Hey, they did better than the Cubs
The day couldn't have dawned with more promise for White Sox fans on Sunday. The Sox had at very least outlasted the Cubs, and their status as Chicago's last major sports champions was intact. Anything else after that would be gravy.
And in this case anything else meant staying alive in the American League Division Series as it moved to Sox Park after they had lost two games in Tampa Bay to the Rays.
Gravy it was when the Sox won 5-3 before 40,142 black-clad, towel-waving fans. If last Tuesday night's "play-in" game against the Minnesota Twins had the look of some dark rally out of "The Lord of the Rings," Sunday's crowd had more the look and feel of a raucous, festive Metallica concert. Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza came prepared, sporting earplugs - until he fell behind giving up three runs in the fourth.
At first, the white towels the Sox gave out before the game had a weaker look against the black background. After all, waving a white flag means surrender. But as the Sox rallied to come from behind and take the lead, the towels seemed to give the crowd a visual pulse, and in the ninth inning, when Bobby Jenks came on to seal the win with all fans on their feet, that pulse seemed to buzz.
During the pregame rain, fans made do. Black garbage bags with holes torn for arms were the fashion look of choice. One of the few exceptions was Michael Urbanski of Crystal Lake, dressed in a dog snout and ears and bright red sweater with the letter "U" across it.
"It's all Sweet Polly Purebred's idea," he said, referring to his wife, Maureen, also sporting a dog snout and carrying a sign reading, "There's no need to fear," while Urbanski carried one reading, "Underdog is here."
"We try to come up with something original every time we come," explained the season-ticket holder, and with the Sox being underdogs down 2-0 in the series it seemed to fit.
To a person, everyone was dressed in black down the road at 35th Street Dogs before the game - but for one: Ronnie Wickers, in his trademark Cub jersey with "Woo-Woo" on the back. He got a hug from one redhead Sox fan, but heard it from others.
"Joe Torre for president!" shouted Mark Caposieno of Woodridge in reference to the manager who had just guided the L.A. Dodgers past the Cubs.
Sox fans seemed to glory in how they had something to cheer and Cub fans didn't in the ninth inning, right after the public-address system had played LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out," with its opening line: "Don't call it a comeback."
Don't call it a complete comeback until the Sox succeed in evening the series today. But in the meantime one fan waving one of the Sox' hand-made signs seemed to capture the prevailing sentiment. On one side it read, "What does a bear on birth control and the 2008 World Series have in common?" On the other side, of course: "No Cubs!"