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 woke up early this morning to shovel my sidewalks and dig out my car so I could get to UIC on time. This was the third time I had shoveled in twenty-four hours and I actually enjoyed shoveling! Since I don’t like to run in the snow because I’m afraid to twist my weak ankles yet again, shoveling snow is my alternate form of exercise on snowy days. I like to brag that I’m cross-training. I love shoveling snow about as much as I hate mowing the lawn. But those are responsibilities of a homeowner. So, I enjoyed shoveling out my car and then returning home after school and parking in the very same place.
In many Chicago neighborhoods, people shovel out their parking spots and then place old chairs or other unwanted furniture that is worthless (just in case it gets stolen or thrown away by the City of Chicago) to reserve their parking spots. This is a time-honored Chicago tradition that I remember from the 1960s. This causes more arguments than perhaps even the White Sox vs. Cubs debate that is so quintessential Chicago. In fact, people have been shot for freshly-shoveled parking spaces.
I have always shoveled out my parking space, but I have never placed junk on the street to reserve my space. I usually shovel my car out and when I come back I park in the same space that I shoveled if I’m fortunate enough that it’s still available. If it’s not, I shovel out a new spot and park there. One year, I ended up shoveling my whole block one parking space at a time and everyone on the block seemed very happy with the arrangement. In fact, my neighbors showed their appreciation by not shooting me.
When I came home today, I parked right in front of my house in the very same parking spot that I had shoveled out. I was surprised by my good luck to be able to park in the same place, so I just had to take a picture. Behold! I took this picture from the comfort of my front porch!
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.
My father always loved going to the Chicago Auto Show every year. He would go several times each year and he would always take my brothers, sister, and me the first time he went. He always managed to get free tickets either through work or some promotional event. Somehow, he always found free tickets and took us every year.
When I was older, he would go with just me so we could take our time and really look at all the cars. He loved looking at the cars and we loved collecting bags and bags full of automobile literature, pamphlets, key chains, and anything else they gave away there. My father was a mechanic at Curtiss Candy, so he loved to show off his knowledge of all things mechanical while we were at the auto show. So if they had a motor displaying the internal parts, my father would explain how the internal combustion engine worked. My brothers weren’t all that interested in his explanations, but I always tried to learn something new everytime we went to the auto show.
My father always fantasized about owning all the latest expensive sports cars. He would always insist that we sit inside the car, behind the wheel. Then, he would explain all the features of the car, as if he were a car salesman. My favorite part of the show was the celebrities who made appearances. They were so accessible to everyone. Usually all the Chicago sports teams such as the White Sox, the Bulls, the Bears, the Blackhawks, and the Cubs sent a few players to represent them. I don’t really remember exactly who specifically showed up, but I do remember that if you waited long enough after their presentation, you could walk right up to them, shake their hand, and talk to them. We would always wait to meet the celebrities, but I was too shy to actually talk to them. I was content with shaking their hand and standing close enough to listen to them talk to others. The only Chicago player I really remember meeting there was Walter Payton. I also remember meeting Jesse Owens who came every year. He was always so patient just standing there waiting for everyone who wanted to greet him.
And long after the auto show was over, we still had our bags of automotive literature to entertain us well into the summer.
When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in Davis Square Park in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The park is located between Marshfield Avenue and Hermitage Avenue, 44th and 45th Streets. There are larger parks in the city, but when I was five, the park was huge. My mother always took my brothers and me there to play whenever it was nice out. Basically, if it wasn’t raining, my mother took us to the park to play no matter how cold it was. I loved going down the slide, which was the biggest slide I had ever seen! All the kids said it was the world’s biggest slide and I believed them. Come on, I was only five years old at the time. One day, I fell of the top of the slide because one of the kids told me to slide down one of the supporting poles instead of sliding down the slide.
When I was too afraid to go down the pole, he demonstrated how I should go down by doing it himself. Well, my legs didn’t wrap around the pole just right and I fell for what seemed an eternity and landed on my right arm. I cried because I was in so much pain! My mother came running over to see what had happened to me. She took my brothers and me home immediately. She massaged my shoulder, but I kept crying. She called a friend of hers who immediately came over. She looked at my arm and shoulder, and then, boiled some herbs on the stove. She then rubbed this pungent concoction on my shoulder and arm that made me gag and massaged me forcefully. I remember crying even more while she did this. Actually, I remember feeling much worse after her “cure.”
Davis Square Park had a field house where we would go after school in the fall to play floor hockey and in the winter to play basketball. In the winter, they would hose down the baseball fields so would could play ice hockey. Everyday after school, I would play hockey all afternoon and evening long. I just loved playing hockey. I would have been a great hockey player if it weren’t for my one weakness: I couldn’t skate very well! However, I was fearless. I turned out to be a very good goalie. As long as I was standing in front of the net, I could block slapshots with my stick or chest, and I could catch the puck and give it to one of my teammates. My team usually won because hardly anyone ever scored on me.
The park had a swimming pool where we spent as time as possible, although that was very limited because of their schedule. For reasons unbeknownst to us, the schedule alternated between a boys day and a girls day when we could go swim without an adult. In the afternoon and evening, families could go swimming together. I could never go because you needed an adult to take you. My mother never took us because she refused to wear a bathing suit. In fact, I never saw her go in the water when we went to the beach.
Our time at Davis Square Park just flew by. When it was time to go home, my brothers and I would want to stay. It seemed like it wasn’t until we were really having fun that my mother would decide we had to go home. But we had to go home, my mother told us, because they let lions loose at the park at night. She told us this every time it was time to go home. At first, we went home without questioning her. Then, I started thinking about the logistics and safety of maintaining lions at Davis Square Park. But my mother always had an answer for every question I posed. “Where do they keep the lions?” “In the basement of the fieldhouse.” “How do they let them out?” “Through the steel plates that cover the basement windows.” “How come the lions don’t run away if there’s no fence all the way around the park?” “Because the love the park.” “What’ll happen if I don’t go home with you?” “Fine! Stay! But don’t come home crying to me when the lions eat you!” “Wait for me!”
I met Mayor Richard J. Daley at Davis Square Park for the first time. Our neighborhood had a slight gang problem, so Da Mayor decided to start up his own rival gang called the Centurions. In theory, the Centurions would provide an alternative to street gangs. All my friends and I joined even though we never even thought of joining a gang in the first place. But we had a lot of fun! We played all kinds of organized sports and sometimes we even won a trophy. I really loved when they would load us up on a school bus and take us the the White Sox games for free!
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!