A few weeks ago Son of Admin (SoA) urged us all to register with the Cubs so that one or more of us might have the chance to purchase playoff tickets. So we all went online, from Brooklyn to Indianapolis to Wicker Park, and filled in the form.
SoA won for the National League Division Series; I (Admin) and Wife of Admin (WoA) won for the League Championship Series. We were able to purchase tickets for both NLDS games at Wrigley Field, and the first two of three scheduled NLCS games. (Could this be why the Cubs were swept in four games? Because we didn't have tickets for Game Five???)
As I've already written, Games Three and Four of the NLDS were two of the best games we have ever attended.
(Admin note: Little did I know that the above-pictured scorecard would be my last of the year. For the NLCS the Cubs didn't print the traditional $1.50 scorecard but tried to force fans to spend 10 times that amount, or $15, on a glorified "souvenir" magazine that included scorecards. Not in our budget. [Could this be why the Cubs were swept in four games? Because the baseball gods wanted to punish the greedy Cubs business guys by making them eat at least 1/3 of the magazine's print run because only two out of three games were played???])
Games Three and Four of the NLCS were two of the most painful games we have ever attended.
Much has been written online and in the national press about the Cubs' collapse. From this fan's point of view, it felt inevitable from the moment Jake Arrieta's first pitch last Sunday sailed past catcher Miguel Montero on its flight to the backstop.
That old feeling came back. You know the one. It's the feeling we got in the pits of our stomachs in 1984 when Leon Durham booted a routine ground ball during the playoffs against San Diego. Or in 2003, not when Steve Bartman reached for a foul ball, but when Mark Prior came off the mound looking for a fan interference call while Moises Alou threw a fit with his mitt. Or the feeling in 2008 when Ryan Dempster started walking lots of Dodgers. None of those games were over, by any means. But that feeling of dread crept into our blood and took over until the last Cub out of those playoffs series sealed their doom yet again.
Younger fans say, NO! You gotta believe and be optimistic no matter what! ... and I agree with them, but we just can't. The feeling takes hold and won't let go.
In Game Three of this year's NLCS when the lead run scored on a strike out that should have ended the inning, we knew that lead run would turn out to be the winning run. We just knew it.
But we hope. For each of those incidents we hoped like heck that the feeling was wrong. That Arrieta would right himself. That Montero would chase down the ball and throw Conforto out at first, even as we could plainly see that the ball had rolled too far away for that to happen. Just as we hoped that even after being humiliated in Game Six of the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs would win Game Seven. They would have Kerry Wood on the mound, after all.
Much has been written about what a wonderful season 2015 was for the Cubs and Cub fans. And it was. John Arguello at Cubs Den summarized the year better than most. Much has also been written about how this is only the beginning, that this young Cub team defied all the predictions and turned expectations for perhaps a .500 season into an improbable, celebratory 97-win year. From no expectations to great expectations as, after winning the NLDS, the Cubs were actually favorites to win the World Series as of October 14. (Kiss of death. Is this why the Cubs were swept in the NLCS??? Something like Prior and Wood on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2003?)
But what makes me sick is not the fact that the Cubs lost, but that they lost in a way that supports the ongoing Cubs stereotype of a team that always, ultimately goes down to defeat tragically. Sadly. With a dropped third strike or a booted grounder to first, or shortstop, or a parcel of walks and a grand slam served up by the Cubs' ace, or putting in a fastball pitcher to pitch to a scorchingly hot fastball hitter who then promptly delivers a single to score the eventual winning runs (1989, Mitch Williams vs. Will Clark).
There's a term I've heard and read often to describe the Cubs' downfall this year. Sad. Does any other professional sports franchise have that word associated with it so strongly?
I'm sick of sad. I'm sick of lovable. I want the Cubs to be hated like the Yankees. And here's where hope comes back into play. I hope that all the baseball pundits are right about this team. That this is only the beginning. That these young Cubs will grow into a ferocious group that takes no prisoners. That the great expectations for the future are surpassed, just as the modest expectations for this year became great.
Now that's a term I want to see associated with the Cubs from 2016 until ... well, until forever. Great. How about the Great Chicago Cubs? Let some other franchise become lovable losers. Like the Cardinals. Or the Yankees.
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