On being a Cubs fan
Or: Anybody who tells you what kind of fan to be isn't one
I remember a trip I took to Chicago in the early 2000's. The Cubs weren't very good and some fans were pretty tired of the crappy play. I remember at one point sneaking down behind home plate and sitting near some very caustic fans who did not have a very high opinion of my optimism for the Cubs farm system. Hey, I was pretty young at the time and Roosevelt Brown was hitting the crap out of the ball in Iowa. Suffice to say, I got a couple of disdainful looks and was mostly ignored while I argued loudly that he should get his chance to start in left.
Something I've come to understand about Cub fans is that no two are exactly alike and we tend to go through stages as we age. From optimistic to realistic to pessimistic to bitter, it's hard to explain - or to justify to ignorant co-workers - just how much a team and a sport can affect one's life.
I had the fortune of explaining my take on all of this to a Cubs fan named Wayne Drehs last summer, who was doing a project in which he interviewed Cub fans born in every decade since they'd last won a World Series. What I told him was something like this:
Sports fans who follow a team make an investment. We invest hours - often thousands a year - watching the team, and thousands more talking about our team with others. We invest dollars - surely tens of thousands throughout our lifetimes - supporting the team, buying tickets, jerseys, hot dogs and beers. We also invest our hearts - feeling joy when they win, misery when they lose. As is true with all investments, we do it with the hopes of getting a return. After 100 years and counting, the Cubs have failed to deliver to us the return we've been expecting. Consequently, some fans have had it pretty rough and are not very happy.
Think about you and your life. I know enough about our readers to recognize that our average age is probably at around 30. If you were born in the late 70's or early 80's, then you have seen the Cubs reach the playoffs as many times as somebody who is twice your age. Imagine what it must've been like to be a Cubs fan old enough to remember the rookie seasons of Banks, Santo, Williams, and Jenkins, and the long drought between playoff appearances.
Anyway, my point is that the Cubs have reached the playoffs on average once every 5 years of my life. It's a fairly common event. I still haven't gotten the return I've been looking for, but I've really only had my heart broken by the team once - 2003 - when I thought for the first time ever that a return on my investments was likely.
There are some Cub fans out there who have become so jaded by the failures of the team that it's bled into their personal lives. They take the game seriously, they take losing personally, and the anger they feel because of the failures they've seen are beyond anything I could share in. Let's call these people Fan A's.
Then, there are some Cub fans who see baseball as a game. A hobby. Something to follow, to think about, to talk about, to let go. I'd surmise that their passion for Cubs baseball is similar to my passion for a TV show like Lost. I watch every episode, I dissect it, I debate it with friends, and when the show ends I will be sad but it won't spin me into a depression or anything. These are Fan B's.
Fan A's and Fan B's like the same thing and probably spend a similar amount of time dissecting and debating it, but they do not understand each other. They certainly don't have time for one another. Fan A thinks Fan B is a poser. Fan B thinks Fan A is an out-of-touch nutjob. But here's the deal...
We live in a very big world with all kinds of people. We live amongst peaceful, loving people, we live amongst violent, angry people. We live with better angels whose worst thoughts are on the same level as our best ones, and we live with raging psychopaths whose dispassionate violence would leave us sick to our cores if we knew of it. We live with people whose philosophies completely contradict their neighbors', and yet there is room in this world for both to be right. We live in a world where opinions are like snowflakes - they are countless in number and all unique even when resembling each other. Unfortunately we also live in a world where everybody wants to tell you how to think and feel about everything.
But I will say that I have no time for the kind of fan - or person - who'd want to tell me - or you - what we should think of somebody who sees it differently than us. That kind of petty arrogance exists in plenty around the internet and I wish with total sincerity that we could be free of it here. But it is unfortunately human nature, I think. It's like the faux jerseys I made last week. I'd never expect everybody to love them, or even to like them. But it takes a very special kind of fool to declare them offensive to the traditions of baseball, as if he or she is the keeper of those traditions. Similarly, I'm no fan of country music but I can appreciate that Garth Brooks is an artist with considerable talent. I'm no lover of men in teh ghey way but I can acknowledge that there are some studly men out there who woo women for obvious reasons.
What I'm getting at is this ... the internet, like the world, is actually big enough for people to co-exist with others even when they completely disagree on things. Actually it's so big that they don't even have to co-exist. They can live their lives independent of each other and without being forced to ever cross paths. So if you are the kind of person who comes here or goes anywhere and finds yourself reading things that annoy you, that upset you, that frustrate you to the breaking point, do yourself a favor. Find a different place where that doesn't happen. Don't sweat it if what you're reading is driving you nuts - nobody's forcing you to read it! And don't worry about anybody else who may be reading it - nobody is forcing them, either!
I mean, there is this one particular blogger whose arrogance and vanilla content drives me nuts. I can't stand the way he deals with his readers, his hypocrisy practically leaves me frothing, and do you know what? I've probably been to his blog no more than six or ten times in the past six months. And each time was because somebody I was talking with in a message board or chat room was complaining about something he said, and like an idiot I followed a link to see it for myself. I have nobody to blame but me. I can't stand the guy, I don't read his content, and I'm happier because of it.
And maybe if more people had that same philosophy, the internet would be a slightly better place. But that's just my opinion -- if you don't like it I have others.