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Cubs-Sox crosstown rivalry has hit a lull, but it still beats alternatives

StarlCastro Cubs right is congratulated by Tony Campanafter hitting two-run home run fifth inning U.S. Cellular Field Monday June 18

Starlin Castro of the Cubs, right, is congratulated by Tony Campana after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning at U.S. Cellular Field Monday, June 18, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 20, 2012 6:29AM

My Monday started with the awful news that the Cubs-White Sox rivalry was dead. It sent me into an emotional tailspin and made we want to plow through a school of Twinkies the way a whale goes through plankton.

But I fought the urge, even though it said right there on the back page of my Sun-Times that the rivalry that has stirred so many Cubs fans and Sox fans over the years had tragically lost its battle with public boredom.

There was no point in going to the Cell for Monday night’s game between the former rivals if nobody cared. But I went out of a sense of duty and found lots of people who had come to the ballpark so that they, too, could not care together.

People laughed, drank and cheered through their complete lack of interest.

OK, enough with the sarcasm. With an announced attendance of 33,215, the game wasn’t close to a sellout, but the rivalry is not dead, nor is it in need of a faith healer. The problem right now is an awful Cubs team and a Sox fan base that isn’t supporting a first-place team, no matter whom the club is playing.

Cubs fans aren’t quite the lemmings they used to be, which is why so many of them sold their tickets to Detroit fans who wanted to take in the Tigers-Cubs series at Wrigley Field last week. And until they’re sold that president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is going to turn around the franchise, perhaps they’re not going to jump at the chance to pack the Cell.

That’s not the end of a rivalry. That’s the beginning of enlightenment.

As for why Sox fans wouldn’t want to spend an evening cheering on their team and making fun of the Cubs’ sorry plight, if you have an answer, let me know. It’s the middle of June, and your team is in first place in the American League Central. That used to be enough to make people show up.

But that has nothing to do with the Cubs-Sox rivalry. You haven’t shown up in droves this season no matter who the opponent was.

Don’t blame the economy. Everybody’s dealing with it.

Don’t blame the weather. Everybody’s sweating.

Those of you who did show up for the game still got the rivalry.

If you were a Cubs fan, you showed up to note the Sox’ lack of a No. 4 pitcher, if you’re willing to count Jose Quintana as a No. 3. If you were a Sox fan, you showed up to point out that it was so very Cubbish that the team’s biggest trade bait, Ryan Dempster, was put on the disabled list with tightness in his latissimus dorsi.

With realignment coming to baseball next season, the interleague format will change. There no longer will be two stretches of interleague play, one in May and one in June. There will be at least one interleague game every day of the season. That’s correct — every single day of the season.

If you think interleague play isn’t special anymore, just wait. It’s about to get very un-special.

Here are two questions for those of you who either want to do away with the Cubs-Sox series or reduce it to close to nothing:

You would prefer Cubs-Mariners? Or is it more Sox-Padres you’re dying to see?

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