Because it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about staying true to who you are.
Cubs fans, I love you.
I love your town. I love that Chicago has managed to remain a city that’s inclusive; that it hasn’t mega-billionaire-vacancy’d nor Airbnb’d its way to uniform misery. In Chicago, you’re always just a hot dog or a haircut away from a great day.
I love your bars. Folks meet up there rather than texting a last-minute
lie excuse. Once inside, you see more actual faces than images on screens. You hear more jokes than hold-ons. You get a fist full of handshake rather than someone gripping their handheld.
I love your people. You can claim Ray Bradbury and Diablo Cody; Michael Crichton and Philip K. Dick; Gene and Roger and Jake and Elwood; Dave Eggers and Ann Landers; Dillinger and Gacy and Giancana; the Apostles Belushi, brothers John and James; His Airness, Mr. Cub and Sweetness; Ring Lardner and Harry Caray; Ferris and Farmer Ted; Tom Berenger and Tom Bosley. Hell, you birthed Carell and you adopted Oprah and Obama.
I love your neighborhoods. Pill Hill to Wrigleyville. Polish Village to West Loop. Bridgeport to Greektown and Wicker Park to Humboldt Park. Gentrification isn’t dictating who your city wants to become for you. Neighbors have known one another for a generation or two or three or four or…forever. Raised one another’s kids. Dug one another out from the snow. Chased one another around in the sprinklers. All your wood-paneled basements haven’t been turned out in favor of press board and a contemporary look that everyone mistakes for modern. You are territorial-yet-stitched together enough to come up with a quilt whose patchwork resembles a functioning, loving, enduring city.
I love your architecture. You discovered the skyscraper, honored Frank Lloyd Wright and humored Frank Gehry. Your Chicago Seven (Freed, Beeby, Booth, Cohen, Nagle, Tigerman and Weese) are the authors of America’s great skylines.
I love your guys. I love that he looks like he could be the drinking buddy who rakes on my softball team. I love that his beard is grown for warmth, his beanie is worn as necessity not accessory and his skinny jeans are called 501s. I love that he’s sensible instead of sarcastic, poetic instead of pungent and hearty instead of heartless.
I love your girls. I love that she can polish a Polish whether or not she’s wearing yoga pants. I love that there’s a hint of something august in her focused features, the chill of Lake Michigan reflected in her eyes. I love that she doesn’t have expectations of purses or watches or sedans with the giant moonroof. She continues to get up and do the work without objection or fanfare. She keeps her traditions and her qualms simmering in the back kitchens and adjoining alleyways, sharing the generational secrets of how life really goes with the neighbor.
I love the river and I love the lakes. I love the bad winters and the bland springs and the too-hot summers. I love that even in the most dire weather, you don’t get consumed by it like California and its earthquakes or flash floods and the Northeast and its snowmegeddons. You have never used a pipe burst or a caved-in roof or a slippery walk as an excuse to whine on the news or cancel work and school just to sit around and let everyone else know just how bad it is.
You are Chicago. If life were always good, then it never would be. And that attitude is why most of all, I love you Cubs fans.
Because you are above all things, lovable. And you are anything but losers.
You want to know who the real losers are? Go to a Yankee game and try to find a fan who can recall the year the Franchise Four came up without googling it. Go to a Giants game and watch a guy wander around the Club-level arcade in-game holding his phone toward the satellite and shaking his Apple Watch. Go to a Red Sox game and listen to them whine and cry and groan and boo—you know, like they claimed Yankee fans used to—that their big infield signings didn’t pan out. Go to a game in Philly they’ll tell you to fuck right off along with Ryan Howard. Go to a Cardinals game and, well…you know all about the Cardinals.
What do all those teams and their root-root-rooters have in common? They represent the last decade of “winners.” See what happened there? From the once cantankerous-but-genuine (Phillies) to the once-endearing (Giants, Red Sox) to the ever-formidable (Cardinals, Yankees), all of these teams and their supporters have become the most reviled in the game.
Is it a coincidence? No.
Success changes people. It changes fanbases. It changes teams. Hell, it changes entire cities.
And it will change you.
Right now Cubs faithful, you are the Dirk Diggler-meets-Ozzie Nelson of fans. You can last for-fucking-ever and yet you’re the loyal husband who sticks around banging the same girl you met the first day of first grade till…I don’t know. Till now. Till death do you part. …And then some.
Your 107-year championship drought isn’t merely a dry spell, don’t discredit it that way. It’s an investment your grandpa made for you and you make for your grandchildren. An identity. It’s the surest sign of loyalty and fidelity. It’s the most unwavering of rock-solid commitments placed smack dab in the middle of a country that is bloodying who it once was in exchange for a notion of who it wants to be faster than a fur coat at a PETA rally.
You are the North Siders. You have lost through a pair of world wars and a pair of endless wars and every police action or near-miss crisis and coup in between. Theodore Roosevelt was president when you last won. Hemingway was a 9-year-old in Oak Park plotting his escape and Capone was a 9-year-old in Brooklyn readying to make his move. Back then, you were still less than 40 years out from the Chicago Fire; there was no deep dish, no rhythm…and certainly plenty of blues, but no name for it. Prohibition was merely a decade away, the Depression a little more than two. Oddly enough, the population was 2.1 million—about what it is today. That’s two million folks who are the most fortified, most hopeful, most prominent and pragmatic in the land, and always have been.
Cubs fans: I wish you could see what the rest of us see in you. I wish you knew how much we envy you. We marvel at how austere and proud you go as you take the bad winters and the bland springs and the too-hot summers and the disappointing falls with a philosopher’s equanimity. How we gaze upon you in repose with your spirit in tact that one February morning when a single blade of grass sacrifices itself to peek out from the sidewalk crack just to let you know that it is OK to hope once more. We know there’s a gloominess hidden from view as you clear the driveway and scrape the windshield and pray for the car to turnover. But here, in full, in this manic, heady, sun-drenched season of winning, you seem to be truly enjoying yourselves and this collective century-and-change endeavor.
But what you don’t know is the minute that climax happens and the release is released; the minute the detritus from the parade is swept up and the trophy is dusted of all fingerprints and stowed in the case—you turn into a land of expectation. All of a sudden that stubborn and fickle and practical sense of humor and that wonderful stoicism is bled out and runs to the river. You will wake up the next day, no longer Chicago. No longer the lovable Cubbies. Just a Wikipedia entry with a blue link. A Bob Costas tweet. A used wrapper stuck to the chain link.
And you will become something Chicago hasn’t been for more than one hundred years: No different than the rest of us.