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January 2012

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Raising Cubs Fans

Written by , Posted in General

Prior to New York’s 2009 World Series victory, sportswriter Bill Simmons liked to joke about the tragedy of eight-year-old Yankee fans never having seen a championship.  His point was that Yankee fans are spoiled, and he’s right–they are.

But Yankee fan parents are equally spoiled when it comes to raising their children to also cheer for the pinstriped multi-millionaires.  It’s easy to root for a consistent winner–to learn to love a team that makes frequent trips to the postseason, and is a perennial contender each spring.

It’s much harder to raise Cubs fans.  I know, because despite growing up thousands of miles away from the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, my parents successfully raised me and my brothers to root (root, root) for the Cubbies.

That’s not to say I didn’t have my youthful dalliances with other teams–I did.  While I was still childish enough to choose teams based on their uniform colors, I leaped aboard the A’s bandwagon.  I think I still have a Bash Brothers poster somewhere in the garage.  And later in junior high, I briefly toyed with rooting for the newly expanded Rockies.  I think my idea was that it would be fun to follow a team from its inception, or something along those lines.  Whatever my adolescent notion was, it didn’t stick.

That’s because in my heart, I was always a Cubs fan.  It was an inescapable part of my DNA, inherited from my parents, and cemented through their diligence.  And because of the high number of recent births and pregnancy announcements around here (congratulations, by the way) I wanted to pass along some of the ways my parents raised me and my brothers to love the Cubs.

And yes, parenting advice from someone with no children might be suspect.  But I do have a niece and two nephews, and you can be sure I’m following these principles to help my brothers and their wives raise their kids to love the Cubs, too.

  • First of all, you both have to love (or at least cheer for) the Cubs.  If you and your spouse can’t agree on which team to root for, what hope do you have of passing it on to your kids?  I don’t have the exact stats in front of me to back it up, but kids whose parents root for opposing sports teams are something like 800% more likely to bring guns to school, try meth as a pre-teen, join a gang, and/or wind up working as a drug mule.  It’s science.
  • I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but watch the Cubs games with your kids.  With the prevalence of second TV’s, iPads, and smartphones, watching baseball games has never been more individualized.  And chances are, if you’re watching the game on the main TV, the rest of the family–and especially the kids–are absorbed in their own entertainments.  There were a lot fewer options when I was young.  We had one TV, and while we did have cable, it was mainly so we could watch the Cubs games on WGN.  In fact, because of the prevalence of day baseball, we’d tape the games and re-watch them again when my dad got home from work if the Cubs won or if anything notable happened.  Long before I understood baseball, I knew the Cubs games were important and fun, especially when they won.
  • Watching the games with your kids is more than merely sitting in the same room with them, blankly staring at the same screen–you have to engage their microscopic attention spans.  Talk to them about the game, discuss the action, tell stories about past Cubs teams and players.  If you’re constantly lost in the middle distance of your screen while Starlin Castro works the count against a scuffling pitcher, you’re more likely to turn your kids off to sports than pass on your love for your team.  Kids–even very little kids–can pay attention to and enjoy baseball if you give hem a little help.  And yes, you might have to explain the rules two or three or twenty times–as I’m sure my dad had to with us–but who cares?  It’s not like the game is more important than talking to your kids.
  • Load up on the Cubs gear for your kids.  My nephew could recognize the Cubs’ logos before he could say his own name.  That’s because he’s seen it since the day he was born on his toys and clothes.  It doesn’t have too be over the top or tacky, but the sooner your kids are familiar with the Cubs logo, the sooner they can recognize the team they should be cheering for.  Bonus points if you can train them to boo all the other logos.
  • Going to Cubs games is a big part of passing on your fandom to your kids, but don’t be one of those fans.  You know the ones I’m talking about–the face and/or chest painters, the costume wearers, the obnoxious, loud drunks, the amateur pugilists, or whatever you’d call this guy.  Chances are you can get your kids to follow you only so far down the road of ugly fanaticism.  At some point, they’ll have the sad realization that their mom or dad is an idiot, and is actively ruining the game for the others in attendance.  You know that guy who dresses up as the Ivy Man?  I’ll give him all kinds of credit for creating such an elaborate costume, but do you think his kids love coming to the games with him?  Same goes for Ronnie Woo-Woo–he might be a semi-beloved Wrigley Field personality, but you never see any little Woo-Woo’s following him around the park.  Here’s a general rule–if your in-game behavior is the kind of thing that would not be out of place at a Raiders game, it’s time to dial it down a few notches before you chase your children away from the Cubs altogether.  And it’s not like you really want your kids to pick up your bad-fan habits.  We know how that ends.
  • It might be another no-brainer, but if at all possible, take your kids to Wrigley Field.  Growing up on the west coast, we didn’t have many opportunities to visit the Friendly Confines.  But the few times we did are cemented in my memory forever.  I have vivid memories of a day we spent out in the left field bleachers, facing off against the Phillies.  My brothers and I were decked out in makeshift Cubs uniforms, baking in the sun and having the time of our young lives.  The game went thirteen innings, and lasted long enough for the sky to turn green and start pouring down rain.  Of course the Cubs lost and we were soaked to the skin by the time we made it back our car, but we had a great time, and even the late-inning loss couldn’t ruin the day.  You don’t have days like that just anywhere.

Look, maybe none of this matters.  It’s entirely possible that I think (and worry) far too much about passing on my love for the Cubs to my nephews and niece, and eventually to my own kids.  That it really wouldn’t be the end of the world if they wind up cheering for the Dodgers or the Cardinals.  Nope, never mind, it would be.

  • I passed my Cubs (and baseball in general) fan-dom up a generation to my dad. Sorry dad.

  • chuck

    My kids had no chance. They have been infected with the soul-crushing curse of Cub fandom since birth. My middle son had a Cubs birthday cake for his birthday a couple of weeks ago. It also does not help that we live in the hometown of the I-Cubs.

  • gymjok

    Lizzie,Katie,Kris- any of you 3 ladies care to confess what you were doing IN wrigley feild on friday morning around 12:15 am? I’m waiting.

  • Lizzie

    Well I can’t speak for my pals Kris and Katie but as you’ve probably already guessed I was looking for Geo. I told that cop I wouldn’t leave until he got there. I’m sure he was on his way.

  • BLPCB

    If I ever get married, it would probably be to a Cleveland girl I meet in grad school at OSU. That way I can turn her into a Cubs and Packers fan. What are the rules for a kid with that fandom, since we have mutual interests, through the hatred of the White Sox? Raise him to hate the White Sox? Pull for the Cubs and the Tribe?

  • Doc Raker

    Play the game of baseball with your kids. Play catch, throw them BP, do bullpens with them, coach their Little League team, take them to spring training. When my son was 5 I took him to spring training for the first time, actually had dinner with the Cap’n at Ruth Chris is Scottsdale. My son had a petit filet just like a ball player, the Cap and I shared a big chewy Cab. We watched a game in the outfield pavilion grass and played catch while the game was going on. We played wiffle ball at the hotel until it got dark. We played catch in the hotel room until it was time to go to bed. We went and talked to some minor leaguers at Fitch Park. We have been Cubs fans together ever since. Love your kids, love the game and love the Cubs, they won’t stand a chance.

  • BLPCB

    Sounds like a great way to teach my kid to be a Cubs and Packers fan. Homer Simpson said you can teach kids to hate the things you hate, but he never explained how to do that

  • gymjok

    Lizzie- So you were there to try and catch a man.
    Gee o I suppose you thought that was you’re best chance.
    Were you looking for a BB.
    Maybe you wanted a HR.
    Don’t tell me you’re into that kinky more advanced stuff OBP.
    You math whizzes are all alike.

  • Kris

    I was running the bases when Lizzie decided to search for Geo. Given that I’m pregnant with a future Cubs fan, I barely rounded second before needing to rest. While I was taking a nap in the home dugout, I remembered that I’m eating for two…so I wandered off to see if there were still some kosher dogs I could cook up or perhaps a chocolate malt cup waiting for me in a freezer. Thanks to pregnancy-brain, I suddenly realized I had lost Katie somewhere between my nap in the dugout and heading off for a snack…

    Good column, Jeremiah! I may need to file this one away. I don’t ever remember not being a Cubs fan. My dad grew up in Edgebrook and would tell us about going to Cubs games, how he almost caught an Ernie Banks foul ball (until he realized how fast that thing was coming at him), etc. It helped that MJ and I were just old enough to remember the ’84 team, going to our first game (during which there was a huge fight!), etc. Our mom even made us Cubs Halloween costumes–I was Jody Davis and MJ was Ryno.

    Mr. Kris is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite having parents who grew up out of state and not really having any team loyalties. (Although since they’re from Missouri, I’m really fortunate he isn’t a Cardinals fan.) He just loved baseball and ended up rooting for his home team.

  • Buddy

    Being a Cubs fans is often painful, but I wouldn’t trade it.

  • Lizzie

    No math on my dates, especially of the baseball variety. Geo and I were planning a nice fine dining experience in the bleachers (til Kris ate our franks and malts … thankfully she’s pregnant and off the drink so we would have still been able to have a beer). Then we were going to cuddle. Isn’t that what every guy wants? A nice snuggle? Damn cops put an end to all our delightful plans.

  • Katie

    I heard that Theo burns the midnight oil. I found his office, and sure enough, he was in there, typing away on his computer. We had a good discussion about the upcoming season and I told him that Raker and I need to be his bench coaches. He’s considering it. The meeting was cut short, though, because I had to get back for my 8 AM class.

  • Wrong thread, but I just read that we signed Bobby Scales. My man!

  • BLPCB

    The same Bobby Scales who works as a substitute teacher when he’s not playing baseball?

  • gymjok

    Lizzie- Every guy just wants a nice snuggle?- what are you trying to do- support that VICIOUS rumor going around that guys hate meaningless sucking!
    Kris- So the cops got it wrong. There was 4 of you there. When people told you about that old saying about records being good for unborn babies- they meant MUSIC records(before there were CDs).
    Katie- speekin of olde saings- the one abot staing in scool is knot tru! lok at me- I didnt sta in scool and I turnd out just fin!

  • Buddy

    Maybe the Cubs will bring back Ced Landrum and Manny Alexander as well.

  • Larry Sproul

    I can still see the look on my sons face . We walked north on N. Clark St . We stopped at Addison and there it was . Opening day 2010 and the streets were alive with fans and vendors . It was warm for April in the mid 50’s with sun at times .
    The Cubs went on to beat the Brew Crew . We met some friends at Bernies and celebrate . This day still goes down at being the # 1 father-son outing yet .
    Later having dinner at Sheffield’s we both remarked ” What a great day .” GO CUBS !!!

  • Good parenting advice. It worked for me.

  • Dork64

    I can’t bring myself to actively raise my children as Cubs fans. Life is difficult enough!

  • BLPCB

    Why? Are you a White Sox fan?

  • Nothing wrong with being a Cubs fan. Every year, there are 29 losers and 1 champion. Why root for anyone else? Takes a real man to root for a team like the Cubs.

  • Ken Carlson

    My son’s middle name is Ryne. He had no choice.