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posted: 4/27/2010 12:01 AM

Cubs-Sox rivalry gimmick an annoyingly bad idea

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Some institutions should stand above commercialism, marketing and corporate logos.

No wonder the headline on Monday's news release was so irritating: "Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox formalize long-standing rivalry with announcement of the BP Crosstown Cup."

Formalize? The Sox-Cubs rivalry needed to be formalized? Any pure sports rivalry needs to be formalized?

Somebody better tell the Bears and Packers. Maybe they can get a cheese house between Chicago and Green Bay to formalize their rivalry.

"BP Crosstown Cup," the release's subhead said, "becomes latest pro sports rivalry officially established by competing teams."

Officially? The Sox-Cubs rivalry had to be made official? It had to be notarized with stamp, seal and dollar signs?

Somebody better tell Army and Navy. To think, they have been playing football all these years without their mules and goats being certified.

Listen, to make this less onerous all the Cubs and Sox had to do was say they figured out how to finagle a sponsor into giving them some cash.

Any business has a right to, well, to do business. The Cubs and Sox have a right to raise a few bucks to help fund, say, Alfonso Soriano's ongoing hop and Jake Peavy's recent slop.

But please, fellas, don't cloak the Crosstown Cup as an effort to make the Sox-Cubs rivalry more of a rivalry.

It doesn't need that. My goodness, exhibition games between the Cubs and Sox were sold out back in the 1950s and probably long before that.

Anyway, Monday's news conference was held at Millennium Park but should have been at a Madison Street saloon where Sox and Cub fans once slipped off their stools to spill blood over whether Looie Aparicio or Ernie Banks was the more valuable shortstop.

All employees of both teams - players included - should have been required to attend to get an understanding of the rivalry from a fan's viewpoint.

The Cubs-Sox news release went on to boast that handing out a trophy to the winner "will raise the stakes of the series and solidify its standing as an annual citywide observance."

What, the stakes weren't high enough already? A heated baseball rivalry wasn't hot enough? Sox-Cubs games had to be acknowledged as a citywide observance?

The whole strategy of steering sports fans in a certain direction is becoming more annoying all the time.

I was thinking this over the weekend at the Blackhawks and Bulls playoff games.

Someone actually thought that a drum had to be beaten to get fans to chant, "Let's go, Hawks!" Like they couldn't figure that out on their own.

Then there's that freakin' noise-o-meter, or whatever it's called, that tries to rev up the crowd during a timeout.

If that's necessary, the Hawks and Bulls should fire all their season-ticket holders and recruit new ones.

Now back to the Cubs and Sox: They have what's called a natural rivalry. The emphasis is on natural, not manufactured or sponsored.

A fan's emotions and passions flow naturally and don't need to be formalized or made official.

So, folks, let's just say this Cockamamie Cup is half empty.