Everyone is a walking advertisement. Corporate America has managed to increase its visibility even in our most intimate settings. Now even bananas are advertising Wii. Imagine my surprise when I saw Wii advertised on a banana. Sure everyone associates bananas with healthy eating. And sure, Wii Fit is great form of exercise. But will advertising Wii on bananas sell more Wii systems?
Nowadays, every advertises some product on a t-shirt or a hat. When I was a boy, corporations would give away free things with their name on them. We never bought anything that was made expressly to advertise a product. Sure some products came with a label such as Levi’s, Louisville Slugger, Converse Chuck Taylor, but no one sold a product that was principally an advertisement. If I wore someone’s trademark, I got it for free. I still remember going to the Chicago White Sox Games for those promotional games when they gave aways baseball bats, hats, or helmets. I proudly wore my White Sox helmet for years. And I didn’t even have to buy it!
Our t-shirts were white and blank (sans trademark or logo) and were designed to be worn under a dress shirt. But some time in the 1960s, people started writing messages, such as political opinions, on them and selling them. Soon after that, t-shirts became concert souvenirs. People pay big bucks today to buy clothing that advertises someone else’s product.
O, the genius of corporate America who turned the advertising tables! Instead of giving away t-shirts or other goodies with their company logo, they market them as designer clothing or must-have items while making a huge profit. People will pay outrageous prices to buy items with the company logo of their favorite products. I once even saw a woman driving a Nissan Murano with a vanity license plate that read MURANO! She paid extra money for this license plate stating the make of her car, probably to express her loyalty to this corporation, even though the make of the car was posted next to the plate in chrome letters. Go figure!
And this exploitation of consumers will continue until there is no more profit to be made. Or consumers wise up.
I’m watching the World Series even though neither the White Sox nor the Cubs are playing. “World Series” is a misnomer because it’s not really a world competition at all. However, there are many players from many countries such Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Japan among others.
When I read Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow years ago, he described a professional baseball game in the early 1900s. He noted that the ethnicity of the baseball players was representative of the immigration pattern of the period. Here’s the passage from Chapter 30 of Ragtime:
On the Giant side were Merkle, Doyle, Meyers, Snodgrass and Herzog, among others. The Boston team boasted a player named Rabbit Maranville, a shortstop who [sic] he noted roamed his position bent over with his hands at the end of his long arms grazing the grass in a manner that would more properly be called simian. There was a first baseman named Butch Schmidt, and others with the names Cocrehan, Moran, Hess, Rudolph, which led inevitably to the conclusion that professional baseball was played by immigrants.
If you look at the players of today’s Major League Baseball, you will see many Spanish last names. Of course, those, too, are representative of the migration patterns of Spanish speakers from Latin America to the U.S.
When I was in Mexico last July, I watched the All-Star Game with my cousin and her family. We laughed every time the announcer mispronounced a Spanish last name. Both announcers consistently mispronounced Evan Longoria. Well, tonight, I had to laugh when Jason Bartlett stole second base and the announcer let everyone know that Taco Bell had a promotion: Steal a Base, Steal a Taco for every stolen base. So next Tuesday, we can go to Taco Bell for a free taco. They even interviewed Taco Bell president Greg Creed who personally invited everyone to go to Taco Bell to get their free taco!
Unfortunately, the White Sox season ended yesterday. But no one ever gave them a chance to even finish better than third or fourth place in their division. So everyone–except the White Sox and their fans–was surprised that the Sox made it to the post-season. They were in the first place for most of the season before slipping in the standings, but they battled their way back into first place by playing an extra playoff game against the Minnesota Twins. They gave the Tampa Bay Rays a good fight and they lost the series to a team with 97 regular-season wins (not the Cubs!).
The Cubs were given a celebration rally downtown for their first-place finish in the National League Central Division. And the White Sox. Nada! Not even a pat on the back!!! But alas, the White Sox and their fans hail from the much-maligned South Side. Those scrappy White Sox of 2008 are representative of the working-class, no-nonsense fans who support them. Yes, they’re a little rough around the edges, as witnessed by Sox fans who gloated when the Sox beat the Rays in game 3. Yes, they berated the Cubs and their fans for being swept from the playoffs in a mere three games. But the big, bad White Sox lost in four games! The Cubs had their dream team and were supposed to go all the way to the World Series. The Sox, on the other hand, fought to win every single game. And even though they lost, their fans cheered them on until the very end.
Well, the Cubs are out of the playoffs after losing three games to the L.A. Dodgers. Even though I am a lifelong White Sox fan, I was rooting for the Cubs to go all the way to the World Series. But I did imagine them losing them to the White Sox in four games. So I am disappointed in their poor showing in the post-season after how well they played all season.This was supposed to be the year for the Cubs! And they played so well all year. The Cubs had a National League best 97 wins, 636 walks, 855 runs scored, and a Major League best of 1264 pitching strikeouts. How could they lose? This has been the most disappointing Cubs season since 1969.
Last night, I went to Moher Public House, 5310 W. Devon Avenue, Chicago, IL 60646, 773.4671954. This is an Irish bar whose name refers to the Cliffs of Moher in County Claire, Ireland. I’ve been there a few times already, always with my friend Mike who is half-Irish, half-Polish. I’ve known him for more than twenty years. I like all the pictures on the wall of Irish writers such as James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. If you like watching sports, there are plenty of TVs. The last time I went, we watched the White Sox and the Cubs play on side-by-side TVs! All the pub patrons seem to know at least one person because this is a neighborhood pub where everyone hangs out. Our waitress even spoke with an Irish Brogue. The sign on the woman’s room read, “Mne” and the one on the men’s room, “Fir.” I received a receipt for the beers I bought when it was my turn to buy a round. When I got home, I finally noticed that it had a message in Gaelic, “Go raibh mile maith agat / agus / Slan abhaile,” which translates to “Thank you very much / and / Safe home.” The food is supposed to be very good there, but each time I went, I had already eaten before I went there.
Rudy was the consummate pitchman. The last time I met him, was at his mother’s funeral when we were both adults. He was telling about his job as a brake pad salesman and I was thoroughly impressed by his knowledge of brake pads.
However, I shall always remember how he tried out as pitcher for the Chicago White Sox every spring. He was a south sider, after all. The coaches always told him to keep working out. In the traditional Chicago fashion, Rudy always reassured us with the words, “Wait till next year!” One of the main reasons he never made the team was because he focused more on spending time with his drinking buddies.
He was a great storyteller who always attracted the attention of everyone within hearing range. He was a very likeable guy who was fun to have around. We spent much more time in bars than on the baseball field. Although he lost interest in his workout plan for much of the year, he never lost the hope of making the team. Come springtime, he would get all worked up again for the open tryouts. After a few years we lost touch, but I always kept watching baseball with the hope that I would see him on the mound someday.
When I saw him again at his mother’s funeral. He still had not lost the hope of playing in the pros even though he was well past the age of the rookie pitcher. He had planned to try out with one of the Texas teams where he was now living. He was a great brake shoe salesman due to his outgoing personality and doing quite well working on commission. After explaining the virtues of his brake shoes in comparison to the competition, I was sold on his. Then I recalled why I always believed he would one day become a Major League Baseball pitcher. He could make you believe in whatever he was pitching.
After Carlos Mojaro moved back to Mexico, we just didn’t have as much fun as before. Most of the time we just played baseball in the prairie or just sat on somebody’s porch talking about the good old days. Then we saw the Mexico City Olympics on TV, mainly because our parents were so proud of the fact that an international event could take place in Mexico. So all my friends and I watched the Olympics religiously.
I especially liked the track and field events, but I also liked women’s gymnastics. Whenever we talked about the Olympic events we watched, we couldn’t help but act them out. Soon we started up our own Olympics. For the shotput, we through a brick in my backyard. Luckily, we weren’t strong enough to throw it out of the yard. We had competitions in many events. We even made charts with the athlete and team standings and the “world records” that we had achieved. After watching the Olympic marathon, we were amazed that anyone could run 26 miles. However, as we discussed this amazing feat, we realized that when we were very active on those long summer days, we ran quite a lot distance without realizing it. I even suggested that we could probably run a marathon if we tried. There was some dissension amongst us at first. But then we decided to put ourselves to the test.
There were about fifteen of us and we decided that we would run the Mexico City Olympic Marathon. I felt as if Carlos Mojaro was still with us. Well, we didn’t exactly know how a long marathon was, and since our mothers wouldn’t let us cross the street, we decided to run around the block until we competed the marathon or dropped dead like Phidippides. I didn’t know much about running back then, but I did know that we had to pace ourselves to go the distance.
After the opening ceremony, we toed the line and ran at sound of the exploding firecracker. Douglass sprinted from the start and only made it around the block once. The rest of us ran as a pack as we had observed the Olympic marathoners do. I’m not sure how long our Chicago city blocks are, but I believe our block at 4405 South Wood Street was about one-third of a mile when we ran completely around. As we ran around the block we would shout out the lap number as we passed my house. It was getting dark fast. We were actually having fun running around the block in the Mexico City Olympic Marathon.
My mother came out to see what was going on because a crowd had gathered in front of my house. We didn’t actually expect to have any spectators. This was just like the Olympics! By lap ten, a few runners had dropped out of the race. The spectators shouted out the lap numbers with us. About lap twenty, my mother said it was time to go in the house. My friends’s mothers were also waiting for their sons to go home. My mother insisted that I go inside so my brothers would go home, too. I knew if I went in, then the marathon would stop and everyone would go home. I begged my mother, without breaking my stride, to let us keep running a little longer. We ran a few more laps and we were still having fun, but we were also getting tired and starting to feel pain in our legs. When we reached lap 27, my mother said that if I didn’t go in right now, she would beat me: ¡Te voy a dar una paliza! That was just the excuse we needed to save face. There were only six of us left running and we all complained to our mothers about interrupting our marathon. But we all went home, secretly thankful to our mothers for saving us from embarrassment.
However, we always felt great about our running accomplishments. We always talked about how much farther we could have run if weren’t for our mothers stopping us. Of course, we never attempted to run another marathon either.
In Chicago, we have a great rivalry between the south side and the north side. Such a rivalry has not existed since the American Civil War. As a boy, I often heard White Sox fans say things like, “It’s a beautiful day in Chicago. The Sox won and the Cubs lost.” Sox and Cubs fans are naturally inclined to hate each other during baseball season. Nothing causes greater family strife than having a family member who is a fan of the opposing team. It’s the classic case of brother against brother, wife against husband, and so on, all due to being the fan of the opposing Sox or Cubs. I knew of one ardent, fanatical White Sox family who ran DNA tests on their son to see if he wasn’t switched at birth all because he turned out to be a ardent, fanatical Cubs fan, the only one in the family for three generations.
Here is a joke that illustrates the rivalry among Chicago sports fans:
A group of Chicago sports fans are out hiking. One is a Blackhawks fan, one a Bulls fan, one a Bears fan, one a Sox fan, and one a Cubs fan. They get to the top of the cliff and behold a majestic sunset. It is breathtaking. Soon, though, they get to arguing about Chicago sports and who among them is the most dedicated fan.
The Hawks fan cries, “This is for Bobby Hull and the Hawks of the ’60s!” and throws himself off the cliff.”
The remaining fans are impressed by his dedication, but the Bears fan shouts, “Oh, yeah? Well, this is for Ditka and the ’85 Bears!” and throws himself off the cliff.
The Bulls fan is not about to be outdone. He shouts, “This is for Michael Jordan and the Bulls of the ’90s!” and also leaps into the abyss.
This leaves just the Cubs fan and the Sox fan. At which point, the Sox fan says, “This is for the South Side!” and pushes the Cubs fan off the cliff!
When I was a boy growing up in Chicago, I had to decide early on whether I was a Sox or Cubs fan. As Cub Scout, one of our first field trips was to a White Sox game. From then on, I was diehard White Sox fan. However, our next-door neighbors, and I mean the entire family, were hardcore Cubs fans. In the summer of 1969 when the Cubs had a winning record in mid-summer, everyone–even Sox fans–was excited about the prospects of the Cubs going to the World Series. If I think about names of Chicago baseball players from my childhood days, I remember more Cubs players than Sox. For the White Sox I remember Wilbur Wood, Ken Berry, Luis Aparicio, and Carlos May, but that’s about it. As for the Cubs, I rememer Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Randy Hundley, Ron Santo, Glenn Beckert, Ken Holtzmann, Fergie Jenkins, Don Kessinger, and manager Leo Durocher. Now that I think of it, this is pretty sad that I, as a Sox fan, don’t remember more White Sox players from that era. But we were all excited about having such a good baseball team in Chicago despite our allegiances. Unfortunately, the Cubs soon collapsed and they dropped out of contention for the playoffs.
One year at our Rodriguez family picnic, we played volleyball, as we always do, by picking teams. We try different ways to set up teams, such as north siders versus south siders, American born versus Mexican born, the sober versus the drunk, etc. Then someone suggested, Sox fans versus Cubs fans. I thought it would be lopsided because I always stereotype Mexicans as Sox fans. Wow, was I ever wrong! In fact, both teams were evenly balanced in number and talent. I was amazed. Well, we played two games and the match was tied. We were in the middle of playing the third game, tie score, when a thunderstorm stopped our game. We immediately went home to avoid getting struck by lightning. I’m sure this was some sort of divine intervention. Otherwise, who knows how high the body count might have been.
A couple of years ago I was at my sons’ little league picnic where one of the raffle prized was an autographed baseball by White Sox designated hitter #25 Jim Thome. Well, a young White Sox fan won one of the first raffle prizes, so he was able to choose any prize from the table. He chose the autographed baseball since he was an avid White Sox fan. Unfortunately, his parents were both avid Cubs fans. When the boy proudly showed the baseball to his father, the father began shouting at him. He wanted his son to exchange the baseball for another prize, but the raffle organizers didn’t allow any exchanges. This man was so upset with his son that he ignored him for the rest of picnic. However, the boy proudly showed the baseball to all his friends. I wonder if his parents had DNA tests performed on their son.
I, unfortunately, hail from the much-maligned south side. And, I have been a White Sox fan for as long as I can remember. The 2005 World Series Championship was something that I waited for all my life. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not just a White Sox fan. I’m also a Chicago fan. No matter who’s winning in Chicago, I support the team. Even now as the Chicago Cubs appear to be headed to the playoffs, I support them and cheer them on, but as a Chicago White Sox fan. Hopefully, the Cubs won’t disappoint us again!
Last Sunday, I watched the Gold Cup soccer / fútbol match between the U.S. and Mexico. Okay, I have to admit that my allegiance was divided. Not only could I not decide which team to root for, Mexico or USA, but I was also switching channels so I could watch the White Sox play the Cubs. Talk about mental anguish! No matter which team won, USA or Mexico, I would feel some sort of disappointment. On the other hand, I wanted the White Sox to win since I am a south sider. The Cubs won. 😦 Sniff!
Well, team USA won, much to the disappointment of the Mexico fans who outnumbered the USA fans at Soldier Field. Almost three million households tuned in to watch the game. However, it was broadcast only on Univision, a Spanish-language station. Not enough Americans were interested in watching a soccer game. Ironically, a female announcer interviewed a flagged-draped American from the winning team and he spoke to the announcer in fluent Spanish! Doesn’t this send mixed signals to the general public about American culture? How do we deal with the English only issue when Americans are speaking languages other than English? At least we beat someone at their own game, that is, a non-American sport.
This reminds me of the immigration debate now before President Bush, the senate, and congress. No matter how many amendments are added to the bill, someone is disappointed, particularly the illegal immigrants who seek amnesty. There are too many issues to satisfy everyone. The immigration issue will not soon be resolved.
Go ahead and ask me why! Okay, okay, I’ll tell you. I read in the newspaper that the Milwaukee Brewers have added a new sausage to their sausage race for the 7th inning stretch. In addition to the hot dog, bratwurst, Italian sausage, and Polish sausage, Chorizo (a Mexican sausage), wearing a Mariachi hat, will also race. Milwaukee also had a “Cerveceros” (Spanish for Brewers) day on Saturday, July 29, 2006.
Now that I think of it, one of my cousins moved from Mexico to Milwaukee. But not because of the Cerveceros.