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updated: 5/19/2012 4:06 PM

For Cubs and Sox fans, it's meatball time

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  • While the managers can stay calm and not get excited about the City Series, Matt Spiegel says these six games each year in Chicago are the perfect time to have some fun and rip the crosstown rival. That's provided, of course, you keep that venom under wraps the other 359 days of the year.

       While the managers can stay calm and not get excited about the City Series, Matt Spiegel says these six games each year in Chicago are the perfect time to have some fun and rip the crosstown rival. That's provided, of course, you keep that venom under wraps the other 359 days of the year.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

It is both fashionable and commonplace to blast the mere existence of games pitting the White Sox against the Cubs.

The two interleague series now branded the BP Cup have been relentlessly hyped over the years by the same outlets that now openly demean or decry them. This is our pattern, we evil media: build and destroy.

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But something deeper is at play here.

Everyone is thinking about it in the wrong way.

This is the appropriate, in fact necessary, weekend for cross-city, neighbor to neighbor trash talk. These are three of the six days a year to give in completely.

Print out a box score and put it blithely in your boss' cubicle. Badger your neighbor with vivid descriptions of Paul Konerko's Game 1 homer while he tries to simply prune his hedges in peace.

This kind of nonsense goes on all year -- now THAT's the issue.

The petty, silly use of the nearest baseball measuring stick as a way to feel better about your team is incredibly odd, and pointless. These days, more and more of us have realized that.

That team in the other league who happens to be 71 blocks away is not your direct rival. The real rivals are principally the division foes, and secondarily whoever happens to be the opponent in the midst of 162. This weekend gloriously, entertainingly, that direct rival is the next-door neighbor.

On Hit and Run, the Score's baseball show Sunday mornings, we simply don't allow useless, biased grudge banter from either side of town. Callers are not allowed to make a Sox point by invoking a Cubs issue, and vice versa. Don't justify the failures of one time phenom Gordon Beckham by pointing out the defensive liabilities of Starlin Castro.

Don't rationalize the expensive badness of Alfonso Soriano by pointing out the same qualities in Alex Rios.

You want to talk about your team? Then do so, directly and cleanly. When the rule is violated, we play a clip of Jon Lovitz' character from "A League Of Their Own" screaming at a horse: "Will you shut up?!"

This rule has been embraced, and applauded. Because we all know that brand of axe-grinding blather ends up feeling empty, ringing hollow.

Care about your team, dissect ways to improve and win more. Reject your inner meatball when it wants to rip a non-rival as distraction from your own roster. I firmly believe that Meatballishness (Meatballery? Meatballism?) is on the decline.

But this weekend it's open season.

We'll let Cub fan Jim from Evergreen Park call up and bash Kenny Williams to his heart's content. If South Side Ron wants to slowly detail the dollars still being paid to Carlos Zambrano, giggling, bring it.

The problem wrought by yearlong pointless, tiresome trash talk is that now, when the two teams are actually playing games against each other, the appropriate sounds silly. It's the boy who cried Cubs (and Sox). Bashing your actual on field opponent this weekend is too similar to what we all now know to be tangential foolishness.

There's an opportunity to grab here. Be a pleasure delayer all year. You should help your friends withhold their venom, and then happily explode together in a fountain of childish insults six days a year.

This weekend is the perfect time to take stock of the different rosters, managers, plans, ballparks, broadcasters, and fandoms.

So go ahead. Dye your cousin's lawn furniture a pretty Cubbie blue. Draw that Sox logo on your drinking buddy's tuxedo jacket.

It'll be even more fun if you keep it in check the other 359 days of the year.

• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score's "Hit and Run" at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670. Matt thinks a runner trying to score from first on a double into the gap is the most exciting play in baseball.

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