Empathy for the transfan


The United States is dealing with vast controversies about people with mixed, confused or questioning identities.

In Chicago, we have managed this sort of thing for more than a century.  It all relates to baseball.

As some of you may know, we have two baseball teams in Chicago.  On the North Side you will find the Chicago Cubs of the National League.  They have many passionate fans.

On the South Side we have the Chicago White Sox of the American League.  They also have many passionate fans, including yours truly.

Generally speaking, it simply isn’t psychologically, morally or socially possible (or ethical) to be a fan of both teams.  In fact, Chicago residents are expected to pick one or the other to support.  This causes schisms in families, friendships, workplaces, church congregations and schools.

It seldom leads to violence, although it has lead to much expressive language over the years.

Each set of fans has its own place to go to cheer for their team.  Cubs supporters visit the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.  Sox fans go to US Cellular Field.

But as in other burning life controversies, there are some fans who are not sure which team they support.  Their lives are torn between two identities and they merit our sympathy and understanding.

There are the transfandic.  We don’t have precise numbers for this segment of society, but estimates are that in Chicago, less than .01 percent of the population can’t decide whether they support the Sox or the Cubs – and a significantly smaller percentage supports both.

We’ve always dealt with this in a mature, commonsense manner.  Those who are coping with transfanism typically try attending a game at one venue or the other.  They may or may not feel a connection and become a team-specific fan.

In rare cases, a fan of one team or the others has doubts, thinking that perhaps they are called to support the other team.  In such an instance, the questioning fan typically attends a game at the other park, which helps them clarify their thinking.

For example, I’ve been a Sox fan for decades.  But let’s say (just for the sake of illustration – this could never really happen), I start thinking the Cubs aren’t so bad and maybe I should change allegiance.  I would attend a game at Wrigley Field, being careful not to wear any Sox attire.  That would help clarify my identity.

It also is possible for a fan of one team to attend a game at the other team’s field.  This typically happens in one of two situations.

First, the two teams occasionally play each other, which means the crowd in the park is divided.  You aren’t really attending the other team’s game – you are attending your team’s game, which just happens to be at the other team’s park.

Second, there are times when friendships can promote peaceful attendance at the other team’s field.  For example, a couple years ago my good friend Mildred Muldoon (name changed to protect the innocent) came into possession of several tickets to a game at US Cellular Field.  Although Mildred bleeds Cubby Blue, she knows I’m a Sox fan and graciously invited my wife and me to accompany her to the game.

It was a gesture of great nobility for which we were deeply grateful.  And we were especially relieved that she didn’t wear anything that would identify her as a Cubs fan.

Perhaps this story of how we deal with disagreements in Chicago can help the nation to handle other problems.  And for Chicago residents who continue to question whether they are fans of the Sox, Cubs – or both or neither – please continue your sensible practice of just not making a big deal about it.

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