Michael Reinsdorf on the connection between sports and politics
Once, when my kids were younger, I was at a father/daughter event and overheard another dad saying very intensely that he hated the White Sox more than any other baseball team.
It probably goes without saying that this person — who I am friendly with — is passionate about “his” Cubs.
That’s Chicago for you. Passion runs deep in all sports, but as summer comes to a close, it’s clear that in our city, intensity still burns strongest when it comes to our respective baseball teams. I’ve had an up close view of this because of my father’s role as chairman of the White Sox and have so many stories I could share that illustrate this “love the Sox/hate the Cubs” “love the Cubs/hate the Sox” mindset.
Our city’s baseball teams have been around so long (the White Sox played in the American League’s first season of 1901, the Cubs in the National League in 1876) that many fans’ preference have to do with heritage. Allegiances run deep here, in a way that they just don’t in other cities. It’s ingrained at birth, maybe even stronger than your DNA.
In general, if your parents or grandparents were Sox fans, then you’re a Sox fan (and, it’s assumed, will hate the Cubs). If your birth family was made up of Cubs fans, then you’re a Cubs fan and hate the Sox. There’s a small percentage of Chicagoans who actually say, “I’m a Chicago fan,” but they rarely voice their opinion because they’ll get yelled at by both sides.
I totally get the rooting side of being a baseball fan in Chicago, but I have to admit that at times, I just don’t get the “hate” side of the discussion.
Similar lines are drawn when it comes to politics. It so often seems that 45 percent of people are Republican, 45 percent are Democrat, and the last 10 percent decide the election (assuming everyone shows up to vote!). For many people, “voting” means following the very same party lines as their parents and grandparents, too. Both camps are passionate, but you don’t hear much from the 10 percent. And just because they may be quieter, it doesn’t mean they care any less about the outcome of the election.
Loyalties are engrained at a young age, but what if our kids were given more of a choice? Would they actually root for both teams? Would they think about reaching across party lines more often? Would our country be better off as a result of this new approach?
My youngest son is 13, and he’s following the election more closely than anyone else in our family. His school is really digging into it. My wife, Nancy, and I have tried carefully not to influence his decisions. He’ll mention something he learned that is clearly the view of one party, so we try to ask him questions to help him see and understand the other side of the issue. And we do it for both political parties. We want him to know there are always two sides to every story and every debate. And we try to do our best to expose him to some of those different views. We want our kids to make their own decisions, to decide whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, or even if they want to accept existing political definitions. Parents have a huge influence in this development. This election is our chance to make sure our son is taking in everything he learns with an educated and thoughtful eye, with the goal of hopefully becoming the very best citizen he can be.
When it comes to baseball, there will always be White Sox fans who refuse to set foot in Wrigley Field (and vice versa). And when it comes to politics, we may never see eye to eye — but I haven’t given up hope yet for the next generation.
Summer has ended, the leaves are changing, and an election is soon upon us. Maybe it’s time for all of us to reach across the aisle. At least all Chicagoans can find common ground when it comes to the Chicago Bulls — and thankfully, they’re taking the court very soon.
Michael Reinsdorf donated his fee for writing this column to Chicago Bulls Charities.