They Hate Us ‘Cause They Ain’t Us
One memory that sticks out among the many to me during the Chicago Cubs’ World Series run was the day of Game 3 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. As I sat with some fellow classmates laying out our school newspaper and watching the game on a projector, a few of my friends (and a teacher) began talking about how the Chicago Cubs were “not a neighborhood ball-club” and “sold their souls,” highlighting the fact that the Cubs had expensive ticket prices and traded for accused wife-beater Aroldis Chapman. I continually heard the tired arguments that “the Cubs bought their success” or that “the Cubs were an elitist team.” While I aptly pointed out that not one Cubs’ infielder was signed out of free agency and the team overall had made two marquee signings (Lester and Heyward), the points that my fellow baseball fans brought up revealed a deeper undertone which conveys the question: How can baseball handle the Chicago Cubs as winners?
Delegitimizing the success of any team, from the Chicago Blackhawks to Real Madrid to the New England Patriots, is natural for any fan of an opposing team to cope with the frustration of their own team’s losing. Back when the Cardinals were perpetually successful in the postseason, many Cubs fans, including myself, would label the Cardinals as cheaters, crooks, jerks, etc., and their fans as a multitude of stereotyping and condescending labels.
For the last one hundred eight years, the Cubs have been the “Lovable Losers,” known for only their perpetual futility. Now officially the best team in baseball, the Cubs (and their respective fans) have received flak for any and all success the team has achieved. During the NLCS, Los Angeles Times sports columnist and Around the Horn contributor Bill Plaschke wrote an article complaining about the Cubs’ embracing the narrative of a ball club with a long-suffering fan base in disguise of a free-spending, elitist, celebrity-catering team which values winning of any form of morality (LA Times Cubs story). Ironically, what haters of the Chicago Cubs must realize is that all baseball teams, with the exception of a few small-market teams) “buys” success. The Dodgers, Giants, and Indians have all signed expensive players just as the Cubs have. Every team has celebrity fans, from Steve Perry in San Francisco to Arsenio Hall in Cleveland. Every team has its rich fans, its poor fans, and its middle-class fans. Every team has players with less-than-stellar characters. What separate the Cubs from the pack are the tangible aspects of the ball club, in the players’ athletic skill and the front office’s negotiating and scouting abilities, and the intangible aspects, such as the unwavering and loyal fans who watch their team in the greatest ballpark in the world.