"Buwaaaahahahaha...the ultimate power, it is mine!" Howry, stepped back from the table, admiring his handiwork. The tiny worm looked back up at him blank faced. Had it known what its next home would be, it surely would have found a way to express concern.
"Yes master, but I wish you would reconsider," lisped Igor as he hobbled across the laboratory. "We could control the president of the United States. We could use it to rob a bank. We could truly wield ultimate power."
Howry shook his head, looking down at his hunchbacked little friend with just a tinge of pity. "I thought I'd made this clear, Igor: I just want to pitch. It's simple; I just slip this little worm in Lou's ear and I'm control his every thought. No biggie."
"AND SO WE WILL HAVE HIM MAKE YOU CLOSER! YOU WILL BE A GOD!" Igor cried, thrusting his arms to the sky. "A GOD!"
"But I just want to pitch."
"No, you can be the CLOOOOSEEEERRR!"
"No, I just want to pitch. I just don't want to be released. Hell, my fastball isn't what it used to be and my slider is garbage. I just want to pitch. Leave the godding to God."
Igor grudgingly slumped away, muttering under his breath:
"...my last master was, like, a 100 times better."
Before they won their first title in a long, long, loooooong time, the Boston Red Sox had six consecutive 2nd place finishes behind the Yankees. They also reached the playoffs 4 times in 10 years before overcoming unbelievable odds in 2004. The Red Sox spent hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars, they went through five managers, and they won an awful lot of games.
The Cubs have finished better than .500 5 times this decade. This will have been their 4th post season trip since 1998. They've gone through 5 managers this decade, although 2 of those 5 were basically interim skippers once Don Baylor got the well-deserving axe.
In terms of the little successes that come before the big one, I think the Cubs haven't come as close as often as the Red Sox did before they won it all. But that doesn't matter. World Championships aren't built on the backs of last year's team. They're built on the strength of this one and this one only, and while there are some parallels, it doesn't ultimately matter. But essentially I'm only pointing out the comparison between the two for a simple reason - to keep us grounded and reminded that anything can happen, including a bunch of years of coming close.
The line I use about being a Cub fan is that, above all else, it requires a deep commitment to overwhelming institutional mediocrity. Of course, this is meant as a joke, but the sad part is that, like any attempt at humor, when it works, it's because there's truth behind it. In this case, about 100 years worth.
Which raises, I suppose, the perfectly logical question of "why?" Why follow a team that so consistently fails expectations? Why be a fan of a club that at various points in its history can be legitimately accused of not trying very hard to get better? Why torture yourself year after year when realistic assessments tell you time and again that your hope is a fool's hope?
The answer for me, and for many of you, I'd guess, is love. Somewhere along the line, against your better judgment, you fell in love with the Chicago Cubs. The method doesn't matter. Whether you came into it because of your father, or the teevee, or seeing a special player strut their stuff on the cool, green grass, we're all in the same boat. This isn't shiny-happy, picket-fence-two-kids-and-a-dog love. This is messy, nasty, dish-breaking, knife-throwing, toss-your-stuff-on-the-lawn, make-up-sex, five-breakup, late-night-stalking, restraining-order-love. It's an "I wish I knew how to quit you" thing that none of us has the answer to, much as we wish we might.
But you know what? Even if they never get it done, even if I spend my entire life rooting for the Cubs, never seeing them reach the promised land, it won't have been a waste. Although they've given much pain over the years, they've also given buckets of joy and enjoyment. Love hurts sometimes, and expecting otherwise is Pollyannatude in the highest. I am nothing if not realistic, so I know my love could break my heart at any moment, but isn't love about a certain amount of hope and faith? It may be a fool's hope, and it may be faith misplaced, but it's all I've got, and I don't know about you, but I think it's going to pay off any day now.
I just moved to South Bend about three weeks ago. Does anyone have a good recommendation for a Cubs-friendly bar to watch the playoffs? I've searched on the web and have only found Semeri's Old Town Tap. If anyone has first-hand knowledge of somewhere else, it would be greatly appreciated to know where!
Just a link to my flickr with pictures of the scenes of happy-happy around Wrigley after we beat the Cardinals on Saturday.
BTW: if anyone knows where to get a t-shirt with that "Hunt for Blue October" sign graphic on it....TELL ME. I need that. Like yesterday.
I never really expected my blog to be posted, but I am grateful that it was. Thanks for the kind words in the comments as well Kurt.
I have a problem with the fact Z started tonight. We knew he was having shoulder issues and we knew he over-exerted himself on Sunday...so why pitch him on regular rest?! I understand allowing him to start if we were maybe tied for a playoff spot, but with our magic number at 2 for locking up the division with 10 to play...why the hell pitch him. As of Sunday's no-hitter I believed Z should only have one more start...next Tuesday and Harden should start the following Wednesday. That means each of them gets 7 full days of rest heading into their starts. Doing this was important for one reason. It being each of them really wouldn't have strained themselves over the last 3 weeks of the season and would be 100% going into the playoffs. In the playoffs, I'm sure at least Z would be asked to go on short rest, so why burn them out during meaningless regular season games. I even told my dad last night there was a 75% chance he gets lit up and his heater will be in the low 90s at best. Look what happened. The mismanagement of the pitching staff lately (overuse of Wood and Marmol in unneeded sitchoos and not being cautious enough with Z's and Harden's arm) is driving me insane. What do I know? I'm just a retarded 22 year old who's never touched a baseball in my life (actually it's quite the opposite).
While he may never admit it, Carlos actually tanked in Friday's game on purpose. I have second hand, of the record comments that never took place to prove it.
"Yeah, it was for the fans." Carlos Zambrano didn't really say. "I figured Milwaukee would lose on Friday night, and that would move our magic game down to one. If we would have won today (Friday) at Wrigley, we would have clinched the division and there wouldn't have been a party. Hay man, I like a party, and I want to party Saturday. So we will clinch tomorrow, and you can all thank me then."
Carlos went Nostradamus on us; the Brewers got whacked by Cincy 11-2 on Friday night.
It was meant to be on Friday, just as the Cubs clinching tomorrow at Wrigley in front of their fans, was meant to be.
The Magic Number is down to 1, meaning the Cubs will close it all out tomorrow afternoon.
Here is something interesting; there is a really good chance that there will be a party in Wrigley tomorrow, as both teams start at 2:55 tomorrow afternoon...so if the Cubs should somehow lose tomorrow, they could still clinch with a Brewers loss.
But that would be unlike this dream season of 2008. Cubs close it out tomorrow, and the song echoes from Wrigley all the way down to the Cell....
Alright, Glenallen Hill is not the reason I cheer for the Cubs. I cheer for the Cubs for many, many reasons just like everyone else--WGN force-feeding me Cub baseball, Wrigley Field, Ryno, Gracie, etc. etc. etc.
That said, Cub fans are a different breed in that they embrace the non-superstars almost as much. For every Andre Dawson there is a Bobby Denier that we hold close to our little Cubbie hearts. I mean, after this season, does anyone really believe that Mike Fontenot is going to have to buy a beer in Chicago ever again? It's a unique aspect that is often overlooked by the sports media who is too interested in talking about Steve Bartman and goats and whatnot.
For me--and my screen name namesake--one of those players is Glenallen Hill.
There are several reasons for my strage infatuation with GA. The obvious one is that he hit home runs a very, very long way. But the other reasons were, well, he was just funny. The way his legs didn't move when he swung a bat, the way he basically waddled towards pop flys in the outfield (he did play in the outfield from time-to-time)--he was just a unique player, possessing the kind of idiosyncrasies that only ballplayers can possess and be successful in their sport. One of the many reasons baseball is so unique. And, of course, he was part of that amazing (now tarnished) season of 1998.
All that said, there was a story I was told at Wrigley one day that officially made him one of my all-time favorites. I saw a guy in his (I'm guessing) 50's wearing a Glenallen Hill authentic jersey. Mind you, this was in 2003. GA had been long gone. My mind was swimming with different reasons the guy had a Glenallen Hill jersey on, and it was well before the game started, so I thought I'd just go talk to him.
Turns out he was sitting with his son (who was roughly my age), and they told me that GA was indeed one of their favorite players, for many of the reasons he was one of mine. However, they were telling me that they had a special nickname for him because of a great story they had heard from one of the son's best friends. They called him M.F. Hill.
"Why 'M.F.?", I asked.
Then the dad--who looked like he easily could have taken the train to the park after teaching an econ class at the University of Chicago--replied: "because he is such a mother f***er."
They proceeded to tell me that the son's buddy was a journalism student at UC, and was given the opportunity to interview Glenallen. He said it was going about as well as you would think--short, snappy answers; no depth, just generally GA wanting to be doing anything in the world other than this interview. So, as a last grasp at getting something good out of him, the buddy asked GA:
"OK, Glenallen, last question: describe yourself in three words."
GA: "Scary. Black. Man."
Needless to say, the dad, son, and I were absolutely rolling. It was a beautiful day at Wrigley Field, not a cloud in sight, cold beers, and telling great baseball stories.
Ultimately, that's probably the point. It's not about Wrigley, it's not about Ryno, it's not about curses, WGN, 100 years, or any of that crap. It's about a fanbase that has a true passion for baseball and the strongest sense of community among our fellow fans. It's about sitting in the sun, embracing the players on the field and cheering as loudly as possible, then living to tell stories about it with total strangers that for brief moments become long-lost friends.
People speak of the poor, down-trodden Cub fan like we're some pity case. They always ask how you can handle all the losing and cheering for a team that never wins.
With moments like that one in Wrigley, the answers to those questions become pretty easy.
We all became Cubs fans for different reasons and God knows it's not because of the winning. It either has to do with family reasons, being from Chicago, the greatness of BWF as it is called on this site or because of the copious amounts of Cubs games on national tv via WGN. For me it was a combination.
The summer (1991) before I was to enter the 1st grade my mother decided to go back to work. Therefore, daycare was needed for my brother and I. Sidenote: My parents moved to Dallas from Chicago in 1982. I was born Oct. '85 in Dallas and was promptly ditched with the neighbors on a January Sunday of 1986 while my parents went to New Orleans for a few days to see a beatdown of epic proportions in SB XX. Sidenote 2: As a born and bred Dallasite I'm a Cowboys fan so go ahead and hate me. I digress. Continuing, my mother did not trust any daycare places so we were left in the care of my recently retired and transpanted to Texas grandfather (played minor league ball for the Sox in the late 40s before blowing out his arm). My grandfather was the Cubs fan that epitomizes all Cubs fans. Even took his daughters out of school early for every Friday day game. I was able to play with friends in the morning, eat lunch, then work on my reading until the Cubs game started. I would then spend the next 3 hours learning about baseball and the Cubs. Greg Maddux and Ryno and the Hawk and Gracie had me hooked. But, this isn't really about me, all of us have a story about a player or a season that got us hooked. For me it was just spending time with my grandfather, which is getting to my point. After the 1992 season when the Cubs refused to resign the reigning Cy Young winner, he finally gave up on the Cubs. Swore them off completely. Became a Braves fan. Even went as far as to buy a new Maddux Braves jersey and a few years later replaced Ryno with Chipper Jones as his favorite player. I, on the other hand had not experienced the misery of being a Cubs fan or the disappointment of being let down my management for the umpteenth time. I still had no idea about the College of Coaches or the undying frugalness of the Tribune Company, so my love for the Cubs lived on. Instead my grandfather left me alone while watching the Cubs in the afternoon and we had our baseball bonding times during Braves night games (the only ones I'd watch were when Maddux pitched). This went on throughout the '93 season. He never once discussed the Cubs with me. So the '94 season rolls around and he's still my afternoon babysitter. I come home from school on opening day around 3 PM and lo and behold there is my grandfather watching the Cubs. He played it off like he didn't care and accidentally stumbled upon them and left it on "cuz it was a baseball game." Over the next 2 seasons this became a frequent occurance. My grandmother even found him cursing at Cubs score in the paper the next day on occasion. Even when the Braves won in '95 he couldn't be happy about it because even he knew he was still a Cubs fan. But as stubborn as they come, he refused to admit it. In '98 when the Cubs played the Braves he was pissed when the Cubs lost. Which brings me to my point.
Once the Cubs grab ahold of us there is nothing we can do. They are like a dibilitating, addictive drug. They torture us, make us cry, make us angry. And we are powerless to stop it. It doesn't matter how badly they hurt us, we keep coming back for more. We love the Cubs despite them not returning the favor. They are our family and we could never truly turn our back on them. Through all the pain and misery I have never spoken to one Cubs fan, no matter their age, that wishes they rooted for another team. The Cubs are huge parts of our lives. Most of us watch a lot of them games, spend hours discussing them (I spend roughly 2 hours a week talking Cubs with my dad), reading blogs about the Cubs. Hell, after games like today's which I watched in it's entirety, I made sure to catch the highlights on sportcenter, rewatch Geo's HR a dozen times on Cubs.com, and read all kinds of blogs about the game. We all love the Cubs because they make our lives better. Plain and simple. Through the good times and the bad, they enrich our lives. They give us something to believe in. We know they will eventually win it all and it would have all been worth it. Even if they don't ever win we will still have had the times of our lives at BWF, meeting new people, going on roadtrips, etc that we never would have experienced were it not for the Cubs. While I don't think I could honestly handle living the rest of my life without us winning the Series, I wouldn't want to be a fan of any other team.
My gradfather passed away in 2002 without ever seeing the Cubs win a World Series, but I know he's still watching every game. The bond I shared with him over the Cubs I have shared with my father ever since. The Cubs are a genetic disease in our family that I hope I eventually pass on to my kid.
Editor's Note: This is actually reprinted with the author's permission from an article written a few moons ago. In that time, Sammy has fallen from grace, many Cub fans are embarassed to have ever cheered for him, but the author in question - Jeff "Tonker" Thomas, retired Goat Rider and current blogger for Hire Jim Essian - simply said "the story would remain the same even if I rewrote it, anyway - you only find the Cubs once in your life, after all. Thank God." He also admits to not really having time to blog at HJE, but feel free to check them out anyway. They're a good bunch.
My name is Jeff, otherwise known as Tonker, and I am a Cubs fan.
I'm not, however, from Chicago. I'm not even an American. In fact, I'm a Scotsman who lives in The Hague in the Netherlands - hardly Cubs territory at all, really.
The majority of the poor, beknighted Cubs fans that I know have some excuse. They're from Chicago, or their father was a Cubs fan, or they grew up watching WGN in some far-flung corner of the United States. I, on the other hand, cannot lay the blame on any of those things. There is one person, and one person only who is responsible for consigning me to a life of futility and pain - Samuel Peralta "Slammin' Sammy" Sosa.
Imagine the scene. You're stuck in England in the summer of 1998, sitting through innumerable, endless meetings at work whilst outside it chucks it down with rain in temperatures better suited to a Wisconsin winter. You and your bird decide to get away from it all for a couple of weeks, and settle upon the Dominican Republic as a suitably hot and inaction-packed destination. A couple of weeks later you land at Puerto Plata, transfer to your hotel and begin the serious business of making a dent in the hotel's all-inclusive bar.
But what's this? On the telly behind the counter, there is a strange sport showing. It looks a little bit like cricket...
...except that they don't stop for tea. You collar the Barman for another Brugal 151 (not having learned your lesson the first time, evidently), and whilst you're at it, you ask him what's happening on the box.
He breaks into a broad grin and tells you that a) it's beisbol; b) the Cubs are playing; and c) Sammy's going to hit one out today. You smile, nod, and back away slowly. Whatever floats his boat is all right by you, and besides, there's a large rum which needs your love and attention.
The holiday continues and you spend your days sitting by the pool and hiding under a mattress in your bathroom when Hurricane Georges hits. The hotel "Hurricane Survival Kit" is comprised of a candle and a pack of playing cards, but somehow you live to tell the tale anyway. On the odd occasion that you venture out of your resort, though, you notice that pretty much every car in the entire country has "Sosa #60", "Sosa #61","Sosa #62" (you're noticing a pattern by now) painted in white on its rear windscreen, so you decide to look into this Sosa chap a little further.
Next thing you know, you've confined yourself to your room and are watching with bated breath as Shooter Beck closes down another game for the Cubbies...
...or Brant Brown drops a routine flyball to left; or the Cubs win the one-game playoff against San Fran - and just like that, you're addicted. Gone - hook, line and sinker. And you have no idea, not the slightest inkling, what you've let yourself in for.
Cut forward to the present day...
Well, now, of course, I realise what a bloody mess I'm in. Not only do I spend approximately 75% of my waking life thinking about baseball in general, and the Cubs in particular, but I've spent far, far too much otherwise potentially useful income following my addiction. At the last count, I'd been to the States three times for the express purpose of watching the Cubs (record in person : 3-2) and had pissed several thousand of your British Pounds up the wall in the process.
And what do I have to show for it? Well, if you know anything about baseball, you know the answer to that question : "nothing". Nichts, nada, rien, niente, zip. Sammy has made my life, and the life of The Beautiful Wife (who has the patience of a Saint), an utter, utter misery. The Cubs giveth, and the Cubs taketh away, except that they don't seem to be doing an awful lot of givething, to be honest. Just think of all that useful, enjoyable stuff I could have been doing instead of worrying about Dusty and his boys. It's enough to make me weep.
So - thanks, Sammy. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for making me think that life could be one long afternoon on the beach, sipping Cuba Libres and watching the Cubs make the post-season. You used me, you bastard, and you took my innocence. I hope you're happy now.
Well, I suppose it's not all bad. There have been high spots on my brief, but condensed odyssey. I got to read "Ball Four". I made lots of new friends, and they all share my affliction. I found "Perry's Deli"...
...and Chuck Gitles bought me breakfast (now there's a claim to fame.) Jen, a barmaid at the Cubby Bear, gave me lots of free beer. But that's about it.
So, there you go - now you know a little something about me. If you want to know more about what I think about the Cubs, pop on over to Hire Jim Essian. Alternatively, check out the message board at Andy Dolan's indispensible "Desipio", where I post as Tonker. Drop me a line to wrigleyman (at) hotmail (dot) com if you want to commiserate, even. If I haven't yet slit my wrists, I might just reply.