Cubs 101 - Pt 19 - "The Other Fifteen"
"...they can kiss my fucking ass, right Downtown, and print it! The motherfuckers don't even work, that's why they're out at the fucking game. They ought to get a fucking job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a fucking living. Eighty-five percent of the fuckin' world is working. The other fifteen come out here. A fuckin' playground for the cocksuckers. Rip those motherfuckers, rip those country cocksuckers, like the fuckin' players. They talk about the great fuckin' support that the players get around here, I haven't seen it this fuckin' year!"
WHEEE!! A fuckin' playground for the cocksuckers! Wheee! Is the slide reel slippery?
People, that'd be, let's see, 13 sets of triple asterisks made necessary, even by our PG-13 standards. Sure, sure, you can find this here speech several other places on the Internets. But it was just pure fun to reproduce it here. Of course, it was Lee Elia who painted this masterpiece, he works with fuck and cock the way Monet worked with watercolors, a true genius. We're here today to examine the historical significance of this particular tirade, both in its vision and its aftermath.
Unfortunately, fans from other places took Mr. Elia's rant at face value, and to this day cite it as proof that Cubs fans are not knowledgeable; not deserving of a winner; and just drunks who like to hang out at the World's Largest Outdoor Saloon. A funny thing happens though, when you try to straighten out Lee's pretzel logic and hold it against us:
Most criticisms levied against our fan bases from other cities paint us as masochists; losers who keep coming to the Friendly Confines in blind faith; wearing rose-colored glasses, bellies sloshing full of Cubbie Blue Kool-Aid, ready to eat up the company line, and meekly chant "we-want-a-hit" even if we're down 11 runs with two outs in the ninth. But that's NOT the kind of fan Lee Elia was talking about way back when. In fact, sounds like ol' Lee was expecting the blind faith I am talking about here, and when it didn't materialize - when the so-called loyal, patient North Side fans decided to get vocal after a 5-13 start to the season, he decided to demonstrate right then and there why he DIDN'T deserve the role as Manager of the Cubs.
Please don't mistake my reasoning; I am not by any means claiming that Cubs fans are infallible, and that field managers going all the way back to Cap Anson have not had legitimate gripes with over-served, under-intelligent boors who paid their two bits, or three dollars, or (in 2009 dollars, on average) 47 dollars to sit on their brains and complain about something they don't know about, namely, hitting major league pitching and retiring major league hitting.
However, I watched this particular game on the TV that day, the Cubs were butt-awful, they lost 3-1 to the Padres, they themselves a bad team. Our leadoff man, Gary Woods, was hitting .156. Rookie 3B Ryne Sandberg was hitting .174. Our so-called "best hitter" in the three hole, Bill Bucker, .233. Our best hitter by far was Leon Durham (loud screams of agony) batting cleanup. Recent acquisition Ron Cey was hitting .179. Another recent acquisition, Larry Bowa, got a hit this day to raise his average to .250. It was a miserable day, there were only 3,383 in attendance (at Wrigley Field? Yes, believe it). It was a truly poor showing, and this in the second year of the so-called "New Beginning" touted by GM Dallas Green. A bunch of washed up ex-Phillies and Dodgers, and some kid who couldn't get out of his own way?
Cubs fans had seen this movie before, and were convinced that they were, once again, sold a bill of goods. All the hopes Cub Fandom had after the Tribune bought the team from despot P.K. Wrigley, looked to be flushed away once again. BOOO! Hell yes, boo! I would too, if I stuck my neck out on that 52-degree day to watch this crap!
Did the team respond? Did Cubs fans forgive and forget? Nope on both counts. The team bumbled along to another 5th place showing, and Elia was pretty much fried to a crisp by the media for the rest of his tenure in Wrigley, which was mercifully cut short before the end of the season. Dallas Green and Tribune Co. got the message loud and clear - what they tried to do the first couple of years was nowhere near good enough.
What happened soon after the tirade, though, set the stage for the first winning Cubs team most of us had ever seen. A Cubs renaissance took over the city, its media, its neighborhood, and by extension, the rest of the league.
Rob is probably right. After all, he saw the game at a time when I was still finding joy from pooing my pants. But I think that in retrospect Elia may have been right.
As easy as it may be to say that the hopes of Cub fans everywhere were elevated by the Tribune sale, it seems that many Cub fans felt transgressed upon by Dallas Green. He was a hostile encroacher of the Friendly Confines. His every move was scrutinized, his choices were criticized, and his manager was hated.
The thing is, we know now a fundamental truth of baseball that wasn't any different then. That truth could be summed up with a single alliterative sentence: These Things Take Time. Green didn't come to a team ready to make history; he had to bring history with him once he got there. Even now -- with rampant free agency making every next season a new frontier full of inexplicable and unexplainable stories -- it's not so easy to show up, flip the "winner" switch, sit back and enjoy. Green's build was a slow one and he spent his first two years assembling a puzzle. Elias, a savvy baseball man, had to know that.
So why were the Cubs booed that day? Probably -- I'm only guessing -- because the fans at the game truly hated them. They hated them because they were part of the "new tradition," they hated them because the guy who assembled the team looked down on the fans, and they surely hated them because, yes, they sucked. But knowing that These Things Take Time, Elias had to have felt frustrated that his team's so-called fans were neither patient enough to wait nor were they really interested in even giving them a chance. So, he blew his stack.
How do I think that, in retrospect, maybe he was right? What it comes down to is this: more than a quarter century later he's still working. For whatever it's worth, historically managing the Cubs is practically a kiss of death. A lot of guys check out but they seemingly never leave. The fact that Elias still works, despite having the black mark of not only managing a horrible team but actually going temporarily insane in the clubhouse is an indication that maybe he wasn't so bad a guy. And if it's true that These Things Take Time, and he knew that but Cub fans didn't know or didn't care, then maybe we can understand at least a little why Elias went nuts for a few minutes.
But in retrospect, the one thing "the other fifteen" teaches us is that Cub fans have perhaps never been the blind supporters that they've been reputed to be. And while they may never boo Santa Claus they can be flat-out brutal. In other words, some stereotypes are just plain wrong.
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