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Edward E. Ericson, JR.

Faith, Hope, and the White Sox

Rooting for the overdog does not build character.

You might think life is hard enough without being a Chicago White Sox fan. There's another way to look at it. The poet A. E. Housman tells of King Mithridates, who survived all the many venomous attempts on his life by incrementally dosing himself with poisons. I have survived to report that rooting for the White Sox similarly immunizes one against life's vicissitudes. Could this rugged wisdom explain why so many college professors are baseball fans? Probably not, since its darkness has affinities with the congenital pessimism of conservatives, and most academics say they are liberals. Yet our traditional national pastime's magnetic pull on professors—not to mention their resistance to any dean's suggestion to try anything new—makes one wonder.

What if we used professorial baseball loyalties as a Rorschach test? Think of a professor who hails from Nebraska or Alabama and in adulthood roots for the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. This person is so used to a winning college football team as to fall right in with a winning baseball team, and rooting for the overdog does not build character. Such a one, like the stereotypical conservative, is likely to be soft on big corporations, too.

It's quite another story with those who play rotisserie-league baseball. This is a parlor game. Participants mix and match players from any and all major-league rosters in search of their baseball Dream Team. Thus do they deny existing reality and fulfill their utopian urges. Utopians always imagine that they are in charge and not among those who need the perfecting touch of superior spirits. Rotisserie-league owners (the title of choice) follow sports pages, not baseball. They chart statistics. This is bean-counting in pristine form, and its only conceivable good is as career preparation for government work.

A non-Chicagoan who roots for the Cubs is probably a liberal. Assuming devotion to a team legendary for its ineptitude signifies a desire to identify with an underdog, ...

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