CHICAGO -- It's almost like a holiday in the Windy City whenever the White Sox and Cubs face each other, especially if you like your holidays spiced with bitterness, jealously and downright hatred.
In this city, fans are typically either White Sox black or Cubby blue with no exceptions made -- or love lost -- on either side. Monday night at the White Sox's U.S. Cellular Field, however, the "neutral" colors were red and black, the main color scheme of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.
Thanks to Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Blackhawks and rival Detroit Red Wings starting at 7 p.m. Central -- a potential elimination game for Chicago -- the opening game of the annual Cubs-Sox rivalry was forced to share the spotlight.
How much baseball watching will be going on at the ballpark?
"Uh, not a lot," said Tim Light, of Burr Ridge, Ill., who attended the game with his Cubs-fan wife, Debby and proudly wore a Jonathan Toews alternate Blackhawks jersey. "As soon as 7 o'clock comes around, I'll be watching the hockey game."
The Lights were sitting in one of the stadium's suites, which come equipped with televisions. Most fans had to find another way to follow the Blackhawks game, including smartphone apps and strolling into one of a few areas in the ballpark that had the game on a TV, such as the Stadium Club down the right field line or the Bullpen Sports Bar located behind the visitors bullpen in right field.
"I'm a die-hard Cubs fan, but I'm going to watch at least the second period from somewhere," Reyna Hoerdeman, of Chicago, said. "I'll probably be wandering around the park anyway, and it doesn't matter. Hockey's the most important thing on my mind right now. I have the app on my phone, so I'll know what happens. I'll be following."
She'll also know if the Blackhawks score a goal thanks to the sound operator in the press box, who sounds a loud goal horn reminiscent to the one heard at United Center whenever Chicago finds the back of the net in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
Should that happen Monday night, the Cubs and White Sox will be well into the first of four straight games against each other and fans ought to be all warmed up for trash talking. Baseball's Hatfields and McCoys will have to put down their verbal weaponry and unite via the jersey that binds, usually with a No. 19, No. 88 or No. 10 on the back.
"I guess it brings everyone together, because there's only one hockey team … so you've got to be happy for that … that you can all cohesively agree on one thing," Hoerdeman said. "If you're a Sox/Hawks fan, you're fine with me, but if you're a Sox/Red Wings fan, I want nothing to do with you."
That kind of attitude at a game between the Cubs and White Sox is usually reserved for just baseball. For example, a typical White Sox fan wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything related to the Cubs. Should the Blackhawks score some goals, however, there's a good chance South siders and North siders will be caught high-fiving.
"I think I could do that," White Sox fan Craig Fischer, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., said while tailgating before the game. "I think I could manage it, as long as it's about the 'Hawks … although at this point neither Chicago baseball team has been impressive enough to warrant any real siding on the issue. Fans of both teams can unite over the Blackhawks."
They also can unite over another common feeling in the Windy City sports scene.
"I just want my Hawks to make it, because even though I know Detroit has pulled it together, I just don't want to hear anymore Detroit fans talking (smack)," Hoerdeman said. "I also bet someone $100 the Hawks were going to make it [to the Stanley Cup Final], so they need to make it."
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