Hurt, but HopefulPosted: October 5, 2008
I’m dangerously tetering on an emotional post and an irrational rant. But take this for what it is – a disappointed Cubs fan’s plea for help.
I feel as if I’ve been punched in the stomach by my own grandmother. It’s comparitively a soft blow, but still it hurts, because of the one who’s dealing the blow. I’ve been a Cubs fan my whole life. I grew up going to games with my Grandpa on sunny summer afternoons and watching WGN televise all their regular season games. I watched Andre Dawson, witnessed Ryne Sandberg, sat to enjoy Mark Grace, and anticipated the starts of the young Greg Maddux. You can almost say, I was birthed into the Cubs family. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. And just as any young child, I was initially enamored with all my family. I thought they were the bestest and greatest people ever to don a uniform and swing a bat. But as I grew in my inquisitive nature, I kept asking the questions no one wanted to answer, “Why do we keep losing?” Then growing into my adolescence, I never found a satisfactory answer except for those that instinctively replied, “That’s just the way it is” or “There’s always next year!” And you can say I went through my rebellious adolescence as I nearly left the game of baseball to try my luck at other sports. Bowling, Football, and even Hockey were great fun, but merely my attempt to run away from the hurt that inevitably came at the end of every Cubs baseball season. You invest so much into a team, you can’t help but to take it personally, when they lose.
But then came the turn of the century. There seemed to be a new aura surrounding the club. Owners were willing to spend the money and the players were sick of the curse. All parties involved were committed to finally win. And for a few years, valiant efforts were made to change the concluding paragraph of each season, but to no avail. Then came the 2003 season. The prologue to the season seemed promising with all the hype surrounding the team. And the ensuing paragraphs didn’t let down. The regular season was one heroic tale after another culminating in a dramatic playoff bid that finally looked promising. But as most dedicated baseball fans know, an unforeseen tragedy derailed this joy ride. And again, the last chapter was written on a somber note. But I must say this was the year that my love for baseball was again found. It was the prodigal’s return home to the sport that had raised him. But it was as if I got home to witness my beloved uncle win the lottery and then watch him get mugged for all he’s worth, all in the same week. Let me just say, my love returned for the game, but the pain never left.
At the beginning of this year’s season, I wrote about how this was the year that they were going to put to rest this dreaded curse. And throughout the year, I was convinced this was the year they were destined to be the lovable winners. And all the way up to the first game of the playoffs last week, I was sure that this was the year they were going to put to rest all the naysayers. But this years concluding paragraph was nothing new. It was a dismal showing in the playoffs deflating the hopes of Cubs fans nationwide, and reigniting the hopeless optimism of every Cubs fan – “Well, maybe next year.”
For me, it was tough – tougher than usual. Maybe because this team seemed so complete during the regular season. Maybe because I finally had no doubts that they’d win the world series. Maybe because they played like little league school kids in the playoffs, who couldn’t hit the ball if it was set up on the tee for them. But I bet it was simply because this season, like 100 of them previous to this year, ended with another team celebrating.
Now, I wait for the next 5 months – not vigorously researching all the new off-season acquisitions and minor league prospects, but simply letting my heart heal. Cubs fans everywhere need this off season to process the early exit from the playoffs this year. And then when Spring Training starts up again, I assure you, we’ll all be up and running the campaign for “this is the year!”
Cubs fans are hopeless optimists at heart. We believe the unbelievable. We see what is unseen. And it’s often at the attack of our ability to be realistic. But if you’re a Cubs fan, you know that without a hopeless optimism, you couldn’t swallow years like this. I love Baseball and I love the Cubs – always have and always will.