I could see them from aisles away, a group of three women standing, hands clasped to each other.
I was intrigued. The passion for victory was so evident that their reactions to the plays on the field became more entertaining than the game itself.
I couldn't blame their intensity. The game was tight. There were two outs. The score was 2-1. The Cubs needed just one out for the victory.
I had to see them. I had to see how they'd react.
Walking closer to the group, I saw the group's arsenal. They had hats with pins, large foam fingers, personalized jerseys, and some t-shirt that I could barely...
They had to think I was a lunatic. I walked down the aisle, creeping in to see what other piece of ridiculousness this group owned. 'Jesus, what is on that shirt?'
By this point, the lovely lady had enough of some 'barely-shaven-possible criminal-element' observing her and her group's behavior.
"Is something wrong?"
I shook her hand. "Nothing...I'm not looking for anything."
I could finally see it. In bold blue letters the shirt said 'This is the Year'.
Moments later, the Cubs won. They had just eked out a 2-1 victory against the Houston Astros. Maybe it really was 'the year'. Maybe her shirt was right? Maybe I was just another cynical Cubs fan unable to buy into this juggernaut of a Cubs squad?
Or maybe I wasn't. Considering the Cubs victory had catapulted them to an overwhelming record of 67-85...I'm gonna guess I was right. It wasn't the year. It wasn't the decade. And it hasn't been the century.
After the final groundball, I walked to the sweet lady and shook her hand. "Good luck with this year, I think we can do it." Yep...I'm a jerk.
Sitting a scant 22 games out of first place, the throngs of Cubs fans remaining in Wrigley Field belted out their beloved tune of 'Go Cubs Go'.
"They've got the power, they've got the speed, to be the best in the National League."
No. No, they don't. They actually lack a lot of power, they have mediocre speed, and they will be in no way, shape, or form be in contention to 'be the best in the National League'.
Steve Goodman wrote the song for a 1984 Chicago Cubs team that would win the NL East just days after his passing. And here was his song...echoing throughout Wrigley Field for all the diseased individuals soaking up everything that is 'Cubs'.
Truth is, I can't blame them. I used to be one of them. I wanted to believe in day baseball, Harry Caray, the seventh inning stretch, the statues, and the belief of 'next year'.
As the years have gone by, I know that Wrigley didn't get lights in the 40's due to the team sacrificing its materials for World War II. Day baseball wasn't some romantic notion. They wanted lights. When the lights left, they didn't want to spend the money...it wasn't romantic...it was the Cubs being cheap. But they sold the idea...you bought it, I bought it...we're guilty.
We've bought into stories of old teams that never won anything. We've taken players who never won championships and turned them into idols. We've replaced the unending mediocrity by creating our own reality. We stand for the manual scoreboard, day baseball, bricks and ivy, the old grand field, no escalators...it's all supposed to mean something more.
Supposedly, it means more because we've had to endure the pain, the losing, the taunting, and the constant collapses.
The truth is, we don't embody the pain. We've essentially created an alternate reality to ignore it. This reality clings to statues, idols, and traditions; an alternate reality that replaces all pain. The alternate reality even has its own anthem: 'Go, Cubs, Go'
The alternate reality is so deep, that in mid-September, fans will stand and sing 'Go, Cubs, Go' for a 67-85 team that is 22 games out of first place.
It is now months later. Theo Epstein runs the Cubs. The man has won championships...and by the looks of him, I'm pretty sure he's never held a foam finger or worn t-shirts with cute sayings on them...and I have this gut feeling he'll never sing 'Go, Cubs, Go'.
He fed the lemmings all of the traditional nonsense during the press conference to appease the masses...but deep down it means nothing to him. The only stat that matters is what shows in the standings. His success is via no-nonsense, cold, cut-throat baseball...it's everything that's not 'Cubs'.
This year, it's gonna be rough for the Cubs. Theo might very well find himself at Wrigley Field in mid-September watching a 67-85 Cubs team trying to close out a victory.
The same fans will still probably be there; waving flags and pumping fists. The Cubs will close out another victory. The celebration will ensue and the party will begin.
Sitting in his suite, Theo won't be celebrating and he certainly won't be singing. While our alternate reality might tell us the victory means something, Epstein will only see 67-85....and 67-85 is no reason to celebrate. 67-85 isn't cute. 67-85 is for losers.
67-85 is the reality.
67-85 doesn't need a soundtrack...it just needs wins.