From the Windup: Cubs Fan, Chapter 100
From the Windup is FanHouse's daily, extended look at a particular portion of America's pastime.
A few weeks ago I was approaching a football field, en route to officiating a middle school football game. As I walked through the parking lot, I noticed an older gentleman kneeling down to pick up his keys. Only he was struggling. Every time he'd pick up his keys, he'd drop his sunglasses. Every time he'd pick up his sunglasses, he'd drop his keys, and so on. I noticed about ten people just walk by him without saying a word or even giving him a second look. There was a car waiting on him to clear the way, and the people sitting inside were visibly annoyed with the poor guy. I went over and helped him to his feet, and then leaned over and got his keys and sunglasses for him. It wasn't that I thought I was some sort of hero. I just don't understand why so many people didn't care to help.
He was thankful, but most of all you could tell he was disgusted with himself for needing my help. He did need it, he just didn't want it. I'm glad I was there, because most people couldn't have cared less.
It's just the way things are now, I guess. People get on the internet and harass other people anonymously. High school dropouts call incredibly educated public figures "stupid." Fans get personal with game officials from afar, but never say a word when they meet one of them face to face. Parents blame every flaw in their children on teachers and coaches without ever taking a second to actually be a parent. People are pretty tough cussing each other out through a car window, as they speed away from a person they'll never see again. And on and on the list goes.
It's quite a juvenile way of phrasing it, but we are really mean to each other these days ... with no conscience or remorse.
All you have to do is put the entire Cubs postseason appearance -- if you can even call it that -- into this context.
- There are tons of egocentric Cubs fans who treat other people like the absolute dregs of society when they visit Wrigley Field. They get hammered, cuss up a storm in front of children, heckle opposing players with personal shots unnecessarily, destroy Kosuke Fukudome in a freaking airport, and make up phony stories about curses to justify their team's futility.
- Other fan bases, in turn, are very ugly with all Cubs fans ... overgeneralizing us all as "idiots" and "jerks" who "know nothing about baseball." We go to their ballparks and get fights picked with us for doing nothing other than wearing blue.
- The Cubs players don't perform the way they should, and they are showered with criticism from fans who probably never played at a level above little league. I understand they are all way more wealthy than we'll ever be, but they are human beings, too. I guarantee the overwhelming majority of them badly wanted to win for us fans. I thought the booing in Game 2 was especially ugly. The players knew they were drastically falling short, and the piling on was both unnecessary and embarrassing.
- The media loves to go on this crusade. Colin Cowherd perpetuated the "Cubs fans are stupid, White Sox fans are true baseball fans" crap this past week on his radio show. Skip Bayless, before the season started, smugly proclaimed that Cubs fans secretly don't want the team to win. You see, he "knows these people" because he wrote in Chicago for a few years. These are just two examples of an enveloping epidemic among guys like this ... they just want to get the people buzzing, and bashing Cubs fans works because there are so many. And so many do fit the bill.
On the other hand, so many don't. There are millions of true Cubs fans. I have the pleasure of working with one (Eamonn Brennan). I have the pleasure of having about twenty friends who qualify as well. I also have the pleasure of being family to some of the very best, most loyal, and most knowledgeable fans around. My grandfather is in his mid-eighties, and watched every inning this year. I began to cry Saturday night as the game wound down because I started to consider the realistic possibility that he is never going to see the Cubs win it all. He's never cussed anyone out in Wrigley. He's never talked smack about other fan bases. Really, his only mistake I can remember off the top of my head is tying his entire family tree to the Cubs. I say that half in jest, but half serious.
I have a cousin that could name the entire 25-man roster when he was eight. My father, brother, and I have attended about 100 games together, starting when my little brother was only two. My retired uncle spends much of his free time searching for Cubs articles on the internet, when he's not watching games. Even my mother and wife have begun torturing themselves in following the Cubs, just because they see how much it means to my family and I. I hope I didn't slight anyone in my family, because the list doesn't end there.
I sat there in the stands in the late innings of Game 1 unable to concentrate on the action. The reason? I was staring at the ground in front of me, wondering how I could possibly be a good parent to my two year-old son when I dress him in Cubs gear any chance I get. Do I really want to do this to him? I know how I felt this past series, and I never want him to feel that kind of hurt. The flip-side is that I know what being a Cubs fan will mean to him, because it means so much to me ... so I guess I have to nudge him in that direction.
Do I tell you this because I think I'm special or unique? No. The exact opposite, actually. Tens of thousands of people -- at least -- could slap two very similar paragraphs together without even blinking. I actually encourage those of you reading with personal stories of being a Cubs fan to post them in the comments section.
Just remember that when you non-Cubs fans are sitting there on your computer, typing in a little "hahahahaha, you guyz are all losers!!!!!!" message: This isn't a joke to many of us. Feel free to think it's pathetic, because we don't care. We know we are pathetic, but we're never going to change.
To suggest that we don't care if the team wins, or even go as far as to accuse us of not wanting the team to win, though? I take serious offense to the implication that I like pity so much I root for a team that won't win the World Series.
So what do I want?
Just picture us true Cubs fans collectively as the struggling older guy from the intro of this blog entry. We're disoriented right now, trying to pick up our keys and find a way back to our feet. I'm not even asking you to help us up, because we, as I just said, don't want your pity ... I'm just asking you to not mock and ridicule us as you walk by. Just ignore us and move on, counting your blessings that you haven't been afflicted with what we have.
Personally, I'll be trying to make it back to my figurative feet this entire postseason. I'll do my job and report on the playoffs for FanHouse, and I won't be mentioning the Cubs again. It wouldn't be healthy -- or professional, considering they aren't playing anymore. I will, however, begin talking about the Cubs optimistically when the hot stove league heats up in the offseason. Just as I've done every year since I can remember, I'll be hoping this time around the Cubs find the magical pieces that propel them to the World Series championship I so desperately need them to win.
"There's always next year."
We must live by that motto. It is the only way to continue as a fan.