CHICAGO—As I sit here typing this, I look out onto Guaranteed Rate Field, thinking about how truly bizarre so much of this season has been. I wrote earlier in the year about how strange it's been watching baseball, and frankly all sports, with the backdrop of a pandemic going on in this country.
For the sake of this piece, what will be one of my final game day columns for the 2020 season, I want to talk a bit about just how strange the baseball part of this season has felt.
The White Sox will be playing playoff baseball in 2020.
Wait, let me say that again, because I'm not sure you're appreciating how rare that is, at least in any reasonable definition of recent memory.
I was born in 1993, and shortly after I was welcomed into the world, the White Sox made the playoffs (yay!), but would only return three more times until the 2020 season. That's four White Sox appearances in my LIFETIME!
My bar-mitzvah took place in 2006. and the theme was literally "The 2005 World Series Champion White Sox": Each table centerpiece had a different member of that team. In fact, I think there was even one for Pablo Ozuna.
I'll never take that season for granted, and as my dad told me shortly after that win, "Enjoy this, because it legitimately may never happen again in your lifetime."
He told that to a VERY red-faced and sweaty 13-year-old who had just gotten a hug AND a kiss on the cheek from two of the most popular girls in his middle school who he was brave enough to invite to his Bar-Mitzvah. (Well, one of those girls went to his Hebrew school so I think she had to go, and her best friend was the other most popular girl, so she attended for that reason and that reason only, BUT STILL.)
Of course, now that I type this, I always thought my dad was talking about the White Sox future World Series hopes, but he just as easily could have been referring to my chances of a girl kissing or hugging me ever again.
Forget winning the World Series, since 2005, the White Sox had only made the playoffs once ... until this season.
I'm kind of shocked that I've been able to care this much about a team that has been largely bad, and at best average, throughout my life.
After 2005, I wasn't expecting multiple championships, but I did get a taste of October baseball, or to a lesser extent, baseball games mattering after July. I've only experienced that as a fan once over the last 12 years.
That's when 2020 happened.
Whether we want to admit it or not, sports are entertainment. It's hard to accept that, considering how much pain our fandom of them can cause, but that's really all they are.
The White Sox just came off of their worst series of the season this week against Cleveland's baseball team, and as White Sox twitter had their expected (not judging!) meltdown, I was strangely calm.
I'm the same person who once wished very terrible things to happen to a Minnesota Twins team 10 years ago after Jim Thome walked off Matt Thornton and the White Sox, in what was for my money, a top-three heartbreaking loss in my lifetime. I'm not going to link a video to that game, because if you watched it live, you never want to see it again.
The last series with Cleveland was a pretty great collection of the most heartbreaking losses you can see, all packed neatly into one four-game set.
Each night, as the Sox either lost via walk-off, questionable managerial decision, and bullpen meltdown, I kind of just ... didn't care. These would have been games that would have devastated me at a different time in my life, but this season, they just rolled off like nothing.
I have been trying to figure out why this was the case over the last week. It might be because this is my first-ever season covering the White Sox, so I've become a hardened and respectable journalist who has lost the ability to "fan," but no, that's not it. I make this promise now to you, my loyal reader: I will NEVER be a hardened, respectable journalist.
That's when it hit me.
I repeat: Sports are entertainment.
The 2020 White Sox have given me more entertainment in one season, then they arguably have in my entire life (outside of 2005, of course).
I can't be mad at this team, at least not this year. The White Sox are learning how to be a good team, and their fans are part of that process.
As fans, we take for granted the fact that we too, have to learn to become fans of a winning team, just like they have to learn how to win.
Learning how to win is also learning how to lose.
The great teams know how to win, but more importantly how to lose, and not let it carry to the next game or series.
The great fans know how to watch wins, but more importantly know how to watch losses, and not let it carry onto the next day or week.
The White Sox will be playing playoff baseball in 2020, and you're lying if you say you would have asked for anything more.
Enjoy it, especially in a year when we didn't even know we'd be watching baseball at all.