There is a very dependable pattern in human nature. As soon as someone reaches the top, a transformation of public perception begins to emerge. Where once they were admired for their competitiveness and underdog status, those who reach the top start to be seen by their rivals not as heroes, but as villains.
Granted, sometimes it is deserved. Sometimes those at the top really are villains.
The Steinbrenner Yankees?
Wealthy, greedy, buy everything (and everyone) Montgomery Burns villains
The Belichick-Brady Patriots?
Evil genius Lex Luthor villains.
The hack your computer/no-fun allowed/head-hunting/take out sliding/self-proclaimed best fans in baseball St. Louis Cardinals?
Well, they're the mustache sporting, top hat wearing, tie the damsel to the railroad tracks, soon-to-be a distant relic of the past villains.
But the Cubs?
The once lovable, perpetual underdog team that everyone rooted for? The same squad that would give us brief moments of hope only to stumble at the last moment and break our hearts? Are we talking about the team with a wistful fan base that only yearned for simpler times and a nostalgic vision of baseball?
And then on top of all that, are we talking about the same group that played the most exciting, hard-fought World Series in recent memory? The scrappy, never-say-die squad that won with a more romanticized dramatic ending than anything Bernard Malamud could have penned?
How can anyone not love them?
Is it Pedro Strop's hat?
Is it the confident swagger of Willson Contreras?
Is it Jake Arrieta's physique?
Is it dancing bullpens?
Dance like no one is watching. pic.twitter.com/9UZD8yut1L
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 21, 2017
Is it because we have Kris Bryant and they don't?
Maybe it's because the Cubs have become so powerful and sinister that they now control the weather? (or at least the local weather forecasts)
Or maybe it is because we've been bandwagon fans for almost as long as there have been bandwagons...
But I doubt it.
I suspect the real reason the Cubs aren't so lovable anymore is because they're good. They're not the league doormats anymore. They're not the team everyone is excited to play because of day baseball, great Chicago restaurants, and an easy W. The Cubs are no longer a punching bag or a punchline.
They are now the team everyone else wants to beat with every fiber of their being. When rivals come into Chicago now, it's not going to be easy. They're going to have to deal with the crooked hats, the swagger, the cartoonishly fiendish physiques, the omnipotent weather machine, the dancing bullpens, and the cheering, singing bandwagon fans.
And if they manage to get past that formidable gauntlet of obstacles, they still have to deal with a defending World Champions that is built to sustain success indefinitely.
They better get used to it.
Deserved or not, as far as their rivals are concerned the Cubs are becoming the hated villains rather than the lovable losers. And you know what?
That suits me just fine.
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