…Deep down, I don’t think any true Cubs fan is wanting to raise that ‘W’ tonight and kick off an identity crisis or the end times either.
It It occurred to me over the weekend when visiting my sister and her brood, all of whom—thanks to a recent trip to Chicago and jumping aboard the mighty blue pinstriped bandwagon—have become a “Cubs family”, that I have been lying this whole time when it comes to the why of me rooting against America’s most lovable dominating darlings.
I have been using a trio of excuses as to why I am anti-Cub. They are, in no particular order of importance:
1) One of my good buddies grew up outside Cleveland and, well, I go how he goes. (This reason is actually negated by the fact that the last two NBA finals I have done nothing but taunt and harangue him when “my” Golden State Warriors have faced off against “his” Cleveland Cavaliers.)
2) I do not like Theo Epstein. Something about that guy is more smarm than charm. Of course, he can’t control the public perception or dialogue—or overexposure—but as a letters guy and a Yale grad, he just seems to not do a very good job deflecting the credit to his rows and rows of anonymous number crunchers and scouts. There is an army backing Epstein and in a sense he reminds me of Steve Jobs; kind of a maniacal but charismatic presence, perhaps a perfectionist, who poaches other people’s work, takes the credit when things go right (see: this year) and gets the fuck out of Dodge when they don’t (see: his final two seasons in Boston.)
3) I like Cubs fans just the way they are. I like seeing their pasty bods and sweet corn yellow teeth exposed in the hot Mesa sun as if they’re thrown into a giant Banana Republic dressing room and all the saggy parts are out there in the spotlight of Spring Training. I like their casual demeanor and very Midwestern “we’ll get ‘em next year” approach to life. I like how generation after generation, they all have one thing to hold dear, to hold certain—which is also the one lesson of life we all should embrace: Disappointment is inevitable. Losing and loss is natural. Best-case scenario, every whirlwind romance ends either in divorce or death. Every job you will ever have gets eliminated—that’s right, will cease to exist—even if it is your own company. Every newborn baby eventually ends up in a chair yelling at the TV with swollen ankles. These are facts of life, and every year for more than a century Cubs fans have been imprinted that with the nip of winter in the air and the changing of the leaves, something dies or is buried deep deep down in them. But they also know, renewal is possible. And isn’t that a little bit magic?
Of the three reasons, I am most tied to that last one. Because what happens if Cubs fans finally summit Everest tonight, look out upon the great expanse on the shoulders of their elders and their elders’ elders and find what most do once the Champagne bubbles gather around the drain?
That victory is empty.
I don’t wish for that kind of comedown for them.
That century-and-change of buildup only to wake up to the alarm tomorrow morning and realize…it’s still only effing Thursday and the dog needs to go out and the kids need to get dressed and you’ve got a conference call at 10 that you clearly had no interest in preparing for. And *sigh* it’s all over but the souvenir newspaper anyway.
But there is something else, something more sinister, more wicked—more gravely unsettling and at the same time pressing about the Cubs’ imminent chances at hoisting a trophy and breaking all of these familial and generational vows. A Cubs’ victory is simply one more giant neon sign to break up the dead dark of night careening down this freeway of oblivion that the world, in fact, may be ending soon.
Yep, we are living in our own M. Night Shyamalan movie, only one with a less ambiguous ending. The ice caps are melting from below. A major presidential candidate has been so full of spite and vitriol that the KKK’s newspaper, one that looks like it was laid out in 1957 or by the same guys who did the NAMBLA rag, just wrote a delightfully macabre love letter to his candidacy.
Those aliens sent here from outer space to make our lives a better, more bearable place: Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Curtis Hanson, Anton Yelchin, Merle Haggard, Dave Mirra, Jose Fernandez, Glenn Frey, Morley Safer, Harper Lee …fucking Miss Cleo—have all beamed up to that promised land and in their wake have left us with a single warning: The world they left a little better place, may not be the best place to be.
People who consider themselves informed also know this American experiment is still a relatively young one but one that shows every last drawn breath of its years in its smile lines—kind of like the Drew Barrymore of countries.
We have been through a Civil War, two world wars, a Civil Rights movement that wasn’t civil and didn’t give nearly everyone rights, a walk on the moon and a space program that then disintegrated before our very eyes, a quagmire in Southeast Asia, an attack on our greatest city and our nation’s capital, a pair of endless wars combating those forces of terror, and those evil death cults growing mightier in the wake of our confusion, a Great Depression, a greed-induced financial crisis and six inexplicable seasons of Cougar Town.
We, in theory, probably still should not be standing in the first place. But here we are, top of the podium, still chomping on gold medals, hoisting Oscar statuettes and mugging and preening and Snapchatting and perhaps dancing on a bar top like there’s no tomorrow—only this time if the Cubs win, maybe there won’t be.
Because the best of us is also the worst of us. Dare I say that Cubs fans have gone from endearing to greedy over the past month waving up those gross “W” flags that are traditionally flown over their home field after every victor.
It is as if with just a little taste of success, a tiny ray of hope—they have already abandoned their best attribute: An innate ability to circumvent the tough questions about what it means to be human, to be fallible and—most importantly—to continue to hold out hope when hope is the only thing and even that is in short supply…and keep going.
Everything I like about them, everything that makes them them, they’re about to abandon for a cheap dog pile and sprayed goggles in the locker room.
And I don’t like it.
What’s more than that, I don’t think any true Cubs fan should either.
Tomorrow, I hope they wake up with a tear-soaked flag and a hat with the bill practically chewed off as they look toward what next year may hold. Victory all but guarantees more unprecedented events to happen before the year is out and I for one am tired of the surprises.