Cubs Fever and the Two Chicagos

Cubs fever is sweeping the nation. And sweeping an entire section of the city under the rug.

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The Chicago Cubs are in the World Series for the first time since 1945. 

As the already intense media coverage has shown, Chicago is excited that the Cubs are playing in the World Series. However, not every Chicagoan has "Cubs Fever." 

It would be easy to say those folks are White Sox fans, but baseball allegiances in Chicago are much more complex than that. It’s not just Cub fans on the North Side, Sox fans on the South Side.

On the same day the Cubs won the National League pennant last week, four people were arrested while protesting police brutality two years after Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago Police officer, shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on a South Side street. 

In the aftermath of the game that night, fans poured into the Wrigleyville streets to celebrate. A few of them climbed onto street lights and one of them climbed onto a SWAT vehicle. Some Chicagoans believe that one form of civic disobedience is acceptable, while another form, a form that has shined a light into some of the city's dark crevices, is loathed. That form can lead to uncomfortable conversations, which many in the city seem afraid to have. 


Some Chicagoans see the Cubs as an extension of the city’s divide when it comes to racial and economic dynamics. Just this week, several aldermen complained how they couldn’t get tickets the World Series game, while at the same time many of them remain silent on the city’s most polarizing issues. Some bars around Wrigleyville are charging as much as $250 just to watch games. 

Factions within both fanbases have claimed that race played a part in their rooting interests. Some fans like the Cubs, but not Wrigleyville. Some of those folks point to the way black people have been historically treated in Wrigleyville, along with how some of the Cubs’ black players such as LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones were on the receiving end of racial slurs and hate mail when their play declined. Team legend Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks lived on the South Side during much of his career. At that point in Chicago’s history, certain neighborhoods weren't ready for a black man.

The Chicago American Giants, a Negro League team, played on the South Side at Comiskey Park, then home of the White Sox. 

South Siders who are Cub fans can describe racial incidents with Sox fans that have justified their fandom. Chicago is one of America’s most segregated cities, and the area surrounding Sox Park doesn’t have the best history for race relations. The Dan Ryan Expressway, which is next the Sox Park, divides Bronzeville, a black neighborhood, from Bridgeport, a mostly-white area. At a game at Sox Park, I personally once saw a man wearing jacket featuring the Confederate Flag. 

Team legend Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks lived on the South Side during much of his career. At that point in Chicago’s history, certain neighborhoods weren't ready for a black man.

But you have to choose. In Chicago, you’re either a Sox fan, or a Cubs fan. The Cubs are a national phenomenon with a traveling fanbase, while the White Sox are perceived as a local team. You probably won’t meet many Sox fans outside of Chicago. And even though those in Chicago’s hip-hop community are more likely to align themselves with the South Side Sox, many believe the team's fitted caps are worn for fashion instead of fandom.

“National media seems to only reference the South Side when we talking about body counts. I don't think the lack of respect for the ‘05 champs and Sox organization is related to the media's narrative of the South Side,” said Eddie Sanders, Chicago-based entertainment attorney and owner of Freshly Baked Records, an independent record label.“The Cubs have a national reach with fans all across the U.S. The Cubs are just a bigger brand. Real baseball fans respect the Sox.” 


Then-White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen knew the team’s place in the hearts of local baseball fans wouldn't change after the Sox won the World Series.


Guillen knew what many South Siders, White Sox fans or not, have long suspected: The South Side is an afterthought. 

C'mon ESPN...these are the ONLY #Chicago championships?? The White Sox won the World Series in 05. #CmonMan

— Lisa Chavarria NBC5 (@LisaChavarria) October 25, 2016

Remember when Kanye West and Common did a song called “Southside”? Remember how even they mention the Cubs, but not the White Sox? Or how parachute journalism seems to only mention the South Side when discussing gun violence? Or how the national media forgets, or completely ignores that the White Sox played in the World Series in 1959 and won it all in 2005? 

Even though the White Sox are roundly considered an afterthought locally and nationally, their game caps are routinely one of the highest-selling in baseball. Popularity might stem from the black and white color scheme, sure, but the cap also represents hip hop culture in a way a Cubs cap doesn't. Eazy-E famously wore a Sox fitted during his NWA days, as did several other rappers with little affiliation to the Midwest city. 

Ultimately, most Chicagoans who aren't Cubs fans seem to be wishing the team and their fans well. Just don't be shocked if you see a few exceptions should things not work out in Wrigleyville. After all, like ‘Ye once said, “This is the Chi—the city of hella haters.”

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