Chicago, USA—Fans of the Chicago Cubs are dismayed this morning that the team has broken one of the proudest and longest records in sports.
A hundred and eight years is longer than the lifetimes of all but 43 Cubs fans, of whom 17 were capable of understanding the latest perplexing development in the team's fortunes. "If they start not winning again right now, they'll only be at 71 when I'm ninety," wailed Jimmy Appledongle, 19, of Logan Square. "Why would they throw that all away? Why?"
Sid "Pap" Wikolsky, 89, reminisced about the first time he saw the Cubs lose. "Ah, it was grand, it was," he beamed. "They were ahead 10-4 at the seventh inning stretch, but still managed to flush it down the drain," on a series of quasi-comical infield errors. It was 1934 and Pap Wikolsky was seven years old. He cherishes the memory.
"The Cubs taught me how to deal with setbacks, with failure, and yes, even the inevitability of my eventual death," said an unidentified female fan of older middle age. "I've seen them shut out, I've seen them blow leads, I've seen them not come to play, I've even seen them lose on bad calls." Asked if there was a particular occasion she remembers best, she said there wasn't, then mentioned a time when the Cubs had two out and bases loaded and Ryne Sandberg was called out on a low and outside pitch that very clearly caught the corner. She was able to nurse the resulting sense of injustice for many years. "After 1985, the one thing we in Chicago could count on was the Cubs not succeeding."
Then she added softly, "All gone now."
Image courtesy of the Cubs Suck Club, and no, that's not a joke.
Many fans are distraught about the implications of the World Series win for their long-held superstitions. Dr. Darnwell Milkit, a psychologist, explained that those superstitions have been subtly integrated as an organizing principle of many Cubs fans' lives. He explained that it might take a while to sink in, but that many fans might wake up one day soon to a feeling of interior dread and alienation as the unnatural event starts to settle in as real—a sense that the world has somehow lost stable meaning. "I've advised them to become Libertarians for a while, to help ease the transition," Dr. Milkit said. He cited Ed Reszewski of Lake Forest, who has been working for more than three decades to influence the Cubs' fortunes by wearing the correct socks. "On Wednesday morning I didn't even pay any attention to the socks," Ed reported, shaking his head in amazement. "Wait, maybe that's it!"
Wrigley Field has always been a peaceful place, a place of only transitory exultation, a place where placid fans can go to get some reading done. Each time the Cubs won, those fans could take fatalistic solace in knowing it wouldn't matter in the end, that the wistful autumnal melancholy so many Chicagoans inevitably associate with Wrigley would always return. Pitchers used to sign with the Cubs so they could be assured of having Octobers off to rest their arms. Fans always enjoyed the self-flagellation and self-denigration they felt was their birthright. It's going to be different now, and it may take fans a while to adjust.
The city of Boston has sent an emergency team of veteran counselors to help distraught Chicagoans with the transition. "They'll be all right," said Ed Gaffney, a Red Sox fan who could only bring himself to watch Sox at-bats during their World Series in 2004, leaving the room each time the Cardinals were up. "You do get used to it. They'll see."
Then he thought for a moment. "...Although I still can't quite wrap my head around the idea that the Curse isn't real." Baby steps, Cubs fans. It takes time.
Open Mike is supposed to appear on Wednesdays, but yesterday the dog ate my homework.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
Kenneth Tanaka: "Very cute. But this Cubs fan isn't morose. This Cubs fan went to elementary school two blocks from Wrigley Field. This Cubs fan used to know an usher who would let a few of us kids into the park for free on home game days at bottom of the 7th (and after school). This Cubs fan used to clean sections of seats to get a free pass to the next home game (circa early 1960s). This Cubs fan used to wait patiently outside the old clubhouse entrance on Clark Street for autographs from Banks, Williams, Santo, et al.
"But this Cubs fan never saw the Cubs in a World Series game, let alone win the Series. Until last night. And this Cubs fan cried like a baby last night, for all the losing efforts. For all his boyhood pals that didn't make it to see this unbelievable game. For his long-gone grandmother who listened to every Cubs game on her gray Motorola radio. No counseling needed here. Just some time to absorb the experience of the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series. Just some time."
Mike replies: Wait, you were at the game last night? In person? In all seriousness, that has the be the #1 game to have seen in person of any game in baseball history, or at least since about 1927. A mortal lock for the top 10.
Ken: "Nope. I watched the game on tv. I doubt I could have survived seeing that game in-person. Wow."
Mike: Good to know. You know there are already more than 40,000 Chicagoans telling their friends they were at the game in Cleveland, a number that is sure to swell as the years go by. (Progressive Field seats about 35,225 people.) Me, I just need to move up to TV.
Darlene: "Kenneth Tanaka's post makes me smile."
Norm Nicholson (partial comment): "Around 1990 there was an article in the New York Times stating that left-handed people didn't live as long as right-handed people--that put me in a funk. My wife said that I had to do something to snap out our of it. So I took my 15-year-old daughter to Indonesia.
"Everywhere in Bali, kids were riding on mopeds wearing T-shirts that said, 'Take Me Out, The American Baseball.' My daughter and I wondered, what in the world does that mean? A few days later we were in a cafe, and there was Harry Carey on TV leading the crowed in 'Take Me Out to The Ball Game,' and all of the fans were standing and singing and holding hands and swaying. WGN was a TV superstation and the Cubs were carried worldwide on satellite.
"Because of Wrigley, the people I met in Bali thought America was this wonderful place where everyone got along. It must be true, they saw it on TV.
"I learned patience being a Cub Fan, and I learned that fans of opposing teams were well tolerated at Wrigley. I also learned that there is a fine art to the game; it has grace, skill, luck, an awareness of the passing of time, and so much more.
"I'm 83 now, still photograph a lot, and have steady hands. I'm thankful that I have lived to see the Cubs win the World Series. The Cubs are no longer 'lovable losers.' They are 'lovable winners.' It's a new era. Baseball is on an upswing. May the country benefit.
"Take Me Out To The Ball Game."
Thomas Turnbull: "Thanks, Ken, so very much for sharing such a wonderful facet of your life with us! I was late to the party, myself, but I'm there wholeheartedly now—enthusiastically, hopefully, nailbitingly there—as I was via TV for every game of this Series!
"The reason I made it to the party at all was knowing and watching my brother, Warren. He started rooting for the Cubs in 1948, when he was six years old, and he kept at it, steadfastly rooting for the rest of his life. He died three years ago, so he never saw them win the World Series, but that didn't stop him.
"I was impressed and curious, so a year or so before he died I asked him why he'd picked the Cubs. 'I liked their uniforms,' he told me! I laughed, of course, but still just had to watch this Series in his honor. Now that I have, I've found my team! I hope I can carry his torch with something approaching his unassuming flair and faithfulness...and Faithfulness. 'Go Cubs' and all the best, Tom Turnbull."
Chris Y.: "Best line I've heard so far: 'The last time the Cubs won the World Series was [looks at watch]...seven hours ago...."