Friday, September 30, 2011

Life Lessons of a Cub Fan ver 103.0

The Sun-Times ran a story a couple of weeks ago called: They’ll be blue if Cubs bid adieu.  Gordon Wittenmyer is a great Chicago writer (and the reason I originally joined Twitter by the way).  His piece is primarily about the prospect of losing Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, but one line stuck out to me above all others:
It would be the end of a five-year run for Soriano, eight-plus years for Ramirez — the only position player left from the 2003 autumn of Bartman.
In some ways it seems more like 80 years.

For those of you who don't follow my Cubbies, here's some quick things to know (in addition to the fact we haven't won a World Series in 103 years or appeared there in 66 years).  Cub fans can skip straight pass the bullets unless you are heavily anesthetized.

  • In 2003 the Cubs were 5 outs away from going to the World Series
  • The (then) Cub owners (Chicago Tribune) went on a New York Yankee like spending spree, and hired former World Series Champion coach Lou Pinella
  • In 2007, Sweet Lou finally got the Cubs back to a playoff appearance not even winning a single game in the first division series.
  • In 2008, the Cubs couldn't loose.  Literally.  Well almost literally. They won a MLB best 92 games and won 67% of the time at home.  And they couldn't win a single game in the first round of the playoffs.  Again.
  • The Tribune decided to sell the team and it seemed to take 20 years to get the Ricketts of AmeriTrade fame.  92% of Cub fans wanted them as owners because Tom first met his wife Cecelia in the Wrigley bleachers.  Cub fans, by and large, are mostly emotionally romantic saps.
  • When Sweet Lou left before the end of last season to tend to his ailing mother, assistant manager Mike Quade took over and went 24-13.  Too much too late but enough to bump beloved Cub AAA Minor League Coach and Cub All Star Ryne Sandburg from his dream job of managing the Cubs.
  • This year the Cubs only had a winning record against the lowly Houston Astros and Quade went 16-25 in his last games.

Caught up now?  Good.  Most of you are saying to me, "So Jim.  I get it.  The Cubs suck.  Why are you a Cub fan?"

I'll tell you why.  It's a metaphor for life.  It's hope.

In just 8 years we Cub fans have gone from utter emotional devastation to soaring hope and now are kind of lost in the wilderness.

But wise men tell us faith is believing in what you do NOT see.  If you could see it and expect it, it wouldn't be faith.

And without faith.  It's impossible to please God.  It's why all Christian Cub fans don't just go to heaven, we get VIP passes from Abraham who will say, "Dang!  I only had to wait 25 years for Isaac!".

In the documentary, "We Believe," a priest says that developing the character of loyalty best happens by believing in a lost cause.  I don't believe that.  I didn't choose the Cubs as my baseball team because they were winning.  (Or because I wanted to develop character.) We don't like "Rocky" because he won, we like Rocky because it seemed hopeless and he won.

It's why I could never be a Yankee fan.  And why I bleed Cubbie blue.

I love the underdog because I am one.  Ask a Boston fan if the wait was worth it.  Ask them if they cherish their 2004 win more than the 666 (or whatever the Yankees have won and if they don't share a closer camaraderie with other Sox fans.  The kids I grew up with who had everything, were also the first to give up when things didn't go as planned.  The ones that had to overcome DID enjoy victory more, but they also learned how to hang in there longer to see it happen.

I love where I come from.  My whole family came from all over Chicago including Crown Point (IN) and Calumet City and other places in Cook and Kane County.  I was a Cub Scout when I saw my first Cub game.  I had my first bratwurst at Wrigley and spent hours listening to Jack Brickhouse and Lou Boudreau in my backyard while cutting grass and throwing my only baseball into the net.

There is something about the character thing and the Cubs.  We are loyal.  We are romantic. And we are damn tough.  In many ways the Cubs define a lot of the qualities of Mid-Westerners.

But from the kindness, grace and dignity of Ernie Banks to the wild, uncensored enthusiasm and unabashed love of Ron Santo, it is the people who have represented the Cubs that gives us identity.

They not only demonstrated and gave permission for us to believe - they showed us it was noble to die trying.  We feel the pain of reproach of Ryne Sandburg almost like we would a sibling our parents shunned.  We see the conflict in Mark Grace when we play Arizona and could swear its the same look our childhood sweetheart gives although married to another.

Another Cub season as come and gone.  Not a chance in Elgin to make the playoffs from June on.  Yeah, it's a lot more fun winning 90 games than losing them.  But when they do win a World Series, and they will...I will share something with fellow Cubs fans who have waited their whole lives than no one else will understand.  Maybe something in the far suburbs of what veterans acknowledge one to another with a slight nod or a Ranger button on their lapel.  Maybe like mothers who did Lamaze or celebrities who found out the effort to fame was more rigor and responsibility than a reward. 

Though we bury our disappointment through various ways (I simply tuned out WGN the past 2 months and pretended baseball season was over), we learn that like life, the pain will pass, the hope of a new season will dawn.  And maybe, just maybe someday we can share the joy of overcoming with other Cub fans.

We never gave up,
We always kept hope,
We refused to be ashamed,

...knowing it will have been worth it.

Just like winning physical challenges.  Seeing our kids mature. And seeing hope realized.  

Just like life.

Just like family.

This is a clip from the movie, "We Believe."  I wish I could find the one I originally saw in 2009 where Bill Murray and others talk about what it will be like the day the Cubs win the World Series.  Again.



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