To be a Cubs fan
In case you don't know (and some of you might not, since my last post was so negative), I love the Chicago Cubs. I'm not sure why. In fact, I suspect many of us would be unsure as to why we love the Cubs as much as we do, except for some vague, nostalgic memories of our childhood when even a Cubs defeat didn't seem like that big a deal.
I really, really loved watching them as a child. I remember the infield trio of Dunston to Sandberg to Grace. I remember duplicating the Hawk's batting stance when I was in Little League. I remember a crippled and bandaged Damon Berryhill circling the ballpark with his teammates during the final homestand of the '89 season before the playoffs started.
But I don't remember when exactly it was that my love became an obsession.
When I was 10, I moved from New York to West Virginia. (Insert cliched incest joke here.) While there, my only means of following the Cubs was by checking the box scores in the newspaper, and by purchasing Baseball Weekly. Not that I had a lot of reason to follow them then; the Cubs weren't exactly setting baseball on fire in the four seasons when I lived in the south.
But I was back in New York for the 95 season, and I think that it was that year that firmly cemented my fanaticism with the team. Does anyone else remember the final series of the year? The Cubs were hosting the Astros. They entered the series with a mathematical chance of making the playoffs. And while they lost two of three, every game was a high scoring adventure full of emotion and excitement. At least, for me. Years later, I found it comforting to learn that Ryne Sandberg felt the same way, and it was during that series against Houston in which he decided it was time to come out of retirement.
Although I'd been a Cubs fan for probably 7 or 8 years at that point, I was firmly hooked after 1995. Of course, the Cubs didn't really do much in 96, or 97. But 1998 was exciting, tense, full of drama, and as you could expect, it was also ultimately disappointing. It was also the first year I'd gone to Wrigley Field. I saw Kerry Wood strike out something like 12 D-backs, and Sammy Sosa blasted two hard doubles off the ivy. Although I was only 18, I had my first Old Style beer while at the ballpark. Uh, it was also my last. (I'm not much of a beer guy.)
I remember that by the time the Cubs reached the post season against the Braves that year, I knew it was over. In either the first or second game of the series, the cubs had less than two outs and a runner at third, with the chance to take the lead. Jeff Blauser was up to bat. My brother excitedly called me to talk about the situation as it was ongoing. He must've been shocked to know I wasn't anticipating even a sac fly. It was Jeff Blauser after all. These were the Cubs. Typically, Blauser failed to get the job done and the Cubs were ultimately swept from the series.
I did get to see Game Three at Wrigley. I'd left the day before with my sister's ex boyfriend. Somehow, I lost all my luggage, and I spent the better part of three days wearing a black trench coat, with a shirt, tie, and vest underneath it. (These were the clothes I'd been wearing on the way, you see.) I bought my first two jerseys that day; a Cooperstown Ernie Banks and a Sammy Sosa alternate. Even though the Cubs lost, it was fully worth it.
I could go on about my experiences with the Cubs. Chances are, they'd be similar to the experiences of thousands of others. And while I still wouldn't be able to find a solitary reason as to why I love the team, I think the point of the story is that there are a lot of reasons I'm a Cubs fan. It wasn't a single experience that made me this way, it was a bunch of experiences that made me this way.
And for all the reasons I'm a Cubs fan, I have as many reasons to be frustrated with the team. Which is why I will bitch and complain from time to time, voicing my disdain and my frustration about why things went wrong. Because someday, maybe still this year, perhaps next year, things will actually go right, and the very act will be sweet, wonderful, and long-deserved. Because for all my cynicism, I'm still a young Cubs fan, and there are people out there twice or even three times my age who have seen worse, who have been through more, and still manage to love the team just as much.
And perhaps that's the way it should be.