So Why did You Become a Chicago Cubs Fan?

So Why did You Become a Chicago Cubs Fan?

I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with the legend that is John Fogerty, he of both Creedence Clearwater Revivial and solo fame.  You see, I came to know him as a solo artist first, from his 1985 album "Centerfield."

After having skipped college to directly into professional farming (no signing bonus or guaranteed contract money there), he decided to move from planting corn to cultivating young minds.  As such, we were often brought along on the commute up to Purdue North Central.

If the Cubs weren't playing, the tape deck in his little Ford Ranger was usually blaring either the "Good Morning Vietnam" soundtrack or "Centerfield."  I'd still put the latter up in my favorite albums of all time, as much for the nostalgia as the music.  But the music was damn good.

It wasn't until years later, upon seeing one of those mid-day TV ads for a CCR two-CD set, that I realized John Fogerty had once been the lead singer of the seminal swamp rock/roots pop band.  My brother and I were all about it and dad said that if we saw the commercial again, he'd call and buy the CDs.

Sure enough, the next time we saw it, he got hounded and he made the call.  I still remember when the package arrived; we put it into the CD player in the kitchen when we were home from lunch (this was in the summer) and cranked the volume, dancing and singing (both quite badly) to the music.

Rest assured, I'm eventually going to segue into the main post soon.  Despite being a great album, "Centerfield" was fraught with legal trouble; Fogerty was actually sued by his former boss Saul Zaentz and Fantasy Records, who still held the publishing rights to Creedence's music.

Fantasy's claim was that the chorus of "The Old Man Down the Road" was the same as that from "Run Through the Jungle;" in other words, they were claiming that Fogerty had plagiarized himself.

Not only did Fogerty win that case, but also his countersuit to recoup legal fees, which was eventually decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.  He was also able to score tremendous digs at Zaentz with the songs "Mr. Greed" and "Zanz Can't Dance," the latter of which had to be changed to "Vanz Can't Dance," but told the story of a pig who will "steal your money."

Kids, which brings me to my next point: don't smoke crack.  Seriously though, I wanted to make sure to learn from Fogerty's example and avoid any notion that I was stealing from my own work.  That said, the piece below is one that was originally published on Yahoo Sports via their Contributor Network (hence the block quote).

I'm a pretty positive guy and I take the current state of the team in stride, believing wholeheartedly that the team is headed in the right direction.  But that doesn't mean I don't get down about things every now and again, which is why I often like to revisit exactly why I became and remain a Chicago Cubs fan.

Folks in St. Louis, with their 11 World Series titles, have long been asking this question with perplexed condescension. Chicago White Sox fans pose the query with a bit more derision, and their one title in the past 96 years does at least lend a modicum of credence to their barbs.

But those who have lived with little other than disappointment from their favorite ballclub have asked it ad infinitum, inflecting it at times with anger, frustration, puzzlement and resignation. With the struggles of the past few seasons, the clamoring from various factions of Cubs Nation is reaching a crescendo. Some are jumping like rats from a sinking ship, while others cling to life preservers of blind hope. Some lament the renovation of the team and of Wrigley Field as blasphemous money grabs, while others support them as the necessary evils of competing long term in today's game.

My voice is small and the fan base wide, but I wanted to take a few moments, and a few hundred words, to look at why the Chicago Cubs have so many loyal fans.

Wrigley Field

Perhaps no ballpark is more intrinsically tied to its inhabitant(s) as Wrigley Field and the Cubs. Given the team's lack of ultimate success, Wrigley Field often holds more allure than the team itself. The Friendly Confines are dirty, dank, hard to get to, expensive, and have outdated amenities for fans and players alike.

But the same things that detractors decry as abominable, Cubs fans (by and large) laud as adorable. The bathroom troughs, cracked concrete, and lack of modern trappings hearken back to a simpler time and make the experience somehow more pure by their faults. Wrigley is venerable, approachable, simple -- it's a destination for baseball aficionados from all over the country.

On a tour of the ballpark, you might well encounter visitors from Georgia, South Carolina, California and Maine. And that's just one group of at least six in the park at any given moment during the pregame tour. They come to see the park, to walk around the Wrigleyville neighborhood that embraces it and imbues it with a character that can't be found in some downtown or suburban local where cookie-cutter stadiums sit like islands in a sea of parking lots.

Wrigley Field is also a survivor. Originally Weeghman Park, then Cubs Park for a handful of years, it became perhaps the first sports venue with a corporate-sponsored name. It has endured the addition of bleachers and an upper deck, lights and the once-unthinkable advent of night baseball, more bleachers, and (gasp!) an LED board in right field. Despite the contrary opinions of rooftop owners and Wrigley purists, it'll survive a new video board, too.

Don't let the falling concrete fool you, Wrigley Field is not frail; it was there before all three people reading this were born and it may well be there after we've all passed on. Players, managers and owners have come and gone, but Wrigley has been a constant.

Tradition (cue anti-Cubs jokes here)

The Cubs have been playing baseball in the National League since 1876, during which they've accomplished a great deal. Sadly, the most notable tradition is one of futility, as the team is still trying to capture its first World Series title since Jerlean Talley was 9. But despite the much publicized failures, the Cubs have actually won quite a few ballgames over the years. In 2008, they won their 10,000th game, becoming only the second major-league team ever to do so.

They have come tantalizing close to stepping onto baseball's biggest stage, only to stumble in heartbreaking fashion time and again. But, like it or not, that's a part of the tradition, too. Everyone loves an underdog (well, everyone but New York Yankees fans and Boston Red Sox fans since 2004) and the Cubs have long played that role. And so backers continue to wade through 100-loss seasons, ground balls under Bull Durham's glove, and Moises Alou's tantrums, knowing that when it all finally comes together, a title will be that much sweeter for the suffering.

WGN

Cubs fans are found all over the country, and a big reason for that is the Superstation. WGN has been bringing the Cubs to the radios and televisions of millions of people since well before cable and satellite gave them hundreds of additional choices. In the summers prior to 1988, there was little competition on the tube aside from soap operas and "The People's Court," so the Cubs were often the best available option. Jack Brickhouse manned both the TV and radio booths for over three decades, and his enthusiasm, while often unjustified, was infectious.

Add Harry Caray and a crew of voyeuristic cameramen, and you had destination television. In the days when the rooftops were no more than a few friends playing hooky from work with some folding chairs a couple coolers of beer, WGN allowed viewers a glimpse into America's Pastime and established the Cubs and Wrigley field as institutions. Some were born into Cubs fandom or fell in love with an old ballpark, but legions more were converted by the evangelism of television.

This is only a cursory glance at what is a much larger topic, and I'm not naive or conceited enough to think that this will reach many people, let alone impact them. In fact, I'll be pleased if one of the three people who started this little commentary actually reached this point. But at the risk of setting out the nice linens and fine china for a troll buffet, I'd like to see the subsequent comments include some of the reasons that you are a Cubs fan.

 

So what about you?  Why did you become a fan and what keeps you clinging to the bandwagon, despite the fact that the wheels have fallen and the ride is so rough that many have been bounced right out the back?

Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman

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  • WGN was the reason. Id use to run home from school to hopefully catch the last inning of the game. then from watching on WGN,, Ryne Sandberg was my baseball hero.. from that point on, I have been hooked

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    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Yeah, the Superstation had such a huge reach that people in rural areas or those w/out a strong local baseball presence were converted in droves. It's amazing to see the strong Cubs support all over the country, from Miami to Anaheim. Every time I've been to a road game, even when the Cubs are down, the fans show out in a big way. There was just something about afternoon baseball and the way WGN presented it, like it was the best place on Earth to be in that moment.

  • Well, now that WGN looks to lose the Cubs broadcasting contract, the Cubs are going to have to rely more on playing winning baseball and winning World championships to keep their fan base excited. Looks like the timing is right with the positive changes we've seen in the last couple of years and the positive state of their farm system.I no longer live in the Midwest, so I'm counting on the Ricketts and Theo team to finally make my dream come true!

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    The good/bad thing about WGN is all about money and nostalgia now. I'm all for a move if it provides the cash necessary to fund a winning team. While WGN's influence has certainly dwindled with the advent of widespread cable and sat. TV, along with night games, it's still available on all the basic cable packages and, I'd guess, a good deal of terrestrial antennas. And CSN Chicago is a part of many Midwestern cable packages too, so almost every game is broadcast here. I'm not sure of the logistics of a deal, but there's something different about the way games are shown now. Maybe it's just that I'm more jaded now, I don't know.

  • I started watching the Cubs because as a kid they were on when nothing else was. I fell in love with the uniforms, park, tradition (albeit losing) Buckner, and Harry..

  • It was the first time I stepped into Wrigley. My uncle took me to the game and we sat a couple rows from the Cubs dugout. I remember the smell of the grass and the sound of the ball hitting the mit. I live in St.Louis now, so I don't get up there as much as I would like. But when I do, and I walk into Wrigley, I relive that first time over and over again.

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