Only in a town like this

By Derek Barichello

It was a night that reminded us that anything is possible in sports.

Paul Konerko’s grand slam and Scott Podsednik’s improbable game-winning homer will be remembered in Chicago sports lore forever.

And like the day MJ decided to come back, the night Bartman booted it, or the night Mike Brown, “Mr. Johnny-on-the-spot,” intercepted a pass in overtime to beat the Browns, Chicago fans will remember this night forever.

After the game, hundreds of patrons soaked from the rain came from U.S. Cellular Field into Mother Hubbard’s, a smoke-filled neighborhood sports bar just north of the Chicago River, right off Michigan Avenue, to get their practice telling the story that will eventually be passed onto their children and grandchildren.

The fans came to celebrate together over a $6 bucket special of Miller Lite. The tavern, which featured a bar wrapping around two big screen televisions, showed the postgame coverage from ESPN and Comcast. Groups of friends dressed in Bears and Sox paraphernalia gathered in circles and talked to each other in loud voices over the Blues Brothers “Sweet Home Chicago” and other spirited songs which blared from the speakers.

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One Southsider, who went to the game with his buddy, came into Mother Hubbard’s after the game to have a celebratory beer and to tell their version of the talk of the town.

“My pal knew it was going to happen. He said Paulie is going to hit a home run here. He said, ‘Let’s get a picture of this before Paulie goes yard.’ Then ‘whack!’ The rest is history.”

They say a picture tells 1,000 words, and this picture said it all. The before photo was of two men decked out in Sox gear with smiles of hope; the after photo was of two men with wide-open mouths, screaming.

Another fan, Eric Kukanic, a Northsider, came into Chicago from Virginia for a Bears game and his friend’s bachelor party. He was thankful to be in the city for the moment.

“This place was so silent after they tied the game. Then when Podsednik hit it, this place went crazy. Everyone started singing, “Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey goodbye.”

Kukanic, who is a Cubs fan, said Chicago fans cannot help but root for the White Sox because their blue-collar style of play mirrors the city they have made so proud.

“If you bust your ass, people will like you in this city,” he said with a smile, sipping on his beer.

On the train ride back to Champaign, two drunken, middle-aged brothers, one mustached, one with receeding hair, both incognito as Frank Thomas, were transformed to children. They started trouble with the conductor and policeman by screaming Sox cheers, all the while reciting Ozzie Guillen quotes and giggling like schoolgirls.

Others told stories of hugs, highfives, loved ones, kisses, exclamations and predictions.

Each fan had a story that night, including the one I will tell my children and grandchildren.

I am a die-hard Cubs fan, but could not hold back the goosebumps from the day’s events.

Just walking downtown was amazing. Sox banners hung from telephone poles along Michigan Avenue, hats rested on Chicago art – the Picasso and the lions guarding the Art Institute – windows displayed Sox apparel at the Marshall Field’s on State Street and most of all, people walked the streets clad in Sox gear.

And if that was not enough, when nightfall arrived, the skyline twinkled with messages of “Go Sox” and “Sox pride,” written from the lighted windows of buildings. Even during the Bears game at Soldier Field, a chant of “Let’s Go Sox” ignited.

And after settling down in a Bennigan’s on Michigan Avenue with a crowd of six around a small TV for a cheeseburger and a pop, I experienced Chicago sports history.

When Konerko hit the grand slam, I got goosebumps. The two things I’ll remember are, first, the expression on my friend’s face as he screamed for joy. And second, my grandfather, who was a die-hard Sox fan but died in 1984, and just knowing how much he would have loved this game.

But of all the stories, my favorite had to be about a father and a son and their love for the Sox, which is the story of why I was even able to go to Chicago.

Only able to get one World Series ticket, my friend’s father said he would give his ticket to his son, but his son said he refused to watch the game without his father.

After a lot of hardwork, his father was finally able to get two World Series tickets. And they witnessed the greatest game of their lives together.

The White Sox World Series has reminded us why sports are crucial to our lives. It has not only united a city, but families as well.