When did Cubs Baseball Stop Being Fun?

When did Cubs Baseball Stop Being Fun?

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones for whom the fun never stopped.  If so, quit reading this right now and go bottle whatever magic elixir has prevented you from becoming jaded.

Then I’d recommend hawking it at the corner of Clark and Addison next year as the losses pile up once more.  Get there early though, because I’ve got a feeling the demand might not be quite as high as the year goes on.  But just in case, you might want to save some, Doomsday Preppers style.

I have previously addressed the question of why the Cubs even have fans at all, but much of the luster that drew those fans like so many bugs to a porch light has become tarnished.  I wrote that in yet another piece, how the Cubs have lost much of their joie de vivre and need to work to get it back.

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, and Cubs fans were long content to float along the waters of the Waittilnextyear Stream, lulled to sleep by a few adult beverages and the dulcet tones of Steve Goodman.

But at some point those carefree souls were roused from slumber, only to find that they had drifted from their peaceful blue tributary into the muddy waters of Shit Creek.  Sans paddles, no less.

But when did this happen?  When did being a Cubs fan stop being fun, or, at the very least, as fun?

No more super-heroes

Ryne Sandberg retired…twice.  Greg Maddux left and became the greatest pitcher of his generation with the Atlanta Braves.  Mark Grace won a World Series in the desert.  Sammy Sosa had a meteoric rise, only to fall back to Earth looking more like Joe Dirt’s Boeing bomb.

Mark Prior and Kerry Wood appeared ready to pick up the torch, but arm injuries kept them from doing so.  Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have yet to show that they’re true cornerstone material.

In a world where larger-than-life comic book heroes dominate the box office (if you didn’t already, re-read in your best basso profundo announcer voice), the Cubs’ most recognizable figure is team president Theo Epstein.  That’s all well and good, but no one’s naming their son after a team executive and no one’s buying a ticket to watch him.

Hard to nail down a specific date on this one, but let's mark Sosa's departure -- and the subsequent destruction of his salsa-blaring boombox -- as the day the music died.

And then there was one…

The Cubs’ drought has been discussed ad nauseam, but at least they had reluctant company for a while.  But when the Sox, Red and White, captured consecutive titles in 2004 and 2005, no one else was left in the sad little club.

The Cubs became Mohammet, Jugdish, Sidney, and Clayton after even Larry Kroger and Kent Dorfman proved to be too good for them.  Thank you, sir, may I have another!?

The Bartman Game

Let me make this clear: I'm by no means laying fault at the feet of the bespectacled bystander.  His name, though, has become synonymous with the Cubs' failures.  He was little more than the sun to the Cubs’ Icarus, and even that comparison gives him too much of the blame.

The black cat and the collapse in '69 and Leon Durham letting Tim Flannery go 5-hole were more or less shrugged off.  Sure, people were upset, but there was somewhat of a "we'll be back" feeling that pervaded the disappointment.

But in the case of Bartman, the vitriol was as palpable as the odor of piss and stale beer emanating from Wrigley's very core.  Innocence was not just lost that night, it was burned in effigy and its ashes tossed into Lake Michigan.

That sense of being on the cusp, of knowing that the Cubs were going to play in the World Series, made the unfathomable loss that much worse.  And after tasting real success for the first time in nearly 60 years, all other results were imbued with bitterness.

Fans no longer merely hoped to win, but they expected it.  A sighed “wait ‘til next year” didn’t serve to properly bid the season adieu.  Now it was “they’d better get it done next year,” hissed through clenched teeth.

And even that soon faded, replaced by derogatorily flippant idioms like “wait ‘til 2016” or “let’s just try not to lose 100 again next year.”

So when, exactly, did Cubs baseball stop being fun?  That’s impossible to say, but everything above played a role.  Now, I’m still going to support the Cubs, come hell or high water.  After all, I’ve got kids who possess the same innocence I once did.

And when you get down to it, the fun, the spark that makes the Cubs, well, the Cubs, isn’t really dead; it’s just hibernating, like Jim Carrey's box-office prowess.  And I’m planning on being there when it wakes up.


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  • fb_avatar

    I understand that many will read the title and get all up in arms. And I'm all for a good "high-arm;" heck, I've even given an instructional speech on the gesture's proper usage. My writing is therapeutic and allows me to work through my own inner conflicts; I think you'll see that as more of my work sees the light of day. It's all part of the whole.

  • Well, it's still fun to go to Wrigley, but it's 'lower key' fun. In fact 2014 could be the last year to enjoy MLB like it 'use to be' without an obtrusive noisy Jumbotron.

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    In all honesty, I don't see the video board as either obtrusive or noisy. I mean, yes, it is certainly going to be noticeable, but it's not as if it'll be blasting all kinds of music and noises that are separate from the game. I appreciate the old-world charm of Wrigley, but I again point to Fenway as an example of how old and new can coexist. Fenway's even older and has signage and LED boards all over, and it's got charm to spare.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    True, but coexist will be different than 'use to be'.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    But if we're talking about a team that is consistently competitive vs. those that would have flash-in-the-pan success, to we really want it to be like it used to be?

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    I'm ok with plans for Cubs, just recommend fans enjoy the last of a bygone era.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Point taken, and I do think people need to enjoy what they have. I'm surprised by the growing number of people who are not only okay with the idea of moving, but who are openly supportive of it.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    The promise of "consistent competitiveness" is just that: a promise. It's really worth nothing at this point. In 2002, the Cubs had SEVEN top 100 prospects, one more that had just graduated to MLB as a top 2 prospect, and a 4th year potential star in Kerry Wood. It did not get them sustained success. It's great to have all these prospects and I'm sure some of them will be very good MLB players, but the way the rebuild has been handled does not guarantee, nor is it even likely to end up with, "consistent competitiveness."

    The argument that the team never built it's farm system, and that the only way to build a farm system is through a massive (4-5 year) tanking to do so is a bit of a fallacy.

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    In reply to caryatid62:

    What's the solution? Not patronizing, I'm interested in intelligent arguments for both sides.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    The problem is that they've essentially committed to this tear-down in a manner that makes a solution pretty much impossible. At this point, the horses are out of the barn.

    There was definitely a window between 2010 and today when the team could have acted on the actual market inefficiency that was present: free agents from Japan and Cuba. These were typically young, big-upside players that were available at a relatively low market rate. Had the Cubs committed more fully to giving these players significant deals (in terms of their relationship to the market), the team would have been able to have success while simultaneously building up an organization. They demonstrated a willingness to do this with Gerardo Concepcion (who flamed out, of course), but did not apply that logic to every Japanese/Cuban free agent available. Consider the names available since 2010: Chapman, Darvish, Ryu, Iwakuma, Cespedes, Puig, etc. If the organization had simply said "we're going to blow everyone out of the water with every international free agent and hope that some of them succeed," they'd have spent relatively little (compared to 2014 dollars) and had a team worth watching while the farm system continues to build. They then would have had more reason to supplement these players with free agents, avoiding the "we shouldn't sign him because we're not close enough" argument.

    I tend to think that this was a financial, not baseball, decision, and that the finances have been likely much worse than the team wants to admit. However, regardless of whose mistake this was, it was a missed opportunity to take advantage of an inefficiency, one whose window has now closed.

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    In reply to caryatid62:

    The Cubs did make a push for nearly everyone of the International Free Agents you mentioned. The fact is that no team is going to blow everyone out of the water for every International free agent, including the big spending clubs like the Yankees and Dodgers. The fact is the Cubs did sign Soler, who was 2nd to only Cespedes in terms out of what scouts thought were the top prospects coming out of Cuba. It may not work out for them, but I think they actually made the smarter deal in that Soler is younger and signed for longer than Cespedes. There is not doubt it has been hard to watch as the Cubs have come in 2nd in the bidding on Darvish, Ryu, and Tanaka, but to say that they have not gone out and spent on the International market is just wrong. They just finished blowing past the restricted limit in the International signings last year in order to secure 3 of the top 5 prospects. Besides I don't know what window you think they had to win in 2010 to today. There was an inefficiency in the market, but the CBA closed that and unfortunately their previous GM wasn't smart enough to take advantage of it.

    No one wants to go through a rebuild the way the Cubs are doing it now, but I absolutely believe they are doing it the right way. The new draft rules make it very difficult to land top talent later in the draft, because you are capped with what you can spend, which means that you need picks at the top to land those players, which unfortunately requires losing. Hopefully that will change with the next CBA, but these are the rules they have to work with. I think under the old CBA, they could have rebuilt faster.

    Your right that their prospects may flame out and that they are unable to build a consistent winner, but it won't because the way they went about it was flawed. The difference to me between this front office and past front offices, is that this one has a vision and they are gong to stick to it because they know it works despite the fanbases inpatience. Even better is that they have an owner that understands this and is willing to support them.

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    In reply to caryatid62:

    So you're saying you don't believe there is a solution? If they missed the opportunity to exploit the foreign market under Hendry and they're hamstrung under the current regime, they're stuck. Unless, of course, the answer is that they make the most of the situation until the finances improve enough to allow for an expanded payroll. I appreciate your intelligent breakdown, but rather than prove that they're going about this in the wrong manner, you stated the reasons they're in the situation they're in.

    And I should have thanked you earlier for reading and taking the time to comment. I'd write even if no one read it, but whether people agree of not, I am thankful for every pair of eyes that sees my work.

  • I attend about 40-50 games each year and this year will probably be about 60. I think we really need the jumbotron, especially for replays. If they handle it as well as they did the RF LED board, which is great and really enhances the experience of the game without detracting from the Wrigley ambiance in the least, then I think fans are really going to like it.

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    In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    Exactly. From the mock-ups I've seen, they are taking pains to fit the overall look of the ballpark. Every time I go to a game, I lament the inability to see a replay from a bang-bang call or a great play. I mean, those bird-poop-covered TVs just don't do it for me. And I like seeing all the stats, the lineup, different information up on the screen.

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    There is no better sight in baseball than the CF scoreboard. However, I about shit my pants when I first saw Comiskeys back in '83.

    It's long past time for both worlds. Looking forward to it.

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