Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"So what am I doing here, wasting my time, cheering for jerks?"

Posted By on 02.19.08 at 09:25 PM

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Time capsule 1980: Jane Byrne is mayor, the Cubs are still owned by the Wrigley family, and Harry Caray is still calling games for the White Sox, who are still owned by Bill Veeck and still play at Comiskey Park. The Cubs roster includes local legends like Rick Reuschel, Bruce Sutter, Dave Kingman, and Lee Smith--and Mike Royko defects from Cubs fandom?

Sure enough, in a Q & A by Sydney Weisman that ran in the Reader May 9, 1980, Royko announced with much fanfare that he'd had enough. Here's a partial transcript of his conversation with her:

I spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko shortly after he made a major life decision. Following is an edited version of our conversation:

Sydney Weisman: What took you so long to become a White Sox fan? 

Mike Royko: It took me until there were players I did not like as people. That's really the truth. I've been watching this Cub team for a couple of years and something was bothering me about it and I couldn't figure out what it was about this team that bothered me. And then I realized I don't like these guys. I don't like whiners, I don't like people who go out and cry to the public about their problems when they have no problems. At a time when people at all levels of life are really having a hard time making it, you have a bunch of grown men, not even grown men, young men making these incredible sums of money and just crying and moaning. I don't care how unhappy they are, and what their business dealings are. I don't care how much money they make. I just don't understand people going public with this. Like Sutter did, and like [Jerry] Martin, their center fielder, these guys are a bunch of jerks. So what am I doing here, wasting my time, cheering for jerks?

SW: Can we expect to see you at Comiskey Park?

MR: Yeah, I'm going to broadcast part of one of the ball games. 

SW: With Harry?

MR: Yeah, with Harry. I'm learning to say na-na-na-na and Holy Cow. . . . I really don't know much about the Sox, being a Cubs fan all those years. I didn't feel it was right to watch the Sox.

SW: But like this weekend, you'll begin?

MR: Yeah, I couldn't begin, though, until I'd taken the oath. Now I don't even know that Dave Kingman exists. I wish them well, but I'll never see them again . . .

Royko went to Comiskey, reporting in a subsequent column that "it was an uplifting spiritual experience. Veeck bought me a couple of beers; Harry Caray welcomed me and bellowed 'Holy Cow' in my left ear." The honeymoon didn't last long, though: a few months later, when Veeck sold the Sox to Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn, Royko used the transfer as a pretext to go back to the Cubs--who for his pains went 64-98 and placed last in the NL East (though in fairness I should acknowledge that the Sox went 70-90).

The next year the Cubs would be sold to Tribune Company, Harry Caray would begin broadcasting games on WGN, and a new era would begin.

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