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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