Our Cubs/Sox Story: Welcome to the Terrordome

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our Cubs/Sox Story: Welcome to the Terrordome

. Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Let me set the scene for you. It's 2003, and the Cubs are, oddly enough, in spitting distance of first place in the Central at the end of June. Steve and I get offered free tickets to the Cubs/Sox tilt at Comiskey Park (this was pre-name whoring) from a friend of ours whose dad gets free Sox tickets through work. No, he was not a meth dealer. I wore my Sammy Sosa #21 home jersey, 1994 model, where "Cubs" is written out to look like "Cuba." Steve is similarly rocking Cubs paraphernalia.

It turns out the Cubs were not the only thing in spitting distance - while not directly expectorated upon (a post-game analysis revealed no acid burns on said clothing), we were privy to the most venomous shit talking that I'd ever seen. A bald Hispanic guy the size of a baby bull decided to single me out, getting in the face of me (likely two decades his junior, and only 19) year old to acidly insist that "Cubs suck" three inches from my face, repeatedly. This was not "Cubs suck! HAW HAW HAW!" This was "I'm a Sox fan, and I desire to rape you." There's no real cool way to react to that, but I did exit the situation like a man, which meant with both urine and bowel matter still firmly ensconced in its proper place. This was perhaps two minutes out of the turnstile. It didn't get any better as we found our seats, but there was also no more involuntary, subconscious defensive tightening of the sphincter muscle. There was yelling and shit talking from the first pitch to the last, with both sides going at it with that annual glee that tends to build up as people think of the perfect comeback from an insult they heard last year.

Woody was on the mound for the Cubs that day, so I felt good. But he'd never beaten the White Sox before, taking losses in all of his previous appearances. And in that stip-mall cauldron of B.O. and screaming tank topped men, how could he possibly overcome? When the Sox took the lead in the 2nd on a sac fly and the Cubs failed to respond, I was devastated. Esteban Loaiza was on the mound for the Sox, and (hard as it is to believe) he was really, really damn good back then, 11-2 before that day, and on his way to 21 wins.

But everything changed in the 4th when Sosa singled to center and Moises Alou (who not everyone knew peed on his hands on purpose at the time) hit a hard line drive that just kept traveling until it shut up the Sox fans in our section. 2-1 Cubs. Suck on that, Loaiza. Forgotten favorite Eric Karros followed that up with a ground-rule double, and Tom Goodwin smacked him in two batters later. Corey Patterson (batting 5th!!!) fielders choiced in another run to run it to 4-1.

If you ever want to feel palpable hate, go as an away fan to a Cubs/Sox game and give boisterous high fives to everyone in your section when the Cubs spend a couple of innings smacking around the Sox ace. If they could have given me urethra cancer with my eyes, they will. Woody did his part, battling through a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 7th that had me convinced he was done, and went 8 strong, earning the much-deserved W with 2 earned runs and 4 hits. The Cubs and Sox swapped a couple of line-drive solo homers, and Mike Remlinger and Sweaty Joe combined to close out the 9th. And holy shit was I ecstatic. The emotional payoff was immense, probably because I felt I'd earned it.

The Sox fans that day were, as many of them still are, absolute bastards. I've never felt such a palpable hate toward (and from) people that I didn't know much about. I'm fairly certain that if so many of them weren't morbidly obese, they would have contemplated delivering a Dragon Kick to my lower back. We were sworn at, threatened, and intimidated the entire day. And my god, was it glorious. This was fierce, competitive rivalry at its best. Baseball, being 162 games a season, is too often criticized as slow, a little too low-key. That day at 35th and Shields, it felt as exciting and real as any game I've ever attended. And when we pulled out the victory behind a great day form Woody, I slept the sleep of the just and righteous. It's not for everyone, but the feeling of triumphing after spending a day as a hated enemy in unfriendly territory was like a shot of pure adrenaline. Perhaps the best game of my life, and I wasn't even old enough to enjoy a beer.