I’ve seen a fair amount of this lately:
The crucial difference between fans of the Red Sox and Cubs and those of the White Sox and Astros is that the latter had the decency to keep their suffering to themselves.
The White Sox have gone longer than the Red Sox went without a world championship, but did Stephen King write about their angst? Did Jimmy Fallon make a movie about their pain? Did their fans whine about some ridiculous curse? No. In fact, if you so much as bring up any nonsense about a curse, the White Sox will set you straight.
I yield to no one in my contempt for Cubs fans, but I think that this is misplaced. To clarify, I have no sympathy for fans whose identity as fans is carefully constructed around the fact that their team loses all the time. Cubs fans don’t actually want their team to win; if the Cubs won a World Series, then Cubs fans would merely be baseball fans, undeserving of the self-pity they manage to lavish upon themselves. They ought to have given Steve Bartman a parade; an actual pennant would have emptied Wrigley and gutted team revenue.
Red Sox fans are a bit different, because it was clear that they actually found their defeats agonizing. Although Red Sox fans managed to wallow in their own pit of self-pity, their commitments also carried actual pain. Unlike the Cubs, the Red Sox came close to victory on several occasions, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion. Their victory in 2004 made them a normal team, but did not undercut the identity that Red Sox fans have developed for themselves.
Now, no one has ever accused White Sox fans of the self pity that Red Sox and Cubs fans are guilty of. They have had less success than the Red Sox, but don’t have any of the “curse” mythology that has infused Red Sox support. Caple wants to applaud them for this, but I am uncertain.
The curse of the Red Sox evokes sympathy because it is undeserved. Lots of teams trade great players. Ruth is the greatest player, yes, but the sin of the Red Sox is different only in degree from that of every other team in baseball. The appropriate penalty for trading Ruth to a league rival is simply a lack of Ruth, in the same sense that the Mariners trade of Jason Varitek is simply a lack of Varitek. The Red Sox need pay this penalty only as long as Ruth remains in the league, then the price, as such, should no longer apply. The curse evokes sympathy because the ghost of Ruth is vengeful and vindictive. The Red Sox are made to pay with failure even long after Ruth has passed from the game (and this world).
This is not the case with the White Sox. The trade of Babe Ruth, great as he was, is not a crime against baseball in the same sense as the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The failure of the White Sox IS deserved; the franchise was the scene of the greatest crime against the fans in baseball history. There is nothing unfair about vengeance being visited upon the White Sox. Indeed, the failure of the White Sox is less a curse than a case of just punishment by a vengeful baseball deity.
This is why White Sox fans don’t whine about a curse. They understand, on some level, that their team has committed the most egregious sin possible against baseball. The Red Sox can justly claim that their punishment is unwarranted, but the White Sox cannot. They can only hope that whatever greater power that apportions forgiveness in baseball will smile upon them.
That said, I’m cheering for the White Sox, mostly because I hate the goddamn Astros.