Jim Siergey: Showboatin’

September 9th, 2021

It was the top of the ninth and the Sox were ahead 4-2. Their ace closer was on the mound and since they were playing the lowly Pirates, the game seemed to be in the bag.

Even the announcers were barely paying attention. They yakked it up between themselves with nary a comment upon the game. The TV crew as well had become lackadaisical. When a Pirate came up to bat his name and stats weren’t flashed on the screen as per usual.

The ninth inning had become a vague abstraction.

Such is life when the baseball season is in its final month of play and your team is firmly ensconced in first place, many games ahead of their nearest pursuer. Things get taken for granted, which is not a safe thing to do, especially in Chicago whose middle name is Heartbreak.

Meanwhile, the unrecognized batter lifted a soft fly into short center field. It looked like it might drop in for a hit but Luis Robert, the Sox’ fleet-footed young outfielder was racing in attempting to snare the spheroid before it touched the grass.

In the previous inning young Robert made a dazzling play, running a long way to his right in pursuit of a sinking line drive. He left his feet and leapt, stretching his six foot two inch frame as far as it would reach and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove as he hit the turf and slid to a triumphant halt. The appreciative crowd rewarded him with cheering that would have raised the roof if it was a domed stadium.

So here he was once again running in at top speed endeavoring to rob the opponents of another hit and once again sliding, this time on his backside, to make the catch.  The announcers, suddenly paying attention to the game, applauded the play but debated whether Robert really needed to slide to make the catch.

This got me to wondering.

 I wondered if he made that second sliding catch merely to entertain the crowd. Did he feel that Sox fans were getting so inured to victorious outcomes that he had to jazz things up?

Could this be the start of something new? Would players on the White Sox feel so confident in their abilities that they would begin to nonchalantly catch balls behind their backs, bat one-handed, pitch while blindfolded, run the bases on pogo sticks? Would they adopt “Sweet Georgia Brown” as their team theme song?

Showboating is not something Chicago sports fans condone or welcome. We’re a blue-collar, shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone city. We don’t cotton to no hot-doggin’.

But yet…

Chicagoans loved the Super Bowl Bears of 1985 where the defense would line up and start barking like dogs at their quavering opponents, 300 pound tackles were used as running backs and, arrogance of all arrogance, put out a Super Bowl Shuffle music video before they even reached the Super Bowl.

Then there were the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls teams who won six championships. Jordan would mercilessly trash talk and dis his opponents while leaving them stupefied in their sneakers as he would make one sensational play after another.

Chicagoans cheered him on and smiled smugly at all the other cities whose teams fell in defeat to Jordan and his teammates. As pitching great Dizzy Dean said back in the day, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” (Dean also, while a Sox announcer, once said “He slud into third base.”)

Yes, Chicago sports fans loved those two showboating championship teams…but baseball? I don’t think a team could get away with making circus catches, hollering insults at the opponents and making animal sounds when they came to bat. Every Sox player would become a beanball victim.

I ceased my musing about a possible Cirque du Southside and saw that the Sox were one out away from victory. There came the windup and the pitch to the current Pittsburgh batter who deftly stroked a single to left field. It woke up one of the announcers who proclaimed to the TV audience “There’s a hit to left by Newman.”

I may not be sure of many things but one thing of which I was sure, after that particular intonation by the announcer, was that every one watching the game at home was saying in unison, along with me, in a Seinfeldian voice…”Newman?”

Leave the show biz thoughts to your fans, Pale Hosians, and just play ball.

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Soap & Watergate

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