We are reminded annually around this time of the year just how *important* it is when the Cubs play the White Sox for six games in the middle of each summer. We'll read about the 13 Red Line stops separating the two stadiums, the differences in the classic fan archetype for each club, and tons of quotes from both sides about how this isn't any different than six games against the Dodgers or six games against the Mariners. Indeed, the Crosstown Classic -- I do believe it is a proper noun now -- carries with it a whole mess of traditions that the other 156 games do not, such as the media's steadfast determination to coin an 'All Chicago Team' year after year. Lest we forget, there's even a trophy now, and we've got the Instagram picture to prove it.
Hype is what makes the world spin, and it is mostly a good thing. Without it, our 9-5 cubicle lives would feel so permanent, and the weekends so far away. But Cubs vs. White Sox Rd. 1, kicking off tonight at (/looks it up) U.S. Cellular Field unquestionably lacks the magnetism that we want to believe this series has, despite all of the media-driven pomp and circumstance.
The Cubs are playing the Sox today and it would appear that even some of the most passionate sports fans in this town just aren't particularly amped up. Maybe it's better this way.
The relative lost luster of Cubs vs. Sox can't solely be attributed to each team's underwhelming record, though I'm sure that's a major part of it. In 2008, when one team was looking like a World Series favorite and the other seeming like a potential dark horse, I was considerably more excited. But as this series has aged, and as its unfortunate and inevitable corporate sponsorship has revved up, the games themselves have brought us back to reality. Baseball season is eternal, and by the time you graduate from your first first high school cafeteria you should learn that any six games do not make or break a season. Even more poignantly, we're coming off football and basketball season's that saw the hometown team reach the final four. With such intense, high-stakes competition in the recent past, it's easier to welcome a Cubs-Sox series with two sub-.500 teams with jokes above anything else.
Perhaps Chicago needs this, though. After all, the NFL is locked out and it appears certain the NBA will soon be, too. Cubs vs. Sox doesn't serve as the 'highlight of the summer' in these bleak sports months, but it could potentially be a launching point for more baseball interest. The Cubs likely have a better chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick in next June's Draft than they do at winning the division, but the AL Central is wide open. Cubs fans are smart enough to avoid going 'all-in' on this season in the first place; sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder seven months from now and then they'll be ready to talk. Sox fans are just waiting for a team with mild championship aspirations to start playing like it.
Is 'Cubs vs. Sox' the last thing Chicago sports fans have to look forward to until the Bears finally see Week 1 come to fruition? Maybe so, but without some added excitement in the very near future, it would appear these baseball seasons on each side of town will be remembered in the history books only.