White Sox, 1980July 10, 2009
The word suck, used as a disparagement, used to really have some heft to it. I don’t have a dictionary handy that’s any older than my 2003 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.), but I would guess that at a certain point the definition of this sense of the word carried the “usually considered vulgar” tag line. That tag line no longer accompanies the current definition: “to be objectionable or inadequate.” Gone is the implied direct object, a word also ending in the hard “ck” sound that is the unchallenged superstar of vulgarity phonetics. Gone, then, is another little piece of my childhood.
Not that I understood that there was such an implied direct object connected to the word back in the late 1970s when I was a kid. But I knew the word suck meant something beyond just what you did with a straw. For example, though my Free to Be You and Me house was far from being a place where someone who loosed an occasional obscenity would get his mouth washed out with soap, my mom refused to let me buy the article of clothing I most coveted in the world: a pinstriped T-shirt with the word “Yankees” across the chest and below that word, as if scrawled in red spray paint: “SUCK!” It was still a somewhat shocking word, especially to see on a T-shirt, especially if that T-shirt was going to be on your own son. If only I had been a little older, like these guys (scroll down to see the second picture on the page), I would have had the autonomy to express my feelings to the world about what did and did not suck.
Anyway, the word suck had its biggest day thirty years ago Sunday, when it featured heavily in chants from the packed stands throughout the first game of a doubleheader involving some of the fellows seated in the picture shown in this 1980 team card (the obscure figure in the upper right hand corner inset was not on the scene thirty years ago Sunday but was promoted from the club’s triple A managing job a couple weeks later after player/manager Don Kessinger was fired).
I’ve taken a stab at describing the events before on this site, noting Fred Howard’s place in the proceedings, but if anything’s worth more than one look, it’s Disco Demolition Night.
Also worth a look is the Baseball Think Factory discussion growing out of the link to Calcaterra’s piece.
And here’s an interesting consideration of the possible undercurrents of an event featuring a stadium full of white people chanting about something they hate.
Finally, some local news coverage from that night (featuring a young Greg Gumbel, a brief cameo by Gene Siskel, and a lot of shirtless longhaired yahoos):