Please permit me a day off from being a catechist (we have no class tonight…Columbus Day) so that I can share my reflections on the demise of the 2007 Cubs.
Alas, Lucy has pulled the football away from Charlie Brown once again, just when we thought that maybe, just maybe, this will be the time that he’ll finally get to kick that ball! Don’t we know any better?
Like Jeremiah, we Cubs’ fans are lamenting (and I paraphrase Jeremiah 20:7 here), “You duped me Cubs, and I let myself be duped.”
After the painful collapse of 2003 (which followed painful collapses in 1984 and 1969, not to mention disappointing losses in 1989 and 1998), I,like many Cubs’ fans, swore not to get my hopes up again. Paraphrasing Jeremiah once again, “I said to myself, I will not mention them, I will speak their name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”
So, like a fool, I succumbed to the vortex of hope. I went to several games down the stretch. I wore my Cubs jersey and cap. I even sat in the bleachers once! I cheered and rooted (and yes, I was one of the people who boo-ed Zambrano a month or so ago…I’ve been a fan for over 40 years…I’ve earned the right!). They clinched the division on my birthday and a little part of me said, “maybe, just maybe, this is the year.”
Of course, if you blinked your eyes, you missed the playoff series…the Cubs never really showed up. As I watched the first game of the series, I said to my wife, “OK…2 strikes on Soriano…here comes a big sweeping curve ball in the dirt.” Sure enough, a big sweeping curve ball in the dirt…and Soriano whiffs. As did Lee, and Ramirez and countless others. I thought, “If I know what pitch is coming next, and they’re the ones getting paid mega-millions, shouldn’t they know as well?” That would be asking too much, I guess.
And so, we welcome many newly initiated Cubs fans to the world of disappointment…all those young Cubs fans who thought that by being positive they could will the Cubs to a championship. These are the folks who chided me and other veteran Cub fans for being pessimistic about the Cubs’ chances. Seasoned Cub fans know that it is emotionally safer to be jaded and cynical when it comes to the Cubs’ chances. It hurts less when they let you down. We don’t see it as being pessimistic…just realistic. Why are we afraid that the other shoe will drop? Because it always has (at least for 99 years).
Now, the familiar refrain goes up (for the 99th time): “wait till next year.” Perhaps the commisioner of baseball can proclaim 2008 to be a jubilee year when, after 100 years of waiting, prisoners of futility will be released, the Cubs’ debt will be forgiven, and the baseball gods will shower mercy on all of Cubdom, bringing about a year of joy.
I, myself, will keep expectations very low…less chance of being disappointed. The quiet pessimism of many of us veteran Cubs fans will not affect the Cubs as they will have 40,000 screaming and cheering fans rooting them on at every home game and singing the Steve Goodman anthem, “Go, Cubs, Go!”
I for one, will be recalling the refrain from Steve Goodman’s other great Cubs’ song, “The Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request:”
Do they still play the blues in Chicago
When baseball season rolls around?
When the snow melts away,
Do the Cubbies still play
In their ivy covered burial ground?
When I was a boy they were my pride and joy
But now they only bring fatigue
To the home of the brave
The land of the free
And the doormat of the national league