Friday, April 4, 2008

Waiting Til Next Year

Another baseball season is upon us and here in the frozen hamlet of championship-free baseball known affectionately as Cubdom, optimism is peaked, next year is now and like the promise of Spring itself, this could be the start of something wonderful.

Of course, it’s been this way for 100 years now. We delude ourselves each and every season anew that this will finally be the year that we return to the World Series and claim the title we fans have so desperately needed for too many years now. Entire lives have been lived, full and strong, but sadly devoid of the one thing every Cubs fan truly needs and desires, the chance to say that we are the champs.

Being a Cubs fan has been described as the most masochistic choice in all of sports. And it is, no question about it. An entire century of futility and still we all line up like sheep at the gates of historic Wrigley Field, file in, get our hot dogs and beer and watch as, inevitably, our beloved Cubbies lose in a heartbreaker of a game that has become the symbol of all things Cubs.

The park itself, of course, has something to do with it. Wrigley Field is, not only an icon, but a mecca for all those who remember a more simple time, a more simple game—with real heroes and villains, a place that is magical in much the same way as that fictitious Field of Dreams in an Iowa cornfield. The ghost of heroes past haunt old Wrigley in the most charming of ways.

If you get there early enough, when it’s still quiet and fresh, you can almost see Babe Ruth pointing his bat to the bleachers in his famous called home run shot. You can see the rhythmic double plays of Tinker to Evers to Chance! You can see our favorite old Cub clicking his heels after a win and if you listen carefully enough, you can hear Mr. Cub himself saying “Let’s play two!” You can see Ryno going deep, not once, but twice off the most feared pitcher in all of baseball. Wrigley is living, breathing history in a way that no other place I’ve ever been has ever compared.

And it is beautiful. There is no place in the world more green that Wrigley Field, from the lush grass to the ivy covered walls to the seats throughout, it’s a visual overload of beauty and depth. There is simply no place like it on earth.

Rooting for the underdogs is also key to the compulsion that is Cubdom. The second city loves an underdog and we love our overachievers. We love the idea of the common man rising above and beating back the behemoths from the coasts. Take your high priced players and your endorsement deals. Give us a team of scrappers who claw and fight and we’ll love them more fiercely than you ocean-siders could ever love your teams.

For us, it’s not about being fancy or suave. It’s about the fight. We love our fighters and we love watching our boys in blue never, never, never giving up. And perpetual underdogs we are too, aside from a rare year when we’re paper champions, no one ever much pays us mind in prognostications for success and glory. That’s okay. We’d prefer to sneak up on you.

And we’ve come so close. 1945, the summer of ’69, the year of Orwell the Bull booted a grounder and ’89 when I was sure we’d finally do it. And of course 2003 and the Bartman fiasco—5 outs away. Damn you Steve Garvey and you Billy Goats and Black cats! Curses be damned! Some day we’ll get there!

The love a Cubs fan has for our team is unconditional and everlasting. We curse and we swear, we stamp and huff and puff, we throw things at our televisions and we live and die with every pitch. We sigh along with old Ron Santo in the booth and feel his pain with every loss and his elation with every win.

We are all Hey-Hey kids and Holy Cows! We can show you the way the Hawk’s batting stance or Ernie’s patent grip. We are bleacher bums and the bane of Lee Elia. We are compatriots. Only we know the pain, the wait, the hunger. We are the clan of Wait Til Next Year! You can’t possibly know our pain and pains of our fathers and theirs before them. You can’t possibly know until you’re one of us.

And now, once again, next year is here and it’s a rare year of paper championship in many ways. And we started the campaign with two straight losses before our first win. This marks the 100 year anniversary of the last time the Cubs won the World Series, 1908-2008. As the saying goes, anyone can have a bad century, right?

Will this be the year? I don’t know. Like every other year though, somewhere deep down I believe it will be. I’ve only been crushed 33 times though, I’m still a relative newbie to Cubbie suffering. My grandfather lived his whole life without ever seeing a champion. And while an anniversary year like this one would be an amazing end to the futility, it’s very possible that I may have a grandson who writes the same thing of me someday.

But it won’t matter. I’ll go to my grave bleeding Cubbie blue. Just because you don’t win, doesn’t mean you can ever stop trying. Go Cubs Go!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love that your passion is all-encompassing, for a moment, you take even the most inept would-be follower and create an atmosphere that can only be captured by a diehard supporter. You could motivate the most red blooded person into switching to blue.