The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

White Sox in the World Series

I'll be honest: it hasn't sunk in yet. This layoff between the end of the ALCS and the start of the World Series is both a blessing and curse.

It's a blessing because it allows White Sox fans everywhere to revel in the fact that the Sox are going to the World Series. We get nearly a week to enjoy that, without knowing whether the Sox will win or lose, or how it will all go down. Most teams and their fans don't get to enjoy that luxury; it's usually win one series and move on to the next. But after 46 years for some and a full lifetime for others, having this week to soak in the pennant, and to reflect on the season that still is, is a great thing.

This time off is something of a curse too. For the players, it would have been great to carry over the momentum from the ALCS into the World Series. Maybe it will carry over anyway, but having a week off raises some doubt about whether that's really possible or not. It's also a curse, although a very slight one, for Sox fans, as there haven't been any Sox games to watch. This downtime has been so long that it's almost as-if the offseason has begun. But it hasn't. And that's so great. Even if this downtime seems long, watching replays of the bottom of the 9th inning and John Rooney's call of the final out against the Angels makes the time pass pretty quickly.

I don't think I really ever understood your team winning the pennant and advancing to the World Series before. Sure, I followed the Marlins closely in 1997, the Diamondbacks in 2001, and was as emotionally and financially invested as anyone in the Marlins 2003 run. But it's not the same as this. I've been a Sox fan for as long as I can remember. Longer than that, actually. But in all that time, even through the great start and great finish this season, I never really hoped or expected that they'd reach (and possibly win) the World Series. Year upon year of heartbreak and disappointment had conditioned me to not hope for so much.

The first season of Sox baseball that I really remember was 1983. Up until this season, 1983 was undoubtedly the best year of Sox baseball in my lifetime. But I was too young at the time to appreciate the significance of winning 99 regular season games or winning the division by a record margin of 22 ballgames. I knew then though that the LCS loss to the Orioles was crushing.

So too was the end of the 1993 season. The Sox were good that year, but the Blue Jays were a buzzsaw. No good came of that LCS either. Hopes were high again in 1994, but we all know what happened there (at least we're not Montreal).

The Sox won the division in 2000 too, but it wasn't the same. Going into the playoffs (my hopes at least), hopes weren't that high. Those doubts were rewarded with a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Mariners, who went on to do nothing in the ALCS.

My hopes were high again in 2003. The Sox had won the division in 1983 and 1993. They'd had the Cy Young winner in both of those years too. Certainly there had to be something to years that ended in three - especially since this would be the third time that the "threes" came through for the Sox. But that didn't happen either.

By 2005, my hopes had eroded. I didn't expect much out of this season. I expected a .500 club and some fun and excitement throughout the year. But I got much more than that. It started with a comeback win on opening day and only got better from there. Sure, there were some bumps in the road along the way, but it was a great ride. And in some ways, those bumps along the way made the road a little bit more fun to travel.

I'm not sure what to hope for from here. Obviously I hope the Sox win the World Series, but it almost seems like too much to hope for. This has been a special year to be a White Sox fan and I feel privileged to have followed it from the get go.

More than anything, I owe Ozzie Guillen, Kenny Williams, Roland Hemond, and all the rest of the White Sox players and organization a big thank you for reminding me (and all of us) that it's ok to have high hopes and big dreams. It's only with those high hopes and big dreams that you can achieve such things.


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