As I get older, I like baseball less and less. It’s boring to watch. Games take forever. The season is too long. Baseball announcers and reporters are a bunch of boring, unoriginal old men. The league’s past refusal to use modern technology and implement replay was stubborn, and flat-out stupid. I’m sick of hearing about steroids; that era happened and it’s over.
The most painful part about baseball is that my favorite team is usually out of playoff contention by April.
But there’s something about pitchers and catchers reporting in February that lights the tiniest flicker of hope in my cold, dark Cubby blue heart. An echo starts to bounce off the walls of that barren baseball corner of my heart, and it grows louder and louder until it reaches the sensible side of my brain and meddles with any form of logic I formally owned.
That echo always says, “Maybe this is the year the Cubs will win it all. Maybe this is that elusive next year.”
No matter how hard I try to cover my ears and block out that mysterious, hopeful voice, I can’t. I was born at Prentice Hospital on Chicago’s Near North Side with that pesky, ringing sentiment in my heart. I can’t get it out of me. It’s inoperable. You can’t take the Cubs fandom out of a Cubs fan.
Logic says that the young Cubs aren’t ready to win. The current roster is like a train station where has-beens, never-weres, and fresh-faced, new-to-the-city minor leaguers mix, neither group knowing which train to board. The front office has fixed certain trouble spots like the bullpen, but they still don’t have enough pitching to win. Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzja are nice young guns, but they’re not the cream of the crop – at least not yet. Edwin Jackson sucked last year. Who knows if Jake Arrieta will turn out to be a steal from that Feldman trade last year? And a fifth starter? Don’t get me started.
Furthermore, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro both need to have bounce back years. After that, our next best players are in the minors: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Kyle Hendricks, and a hundred more. Most experts are saying these guys aren’t quite ready for the majors.
Ugh. So when will we be ready to win, then? What if these prospects don’t pan out? What if Theo and Jed’s master plan was a bunch of smoke and mirrors? Wouldn’t it just be easier to say, “Fuck the Cubs. I’m riding the Blackhawks train. The Bulls compete thanks to Joakim’s balls. And da Bears are getting better with dat Trestman guy who looks like a scientist.”
Yeah, that would be easy. But it wouldn’t be true to who I am – or who most Cubs fans are. A lot of outsiders like to think we’re a bunch of drunks who only see Wrigley Field as the biggest outdoor bar in America. We don’t truly love the Cubs or understand baseball; we just enjoy the party surrounding Wrigleyville.
You’d be wrong to think that. We love the Cubs because there always is a next year, and we always hope against all goats that this year is that year. We know enough about baseball to know that statistics matter. We also understand that the most important stat is championships won. So make fun of us all you want for not filling that portion of the stat sheet up. We can take it.
But don’t make fun of us for not loving our team, because, frankly, we don’t have a choice. Whether or not you know it, a Cubs fan is born that way. Yeah, sure, a peson’s mom and dad’s love for the Cubs influenced him growing up. But there’s this blue and red gene inside of him that fires on the first time he goes to Wrigley and smells Connie’s Pizza and Old Style blend together, gets his heart broken in the playoffs, or feels himself thinking, “Shit, we might actually pull this out.” That Cubbie gene is activated when his mom, dad, sister, brother, or friend explain, “It’s okay. We’re going to win. It’s just not our year.” That gene cannot be turned off.
There will come a time in my life when the Cubs win a World Series. I hope we turn into perennial winners like the Red Sox did. I don’t think any Cubs fan doesn’t want that. He or she isn’t a real Cubs fan if he/she doesn’t. We won’t lose our identity when we win, either. We’ll just shed the “losers” part in the “lovable losers” nametag. I’m fine with just being “lovable,” aren’t you?
Logic says that this isn’t the year we win it all. Logic is probably right. But if we operated on only logic, we’d be robots. And I’m no robot. I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, and I can’t help it.