Telander: White Sox aren’t drawing, but they’re winning ratings battle vs. Cubs
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com August 30, 2012 10:08PM
Chicago White Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Updated: October 1, 2012 6:05PM
We have a first-place team in this town, folks. Did you know that?
Named the White Sox. Play at a comfortable, accessible place called, affectionately, I believe, the Cell.
Seats always available.
In fact, the Yankees-Sox series last week, the three-game set that pitted one first-place club against another — that visiting team being the most famous, biggest draw in baseball, by the way — kind of blew our collective ticket-minded minds. Up to 15,000 empty seats per game? With perfect weather? In a White Sox sweep?
Day-yang. That’s crazy.
It gets tiring, ripping on Sox fans, saying they don’t come out to support their team, that, golly-gee, maybe they don’t even exist. It’s tough always comparing the Sox to the funhouse turnstile known as the Cubs Nation of Good Cheer.
The Cubs probably draw 10,000 to 15,000 people per game who simply want to see Wrigley Field and have a wonderful time in the Wrigleyville area. Nobody goes to the Cell — hey, nothing wrong with the place other than it’s as bland as a movie theater in a parking lot! — for much of anything except to be at a game, root for a win, drink a little beer, eat some nice food, then go home.
The area around the Cell is as pregame and postgame inviting as railroad tracks, cement walls and asphalt deserts can be. So it goes.
What’s the saying? A leopard can’t change its spots? The South Side will never be the North Side. Bridgeport will never rival the ‘‘Funhouse on Addison.’’
But a first-place team is something special. And with the Cubs on track to lose 100 games this season, the Sox are special.
Can we all get behind that, for the moment?
And there has been this thought, floated about among reasonable people, that Sox fans don’t go to the ballpark because they’re economically strapped and prefer to watch the games on TV.
And you know what? That could be true.
‘‘The Sox have had a 2.0 rating recently on CSN,’’ said Jeff Nuich, senior director of communications for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
‘‘That’s up over 10 percent from last year.’’
That 2.0 equals about 70,000 households, with, obviously, more than one viewer per household. Unless every household is like the one from ‘‘Psycho.’’ Two-point-oh is a decent, if not great, number. But here’s the kicker — it’s higher than the Cubs.
‘‘The Cubs are at a 1.9 rating,’’ Nuich said. ‘‘That’s down about 11 percent from last year.’’
WGN, which also broadcasts Cubs and Sox games, has similar stats. Its recent Sox ratings were 3.6, up 33 percent from earlier August ratings. Cubs broadcast ratings also have been up from earlier this summer (Who knows why? Sadism?), but they are no better than Comcast’s. They are an identical 1.9.
So people are interested in the winning Sox. And who are we — who am I? — to blame anyone for not blowing hundreds of dollars to go to a live game with family and friends, when lounging in front of a high-def screen in the parlor brings almost the same joy?
And who really has a sense of what this Sox team is? Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, once so hot, has gone 0-for-17 in his last six games and, as he said of his struggles after Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Orioles, ‘‘I’ll be honest with you, anyone could have pitched the ball to me today.’’
It was painful seeing star pitcher Chris Sale get shelled Tuesday, just as it was hard to watch pitcher Gavin Floyd go on the disabled list with an injured elbow.
But the Sox keep kicking, and they remind this old writer, in certain ways, of the 2005 World Series champs. That team was a total surprise. They blew through the playoffs so fast that the dust hadn’t settled, and fans were, like, still freaked out at the possibilities.
I’m saying we’re all still confused about the Sox since the Ozzie Guillen soap opera left town and went to Miami. New manager Robin Ventura is as exciting as shower soap. There are no explosions coming from the Sox. No controversies. No insanity. Just an up-and-down winning team.
ESPN the Magazine recently ran an article praising general manager Ken Williams for assembling a team on the sly that has fooled everyone.
And so, if nothing else, Comcast is jacking the Sox’ broadcasts into the hot-damn range.
‘‘The White Sox have been a pleasant surprise,’’ said Jim Corno Sr., head of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. ‘‘We’re blowing out the game in Detroit [against the second-place Tigers] on Friday night.
‘‘We’re starting our pregame show at 5:30. Were going to have Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton there on the field. Chuck will be in the stands, looking for Sox fans brave enough to be there. This is the biggest baseball series we’ve had in Chicago in a while.’’
And it’s one you can’t really blame Sox fans for not attending.
TV is a great invention.
Just like the Cubs once were.