms or luck, etc., so save the dirty emails). Sure, it was a bit disconcerting for a Sox fan to find himself sitting on his couch one minute and trying to coax the team to a rare doubleheader win, and in a snap get dropped right into the middle of a Cub frenzy with history in the offing. But even a South Side supporter could understand ESPN pulling the switcheroo. There is, however, still the irony.

There aren't many Sox fans who could begrudge the intrusion of Carlos Zambrano on their Sunday evening baseball watching. After all, we are talking about a no-hitter, one that has eluded the Cubs since 1972. And Zambrano may be the one Cub that Sox fans could actually cheer for (A volatile Chicago baseball personality from Venezuela? Sound like anyone you know?) Maybe, just maybe, a few Sox fans even cheered a little for that last strike. A little.

Still, there was something ironic-yet-familiar about the whole thing. Quite a few White Sox fans, whether justified or not, still harbor the sentiment that their team is unfairly relegated to red-headed-stepchild status when placed next to the Cubs, not only locally but nationally. So when their team gets a rare nationally showcased regular season game, only to be one-upped by the Cubs (again), well, you figured a few of them had to be saying, "Aw, c'mon, AGAIN with these guys?"

It didn't help matters when ESPN returned to the Sox-Tigers game and Sox fans were greeted with the sight of a tie ballgame, that one-time 7-0 lead having been magically erased (well, if you consider ineffectual bullpens "magical".). That the White Sox held on to win, thanks to some late heroics by Dewayne Wise probably prevented a few suicides, thought they'll be plenty of opportunity to finish that thought with games in New York and Minnsota coming up this week.

But as crazy as the evening (heck, the whole day) was, it probably painted the 2008 Chicago baseball season as well as anything else possibly could. The White Sox, continuing their backwards stumble to the AL Central title, managing to succeed despite themselves and somehow, somehow coming out of this whole soggy weekend with a one-and-a-half game lead. The Cubs, with their improbable one-hundred-years-later push for the playoffs, upstaging everything with yet another made-for-TV performance and garnering headlines across the nation and showing that this NL dominance thing just might be for real. Yet both continuing on a course toward the same goal.

Oh, the irony.

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