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Mismatched Sox: The Fandom Menace

by Ed Siebert
“Meesa less annoying than Rob Manfred!” – Jar Jar Binks, probably. Image (c) Lucasfilm and Disney.

As this was being considered and written, the MLBPA and MLB were sending out releases explaining why this isn’t their fault and why games should or shouldn’t be canceled. And really, it has come to the point where, much like Jar Jar, it may not matter whether they ever come back, the damage is done.

The question for fans of baseball isn’t whether they have lost their love of the game itself, but whether they can bring themselves to financially and emotionally support someone who has recently shown such disdain for them. Parents of teenagers are wearily nodding their head right now.

The thing about fandom is that it comes to define the person whether they want it or not. Somewhat in the blink of an eye, a sports fan can open their dresser drawers to find that they have no t-shirts that aren’t related to their favorite team. Lazy gift giving means grabbing whatever has the team logo and giving it to the fan. Conversations with that fan starts inevitably with talk of that team, even eschewing small talk about this crazy weather ya know? But what happens now, when the thing that consciously or unconsciously has defined an entire human person, is taken away?

Well, fan of an MLB franchise, there are always options. You can become overly associated with another thing just as easily. For the sake of keeping it local, the following suggestions will apply to White Sox fans, but other nationally can adapt geographically or just move here. But the weather here, man, it’s sure been something, ya know? Anyhoo:

DAAAAAA BEARSSSS!!! Sure! Chances are as a Sox fan you’re an equally frustrated Bears fan. If you haven’t been paying attention, they have a new coach named Matt Eberflus and a new GM named Ryan Poles that were hired because the McCaskey’s are too cheap to replace the names Matt and Ryan on the GM and HC office doors at Halas Hall. Actually the joke there was a rumor that Virginia McCaskey is too old to learn new names but that’s just ageism. Anyway, the Bears have a QB with actual potential and a solid running back, a defense with a top-level linebacker and pass rusher, and basically a whole bunch of the same old same old that has plagued them since Jimmy Mac was mooning reporters. The NFL isn’t actively crapping on its fans, but is kinda sorta maybe definitely having a massive racism issue these days where it is under fire for how it handles minority hiring and is still feeling it from the alarmingly plain view evidence that the owners wink-wink’d Colin Kaepernick out of the league for his public stance on racial issues and subsequent league-wide bumbling over the situation. So the league has some things to work on, to undersell it a bit. But hey, football is popular and it is just trading one sports fandom for another. Easy transition. But beware, where Sox black is slimming, Bears orange is very much the opposite to the, err, huskier amongst the population.

DAAAAA BULLLSS!!! Somewhere, in a bar that still has a CDC sign up that has a phallus drawn on it, a guy has turned to the fella next to him and “ya know dat DeMar D. Rosens is da next Jordan. Is it D. Rosens? I thought it was S. Rosens.” “Nah, S. Rosens is dat bread company. Ya get them at the Jewels.” And then those guys are physically tossed from the bar for being lazy stereotypes based on a 30-year-old SNL bit. Well, the Bulls are pretty fun again. DeMar DeRozan isn’t the next Jordan, but he’s pretty damn good and is having a near-MVP season. The Bulls are stunningly inept against the top teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, which is unfortunate because that is where the Bulls are, in fact, competing. The NBA remains a very star-driven league, which can be hard to root for if none of the stars are really your cup of tea. What’s always odd about Bulls fandom is that there are few instances of a hard core fan. But, there are worse wagons to be hitched to.

HERE COME THE HAWKS, THE MIGHTY…BLAAAAACKHAWKS! Hey, the ‘Hawks are still good, right? No. They aren’t. Kane and Toews remain from the glory years of last decade, but Captain Serious is showing every bit the mileage of a guy that has had multiple concussions and was a feared player on both ends of the ice. Kane is still electric as ever, but with the exception of Alex DeBrincat is surrounded by guys that can’t hang at his level. Then there’s the D, which years of Stan Bowman pretending that all you need is Duncan Keith and a corpse on skates has left that area as a problem. Then there’s the reason that Stan Bowman isn’t the GM anymore, because the Blackhawks absolutely messed their bed with a pretty nasty scandal. If you missed it, when the team was getting good they had an incident where a coach sexually assaulted one of their prospects. But the team, informed of the criminal act and absolute destruction physically and mentally of the victim, told everyone to shut up about it because they had a real shot at the Stanley Cup. Everyone who wasn’t an owner quit in disgrace, including Joel Quenneville who quit a completely different team. Things seemed to be trending towards the Blackhawks admitting their bad behavior and then Rocky Wirtz spouted off and made it worse. So, yeah, at least if you decide to whole hog the Blackhawks bandwagon now, there’s plenty of room and you can say you were a fan before they got good if they ever get good again.

WHO’S THE BEST? FIRE! Soccer! Football if you’re all worldly and stuff! Here’s the thing about soccer fandom: being a hardcore Fire fan isn’t really considered fandom of the game. The MLS is fine as leagues go, but the league is hardly top shelf in men’s soccer. That’s reserved for leagues in other parts of the world. So be prepared to have to get into a whole different set of fandom. It’s a little like weed leading to heroin, but less accepted in parts of the U.S. Still, there are worse wagons to be hitched to. Soccer, not heroin.

HEROIN? Not recommended, but instead of having your whole identity defined by a sports team, you could just become a drug addict. Don’t actually do that, even if it is cheaper than an 81-game season ticket package when you factor in food and drinks. No, don’t do drugs.

HIPPY, MAAAAANNN. So, ok, yeah, you could just like, go all hippy or some stuff like that. Basically find a stereotype that fits and make it who you are. It doesn’t have to be a 60’s-era, or even 90’s-era hippy. Nah…

SCI-FI GEEK. This has promise, as it represents a 180 from sports fandom and has plenty of things to dive into. For example, Star Trek is enjoying a bit of a renaissance as there are four new series and another movie coming. For the uninitiated, it is easy to stream and catch up. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Original Series, seasons 3-6 of The Next Generation, most of Deep Space Nine, almost none of Voyager, maybe just the first two episodes of Enterprise, all the movies except The Motion Picture, Star Trek V and Star Trek Into Darkness. From there the new stuff will make sense. Star Wars? Easy. Nine movies of which Episode I, II and frankly VIII and IX can be skipped along with Solo. The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett are the current content and pretty much Sci Fi westerns. Though the Sci Fi western to beat is the short-lived series Firefly and the companion movie Serenity. Other options include Doctor Who, which has a classic component that thrived mainly in 70’s and died in the 80’s, and a revival that is still going though feels like it has lost momentum from a few years ago. And its British, so that’s a thing. There’s plenty more where all that came from.

MOVIE BUFF. Tried and true, the love of cinema can be a pretty good personality to adopt. The major pitfall? Your cred will be questioned based on having weirdly encyclopedic knowledge of obscure films from all eras. You know that guy that thinks you’re not “a real fan” because you don’t know Ron Karkovice’s OPS in 1992? There’s a lot of those types in the film world. But watching classic movies is actually fun. The Marx Brothers and Humphrey Bogart flicks are good starting spots. Also, .694, but you knew that.

TV BUFF. One advantage of the era of streaming TV is that there’s ample opportunity to go back and experience TV from bygone eras, learning about the times as well as seeing how the medium evolved. Also, you’ll never sleep and lose your job, possibly develop blood clots and bed sores, and likely have no social life with which to share this new personality. Seriously, TV seasons used to be like 30 episodes long, and there’s 70+ years of content. It can be a bit much.

MUSIC BUFF. Another one that has gotten harder with the internet. Most music people like bands that no one has heard of, but as streaming algorithms favor known artists and music venues died in the pandemic, discovering what’s new is harder than ever. Couple that with anyone having a decent laptop and equipment budget being able to release a video or song, and there’s a glut of stuff that clogs the scene like a kid clogs a toilet. That said, picking a genre you like and really getting after it can be just as good, though you can easily fall into a trap of being too into one thing. Like the music of David Hasselhoff. Never hassle the Hoff, but try and cast a wider net than the Baywatch theme and the 6th-best version of “Hooked on a Feeling”.

BUFF BUFF. Nudist. Saves on laundry detergent, definitely a conversation starter that doesn’t involve the weather. Unless its cold. It is a pretty limited community, but dedicated. At least one would think they’re dedicated. Its certainly not something you can half-ass. Buh dum bump!

NATURALIST. Another term for nudist, but in the world of weak transitions more along the lines of a nature lover. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to help the environment or planting a kick ass garden. But be prepared for people to be very momentarily interested in your passion and then trying to change the subject, only to panic when they realize that talking about the weather only encourages you more.

D AND D. Yup! Dungeons and Dragons! There’s anecdotal evidence that reformed Sox fans can turn to this to fill the void. Consult old episodes of Sox in the Basement for more.

GAMER. There’s always video games, and there are people who make money streaming themselves playing the games. Now, it helps to be actually good at the games and not have a day job, so consult your dependents before trying to make money that way. Still, gamer has potential. There’s an age component there as well. Young? Seems legit. Really old? Novelty! In between? Anywhere from “grow up” to “act your age” to “dad and I are moving to Florida, the new owners want you out”. Speaking of basements…

PODCASTER. Just kidding, no one wants that. Same with Blogger.

BASEBALL FAN. Maybe, juuuuusst maybe, remaining a fan of the game is still ok. Maybe, juuuuuuuuuuuuuussssst maybe, this particular group of owners and players are just a transitory group of stewards of the game that are derelict in their duties to the fans and legacy that has bound generations together in a common love and bond, all for their own short-sighted gains. Just sayin’. The villains of 1994-1995 are either retired from the game, sold their teams or outright died. Time will heal the wounds. And if it is too painful to wear the team gear, and that’s all you have, reconsider the nudist thing for a while until time permits the ill-thought out James McCann jersey to be worn again. You can podcast and blog at the same time!

Featured Image: MLB / Twitter

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I’m glad I don’t have to think about all those other alternatives now. Keep up the good work, Ed!

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