Will a win be more traumatic for Cubbie fans and the Cub franchise than a loss?
This is the question I ponder as we prepare ourselves for the start of the World Series
Yes, we now live in Sarasota, FL, but Cub fans remain true blue no matter where they reside.
Jack is a natural born Cub fan, having been born outside of Chicago and raised by a Cub fan father. As a New Yorker, I cheered for the Mets, but when I realized that this was untenable for our relationship, I agreed to convert upon marriage over 20 years ago. It was only then that I began to appreciate the tragic history of my new team—a team that has not won the World Series in what is now 108 years and yet their fans remain loyal and fan-atically devoted. For heavens sake, my father-in-law lived to be 102 and during his entire lifetime did not see his beloved team triumph.
Like any conversion, I had to learn the history and traditions associated with my new religion.
And a religion it is. Being a Cub fan demands spiritual depth. It means having faith when reason tells you otherwise, it means developing personal strength in the face of despair, and it means being the butt of jokes about perennial losers. But it also means love–as in love of the game despite the loses, love of the players despite their foibles, a love of legacy despite its moments of deep disappointment, and a love of living on the margins when the world clamors for the mainstream. It’s no wonder that the most prized seating at Wrigley is not in the box seats but in the outfield bleachers, and that the drink of choice is not a Heineken but a Bud (Cub fan, Bud man).
I have touched the holy ivy at Wrigley; attended spring training games in Mesa, AZ; wear with pride my pin-striped shirt with GRACE on the back (for Mark Grace, natch); learned that a Cubbie fan is expected to throw back onto the field (with distain) the REAL homerun ball hit by the other team; know that when the Cubs have the lead, never to chant “Let’s get some runs!” after the rituals of the Seventh Inning Stretch; sang with gusto “Go Cubs Go! Go Cubs Go! Hey Chicago what do you say, the Cubs are gonna win today!” (watch a video version of the song here) and repeated with genuine conviction, “This is going to be THE year.” I even know that the sign on a nearby rooftop that spells out “EAMUS CATULI” is Latin (almost) for Go Cubs.
And I have learned to forgive and be forgiven. I confess that shortly after our move to Sarasota, I became enamored of another: The Tampa Bay Rays. Like the Cubs, the odds seemed against them but still they played scrappy baseball. I came to love their manager Joe Madden for the upbeat spirit and quirky ways he brought to the team and the game.
But then Fate once again shook the universe, and Madden left the Rays and joined, of all teams, the Cubs, (taking Ben Zobrist with him). I forgave them and then found forgiveness myself when I returned to the fold of the Cubbies (despite their losing ways).
Now things have changed. With Madden at the helm, the Cubs are, dare I say it, winners. They are poised to play this Tuesday night in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. They will be playing in their first World Series since 1945—before Jack was even born. So we should rejoice, right?
But I can’t.
Part of the Cub history is their ability to snatch defeat out of victory. Among the worst moments are the billy goat curse of 1945, the black cat on the field in 1969, and the Steve Bartman fan interference debacle in 2003. And then there is a history of devastating injuries (Sammy Sosa’s caused by a sneeze), of ninth inning collapses, and of dropped balls, once cracking bats that now meet only air, and players who collide with each other. A familiar posture of Cub fans occurs when they cover their eyes to ward off the demons of doom followed by the communal groan of “OOOOH NOOOO!” It is thus that Cub fans topple from the highest of optimistic heights to the basement of baseball abyss.
So it’s no wonder that I face the World Series games with trepidation. (I hear the warning “Winter is coming” and shudder.) I don’t want to witness the pain of those I love should the Cubs return to their previous Cub-like ways.
Adding to my concern, is the fact that this year we are once again 3 generations Cubbie strong. With the birth of little Madison, who at just 7 weeks old wore her Cub tee each night to witness the Cubs win the National League pennant, we wonder if this could really, really be THE year.
But upon reflection, I’m not really afraid of losing. We have, after all, already won in making it to the World Series following a 103-58 season, and we have already won in never giving up and keeping the faith despite over a century of defeat.
What really scares me is winning.
How will winning alter our Cubbie identity? No longer the perennial but undisputedly, lovable losers, who will we become? Will our ranks be infiltrated by unproven, unworthy bandwagon Cub fans?
I confess; I’m not sure.
But for the sake of all those who did not live to see this day, those like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Steve Goodman, Harry Caray, and our very own Erwin Freie, I’d like to give being a winner a shot.
Please share with other Cub fans!!!