"This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper"
- T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"
We knew this day was coming.
The day when it was once again someone else's turn.
The day when we watched someone else shine.
The day when somewhere, out there, they were pinning their hopes onto some other gallery of stars and mutts, of vagabonds and journeymen, of old faithfuls and new favorites.
The day when October was once again time for us to watch someone else make a run for the top.
The day when those guys out there, wearing our colors and playing on our field in our town, were no longer on top.
The day it was over.
I won't say for a second that I thought it would last forever. Unless you have the bankroll of the Yankees to put a juggernaut out on the field, or you have the freakish baseball IQ of the Braves and squeeze that much talent out of 25 men, no team stays on top. Not in baseball, anyway.
We all remember 2001. 1994. 1984. And on and on it goes. This city is full of teams for whom the honeymoon was over too soon.
But this was different. This was the Sox.
They weren't supposed to win anything, ever. We fans knew that. We didn't like it, and we sure as hell didn't put up with it, but at least for a while (a long while, I'll add), we knew where we stood.
And suddenly that changed.
Suddenly there was much rejoicing over what was happening on the South Side. Suddenly you didn't automatically get laughed at wearing your Sox gear on the North Side. Suddenly out-of-towners didn't just assume that since you were from Chicago, you liked the Cubs.
Suddenly we could stand tall. And suddenly, we knew what everyone else had been talking about for so long: winning does change everything.
And we wanted more.
And I swear, for a little while, it looked like we were going to get just that.
The team, somehow, got better. Better than the team that won it all. "Is that even possible?" was what we asked.
And oh how wrong we were.
I won't sit here and curse them out, one by one. That's not fair and it's not like I could do a better job on the field than they did.
But it's hard.
It's hard watching a pitcher who you know has a real chance of becoming one of the best left-handers in the American League getting booed off the field.
It's hard watching a guy who no one really knew anything about come over from Milwaukee, become a local hero, and then have the bottom drop out of his offense.
It's hard watching the greatest 1-2 punch of middle relief get either run out of the league or automatically shelled every time out.
It's hard watching the uber-prospect centerfielder hit .175 for most of the year.
It's hard watching the errors become runs become games.
It's hard watching the 3-4-5 hitters rise to the top while the rest of the team takes one, two, three steps back.
It's hard watching...well, it's just hard.
I won't be paying too much attention to the playoffs this year. Nothing personal against the Twins, Tigers, et al, it's just too soon. Too much time would be spent staring blankly at the TV and imagining what I was doing this time last year.
Watching from the upper deck as the Gooch turned Tony Graffanino's error into a 2-0 ALDS lead.
Running from the train station to the Bucktown Pub just in time to catch El Duque pitching the White Sox Miracle Inning to End All White Sox Miracle Innings.
Not believing it when Joe Crede hit that game-winning single off of Kelvim Escobar.
Celebrating up and down Halsted between 33rd and 35th Streets when the Good Guys clinched the pennant.
Getting to Joe's three hours early that Saturday night and still getting just the absolute last table in the entire two-story bar for Game 1.
Jumping off my living room chair not once but twice when Paulie and Pods were suddenly the greatest home-run wrecking crew in World Series history.
My phone resetting itself over and over again when too many simultaneous text messages came in at 1:30 a.m. reaffirming that yes, what Blum just did was awesome awesome AWESOME and holy hell we are up 3-0.
And that moment. That moment.
Bottom of the 9th.
Man on second.
Sox lead 1-0.
"Here's the 1-2 pitch to Palmeiro.
"A ground ball, past Jenks, up the middle of the infield. Uribe has it, he throws...
"OUT! OUT! A WHITE SOX WINNER, AND A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!!!"
At the time it was enough to last forever. Now it's enough to break your heart.
In eight other parts of the country next month, it will be their turn to bring it back home. They will have new memories to cherish. Reasons to watch. To care about the sport. Time to bond. To watch. To hope.
While they do, life here will go on. It always does.
And there's always comfort.
Because there's always last year.