The magic number is down to five


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Ken Trainor

Are you prepared for a disaster of historic proportions, one that would leave thousands of Chicago area residents devastated in its wake?

Are you ready for the final five games of this baseball season?

True, it doesn't begin to compare with what the victims of Katrina and Rita are going through, but the pain and mental anguish will likely be intense if the White Sox manage to make history by blowing a 15-game lead and losing both the division championship and the wild-card slot in some wildly creative and fluky fashion, more than likely in the last game of the season.

And believe me, no one will be rushing to provide choke relief in the aftermath. Cub fans, in fact, are walking around with sly little smirks on their faces, secretly believing they'll no longer have to bear the shame of the infamous 1969 collapse if the White Sox can blow an even bigger lead.

No Sox fan, except possibly the youngest ones, is surprised by the tailspin of the last two months. When their team had a 15-game lead on Aug. 1, whereas most baseball fans would have been sitting back basking in the glow of a sure thing, Sox fans with any sense of history experienced just one overriding emotion: Dread.

As the Sox faltered and the Indians started gaining, that too-familiar tightening of the stomach, a symptom of what can only be described as "mystical inevitability," returned.

"This is too good to be true," they thought.

Are Sox fans pessimists? Oh my, yes. Whereas Cub fans are pathological optimists, Sox fans are pathological fatalists. We believe suffering is our birthright. Suffering is also the birthright of Cub fans, but they always act surprised. Sox fans just shake their heads in weary resignation.

I know. I'm a recovering Chicago baseball fan.

I've been a Sox fan for a half century, and I've been trying everything I can think of to break the attachment. It isn't working.

There should be a special branch of therapy for Chicago baseball fans. We need aversion therapy. We need to be deprogrammed. We need help.

Shock therapy we don't need. We get plenty of that.

I've been thinking of petitioning the World Court in The Hague to classify Chicago professional baseball as a human rights violation. I've been consulting lawyers about the possibility of starting a class-action lawsuit, seeking damages for mental cruelty. What we really need is a municipal petition asking both teams to leave town and take their respective curses to some other part of the country.

That's not likely, however, because we suffer from the dreaded Stockholm Syndrome?#34;i.e. we've begun to identify with our captors. We've been brutalized so long we can't work up enough nerve to break away.

It's humiliating and pathetic.

I tried not to get swept up in the soap opera again this year. I didn't follow the team through the first four months, expressing protective skepticism even when the Sox had the best record in baseball and everything seemed to be going their way. But there's something about the water torture of watching a 15-game lead slowly but surely dissipate. Before I knew it, my levees had been breached. Around mid-August, I began to suffer, something I swore I would never do again with either of these teams.

As if I were in control. Ha!

Now I'm stuck in the muck with all the other "recovered" fans, sneaking looks at the back page of the Sun-Times every morning, feeling that white flash of pain with every loss. Once a fan always a fan, apparently. Admit the problem. Take it one day at a time. Look for a support group. That's all the advice I can offer. It's a sickness. There seems to be no cure.

And there's still five days left in the season.

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