There's room on this bandwagon


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It's deeply humbling to witness something you thought you'd never see again in your lifetime. I was seven years old the last time there was a World Series in Chicago. The Sox won the first game against the Dodgers 11-0, and I thought the world (series) was my oyster.

My father cut short my exuberance. A lifelong Cub fan, he said, "Don't be so sure. There's a long way to go." Boy was he right?#34;short term and long run. Forty-six years is a long way to go indeed. And that's just to get to the World Series. Don't even mention world championships, not just yet anyway. One miracle at a time.

There have been three miracles already: winning the division, winning the divisional series vs. the defending world champions, and winning the ALCS against the previous American League world champion. That's a lot for a disenchanted fan with absolutely no faith in his franchise.

Some Sox fans thought it was scandalous a few weeks ago when I exposed in my column the yawning abyss of my Sox suffering. One friend said I should eat a little crow now, but I'm not apologetic. All bets are off when you have two baseball teams in town who only win a championship once every hundred years or so. In my book, "winning isn't everything" applies only when your team wins once in the average lifetime.

Hell, the Israelites only wandered in the desert 40 years before they made it to the promised land. They had nothing on Sox fans who wandered for 46, and Sox fans have nothing on Cub fans who have wandered for 60.

But for Sox fans, the promised land arrives this Saturday. I don't care if you're a loyal Sox fan, a deeply disillusioned Sox fan, a Reinsdorf-hating Sox fan, a former Sox fan, or a fair-weather Sox fan, this is one bandwagon with enough room for everyone. Cub fans? Swallow your pride and climb aboard.

Some people in their delirium will try to turn this into a purity contest and tell you only the "real" Sox fans who never lost faith have a right to celebrate this moment. Sorry, this isn't about "earning" anything, and if it is, most Chicago fans have earned it through decades of disappointment. There are better Sox fans around. Our own Dan Haley, for instance, is a model of never-say-die fidelity. I admire that kind of faith because I don't share it. But I guarantee after 50 years, no one has suffered more with this club. From finishing second through most of the '60s to the Dick Allen/Chuck Tanner years to the South Side Hit Men to the shorts experiment to Disco Demolition to the '83 and '93 division winners to the strike year of '94 that may have cost us a World Series to the "white flag" surrender to the 2000 post-season collapse to now, I've been through it all no matter how much I groused along the way. I'm climbing aboard whether anyone likes it or not.

All that suffering has turned me into a magical thinker when it comes to Chicago sports, so when the first Sox batter of the post-season was hit by a pitch, I felt the curse of 1919 lifting. Hitting the first batter, you'll recall, was the signal to the gamblers that the "Black Sox" fix was in.

Eighty-six years later, whether through brilliance or dumb luck or both, the Sox have assembled a team that's actually worth watching and rooting for. More power to them. More power to all of us. I hope the Cubs do it next year.

Or it might be another 46 years, at which point I'll be 99 and probably still grousing and complaining.

If history is any guide, these bandwagons don't come along very often, so climb aboard. Everyone is welcome.

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