Becoming a Cubs fan is something that doesn’t happen overnight. Well, I suppose it could happen, but you get my point. There are many things that we control, but who we root isn’t one of those things. It would be easy to be a Yankees fan or a Patriot fan, but once you find your team there really isn’t any choice.
Growing up in Alabama, there weren’t many choices for a baseball fan. It was either the Braves by proximity or nothing, until cable came along. The first 9 years of my life we didn’t have cable, thus I wasn’t a huge baseball fan. So, I was spared the 1984 disaster and even 1989 was a little hazy, but I still remember not liking Will Clark. Overtime, I started watching WGN every day after school. Back then we I was only a couple minutes from my house, so I usually rolled in the house around the fifth inning or so after school.
There was just something about watching the Cubs that really clicked for me. It wasn’t like they were winning all those years (you and I both know they weren’t), but the enthusiasm was just there, and I was hooked.
If there was one moment that cemented the Cubs in my heart, it was the trip to Wrigley Field in 1993. My step-father grew up in Chicago. So, that summer we took a trip to see his family. Of course, we were going to head to a Cubs game, while were up in Park Ridge. Just like today, the game was a sellout, but we were able to get standing room only tickets, which actually were pretty bad. I remember standing behind the seats on the first base side and not being able to see much.
It’s funny, but I really don’t have any real memories of the game, except walking into Wrigley and looking at everything. For some odd reason, I do remember Steve Buechele playing third base. Regardless, I was now a Cub fan for life. I do remember my second game at Wrigley for a couple of reason. It was 1995, and I was on a church choir tour that stopped in Chicago. Of course, I made sure that we visited Wrigley. This was the year after the strike, and we were all still bitter about baseball. We made a sign before the game that read, “We paid only to hear Harry sing.” It actually got us on WGN that afternoon; I still have the tape somewhere. The game was a great pitching duel between two unlikely guys. Steve Trachsal threw seven shutout innings, while Tom Candiotti threw eight. It wasn’t settled until the 9th inning. Rudy Seanz came in for “The Candy Man” and promptly gave up a single to Mark Grace. What happened next was a thing of legend. Howard Johnson (yes that one) hit a bomb into right-center bleachers for a home run. If there was any doubt of my rooting interests (there wasn’t) it was over that point.
Still, the Cubs never gave me anything more than moments of glory and happiness, but I remained faithful. In 98, I stayed in my dorm room to watch the playoff game, instead of going out for drinks with my friends. At one point, I was cheering so loud at one point the R.A. had to come make sure that everything was ok (it was, we won). I missed that playoff year, because I didn’t have a car to make the trip to Atlanta, but I didn’t make the same mistake in 2003. I made trips to Atlanta (three of them exactly) and Miami to have a chance to see the Cubs in person.
I won’t say it is easy being a Cub Fan, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It just makes you appreciate things even more. In 2003, I skipped the Alabama/Arkansas overtime thriller to see the Cubs sweep a doubleheader to clinch the NL Central (a sin in the eyes of many of my friends to miss a football game). My rationale was simple. I’ve seen the Crimson Tide play Arkansas plenty of times, but I’ve never seen Cubs clinch a division that I could actually remember.
Why do we cheer? I cheer because being a fan of a team is more important and more rewarding than most things in life. It is one thing we can choose not to do, but can’t help to because our team is a part of us. We cheer to make us whole, and hope one day that we can celebrate together as World Series Champions.
Chris Yarbrough is one of those rare real-life journalists who's been slumming it with the bloggers at least since I started reading Cubs sites back during the 2003 season. He can be read at Yarbage's Cub Review or at Cut Jim Edmonds, where he made the common mistake of thinking that Jim Edmonds would be a waste of uniform material with the Cubs. Hey, I made the same mistake myself. Live, learn, and, in this case love to be wrong