One, two … three hundred strikes, Cubs still out

October 9, 2008

I’m an optimistic person from the most optimistic city in the world. We are the city that invented “Just wait till next year,” the city that holds dearly on to any hope, the city that counts dry spells not in years or decades, but in centuries. We are the home of the lovable losers. We should be used to things like this happening. We are Chicago.

While I’m sure every Cubs fan was reeling with disappointment Saturday night, very few of us could claim to be altogether surprised. So what if the Cubs led the entire National League in the regular season? So what if they beat the Dodgers five of seven times this summer? While the typical baseball fans would have expected their team to win, we were just hoping that this time, this year really would be different.

Yes, I was hoping. I tried not to. Since the downfall of the 2003 Cubs, I haven’t let myself really hope. Of course I cheer for my team, I wake up at 7 a.m. to get precious day of game tickets (winning, it seems, is not a prerequisite for sold out games), I read the sports columns the next day–but hope? I know better than to let myself hope again. But this season was different. The months wore on, and my Cubbies were still winning. The pitchers remained uninjured. The question was not if we would make it to the playoffs but if we would finally win another World Series. All this was too much for me. On Monday, after reading a particularly inspiring article—Bob Verdi, on how it would be “a colossal disappointment” if the Cubs didn’t make it to the World Series—I began to hope, though I did have the sense to ask the friend who had sent the article if Verdi was just trying to jinx us.

So, on Monday, I started to hope. On Wednesday, the Cubs started to fall apart. On Saturday, the demise was complete.

All of this, while quite tragic, is nothing new to a Cubs fan. One of the announcers made a comment in the seventh inning about how Chicagoans were waiting; he meant that we were waiting for the Cubs to convert on, oh, I don’t know, any of their opportunities (do we have to leave guys stranded at second every inning?), but we were really waiting for what we knew was coming all along—the moment when the Cubs showed their true colors. The Cubs will always—despite long odds—find a way to lose when it matters most.

The problem is not that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series in a hundred years. The problem is that between decades of just plain bad baseball, they have had chances, good chances at that, and they very reliably blow them. A player quite literally dropped the ball late in the game, an ironic moment of symbolism in an otherwise unremarkable game.

The only consolation is that the White Sox also lost. There is no such thing as a Chicago fan when it comes to baseball. (This is actually the only thing Cubs fans and Sox fans agree on.) Appropriate attitudes toward the other team range from indifference to hatred, which is why my new favorite team is the Devil Rays.

At this point, there’s really nothing for a Cubs fan to do except sigh and accept the collapse of our favorite team. Just wait till next year.

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