Thursday, October 27, 2005

White Sox Win!

I got a phone call from a friend of mine (a Canadian, as it happens, now resident in Utah) just before game time last night, who wanted to offer me premature congratulations, as the only person he knew who had a remote claim to being a Chicago South Sider. (Our place in Chicago is, indeed, in Hyde Park.) He was polite enough not to mention (or, perhaps, to know) that as someone who grew up in the north suburbs I am actually a Cubs fan, which seems like about the silliest and most ungrateful thing a Chicagoan can be today.

Still, I did my fair-weather best. I don't have cable here in Toronto, so I spent the past few days either listening to the radio or wandering about looking for a bar that had the game on. The pub two blocks from my office, usually a good bet, had the Series on a small TV above the bar, flanked by two huge flat-screens showing hockey. Okay, wrong country. I watched Game 2 in another nearby pub, nearly empty; inexplicably, a group of three Asian kids who came in and sat at a table behind me turned out to be Astros fans. Last night I found myself in yet another pub, watching the final game on a big-screen TV I had all to myself.

The Fox broadcast kept cutting to frenzied-Sox-fan shots at Jimbo's, with the caption "Southside, Chicago." I always get annoyed by this. It's "South Side" and "North Side" (and also "West Side"). You don't see people referring to something being located on New York City's "Lower Eastside" or lining up to see "Westside Story." It's certainly not "South Chicago," which is another town altogether.

Another oddity: at one point I heard one announcer rattling off names of various South Side neighborhoods, followed by the names of the various ethnic groups that inhabited them: Irish, Italians, Germans, Lithuanians...I didn't catch them all, but it struck me that this was a perpetuation of the image of Chicago (much like the self-image of Boston) as a city of white ethnics, a sense reinforced by the white faces in Fox's "South Side" fan shots. This despite the fact, of course, that the South Side as a whole is now predominantly non-white. The Sox, in this sense, are seen less as the team of the South Side as a whole than as the team of Bridgeport, the Irish enclave that is the home turf of the ruling Daley clan.

In the mythology of Chicago, the Cubs/Sox divide thus gets played as a class rather than a geographical division, with the Cubs as the team of North Side yuppies and suburbanites and the Sox as the team of the working-class ethnic. That allows Chicago sports types to avoid the awkward fact that "North Side/South Side" in Chicago has become a shorthand for "white/black."

1 comment:

Natalia said...

My former roommate, a lifelong South Sider (but now in Madison), posted a reaction that I found hilarious. Maybe it's just me.