A journey of a million miles begins with a 0-0 start.
It was a Friday afternoon last July. I had finished all of my weekly tasks which meant there was only one thing left to focus on: opening night for the White Sox.
I’ve been a Sox fan my whole life. Gun to my head, if I have to choose only one sports team to watch for the rest of my life, I’m rescuing the Sox. The irrational emotional attachment that we have with sports teams—that’s me with the Sox.
The White Sox won the World Series in 2005. I was four years old. I remember some small but important fragments, like the final out of the series. I remember thinking, “this must happen a lot.”
Oh four-year-old me, you have much to learn.
The Sox missed the playoffs in ’06 and ’07 and failed to win more than one playoff game in ’08. Since the 2008 season, we (yes, “we”) have been to the playoffs a total of one time.
I’ve spent many summer nights chowing down on one-dollar hot dogs at “Dollar Dog Wednesday”, a promotional event the White Sox use to avoid having a half-empty ballpark (it’s always a half-full ballpark to me), as well as being a great (and cheap!) way of coping with the depression of being down nine in the top of the seventh as fans are already headed to the parking lot.
I’ve turned countless $10 outfield bleacher tickets into front-row, down-the-baseline seats when fans left early and I stubbornly stuck it out.
I’ve watched our rivals to the north, the Chicago C**s, win their first World Series since the production of the Model T, and all of the bandwagonism and centrism that came with that (“It’s a win for the city!”). I stayed loyal and didn’t celebrate.
I’ve experienced walk-offs in April on Friday Fireworks nights. Multiple times, I’ve looked up and thought, “this is too perfect. This is the year,” only to end up 73–89 and in fourth place in the division at season’s end.
I’ve been terrorized by Nelson Cruz for my entire adolescence into adulthood.
Every year I’ve told myself, “this year is going to be different.”
The old lie felt like less of a lie during the hours leading up to the first pitch of last season. We had acquired new and better players, including many of our young studs who over the last couple of years had been making up the Marvel Universe that is the Chicago White Sox farm system. Even Chicago C**s fans took me more seriously in our Decemberly debates about who would be better come spring. The best part: in a 60 game season, it was anyone’s year.
I was ready for the first pitch. Our ace, Lucas Giolito, was starting for us against the Minnesota Twins, our nemesis.
I settled in, took a deep breath, and smiled as I remembered all of the fond and not-so-fond memories I have of supporting the Sox through it all, as well as the innocent hopefulness that comes at the beginning of each year when every team has a record of 0–0.
My smile quickly withered away.
Max Kepler, the Minnesota Twins leadoff hitter, sent a 95 MPH fastball from Lucas Giolito into the full-empty right-field seats on the first pitch of the season. 1–0 Twins. Just like that.
The worst part: no dollar hot dogs around to drown my sorrow.
But the White Sox ended up having a better season last year than the first pitch would have foreshadowed. We won our first playoff game in 12 years, Jose Abreu won MVP, and the team stayed on their upwards trajectory. In the offseason, we signed Lance Lynn to boost our rotation, Adam Eaton to help out our outfield, and we will have Michael Kopech back to throw fireballs.
I’m extremely hopeful for this year’s team. However, I do understand the Shakespearean tragedy that sports are. After all, I’ve been hopeful before the first pitch of basically every season.
To the title question: is being a White Sox fan driving me insane?
The jury is still out. Maybe the White Sox being bad for most of my memory has served me. Maybe my younger self wasn’t ready for playoff losses, bases-loaded 3–2 counts on chilly October Chicago nights, or the sudden elitism that comes with your favorite sports team winning a championship, as if I was with them hitting in the batting cages or something.
Am I ready now? I guess there’s only one way to find out; the White Sox will have to win.
Want more baseball content? Check out this podcast interview with Seattle Mariners catcher, Tom Murphy