In the summer of 1984 I was 15 years old. Summer of ’84 saw Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid and the Chicago Cubs have their best season in almost 40 years. It was glorious! We had Ryno, Zonk, the Sarge, the Bull, and Rick Sutcliffe went 16-1. The ’84 squad is my favorite inclination of the Chicago National League ball club and will possibly never be topped. In the end…they lost…and I truly cried.
In 1989 I was in college and the Cubs surprised to win the National League East. I didn’t expect the Cubs to beat the Giants in the NLCS, therefore I took the loss healthier than in’ 84. (no tears)
In the 1990’s, Greg Maddux was my favorite player. $500,000 and a horrid front office decision kept him from being a Cub for life. The Cubs let one of the best pitchers in the history of the game walk away in his prime. This one stung for quite a few years.
In 2003 I was 35 years old with a family. The loss to the Marlins caused me a sleepless night…bordering on a nervous breakdown. If you have read my book you also know that this was a catalyst for a more mature life change…and lead me to writing that book.
In the 2000’s, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were to be the next Koufax and Drysdale, or at least Glavine and Maddux…that didn’t work out quite as expected.
Are you depressed yet?
If I sent some of you scurrying to get a prescription for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I apologize…that was not my intention. To the contrary, recalling these tragic events will begin to serve my point.
What are your earliest memories of being a Cubs’ fan? I remember getting teased from Sox fans in my neighborhood…or kids who really didn’t declare a team. If they did root for a non-Chicago team it was the Yankees, or Dodgers…or another perpetual winner. The kids would torment me about the loser Cubbies, and I didn’t really know how to fight back. The Cubs have been losers more times than not…what was I supposed to say? Almost 40 years later I realize that hidden within my Cubs’ love were qualities that would lead to accomplishments in life. Reflecting back, I have had more success than many of those neighborhood kids. Is the reason the fact that I am a Cubs’ fan? No…but it plays a part.
I don’t give up. In fact, this is the coping strategy I use to deal with stress in my life. We all have days where “life kicks our a$$”. As I am lying in bed at night after one of those days, I say to myself; “You got you’re a$$ kicked today…but tomorrow, you are going to scrape yourself up…and go in and fight again” Many times, I will get my a$$ kicked a second straight day.
Now before you view this as self-serving back-patting, allow me to elaborate in relation to being a Cubs’ fan. I consider myself to be a Rockyologist. I have seen every Rocky film multiple times. (eh, Rocky V only 3-4 times) I am an absolute sucker for them, never mind the fact that all 6 are essentially the same story re-hashed. Out of all 6 Rocky films I have one favorite scene that will never change. You might presume it to be a fight scene or one of the many training montages. Nope…simple dialogue from a scene from Rocky II:
Apollo Creed is meeting with his advisors regarding strategies to lure Rocky to fight him again, after narrowly winning by decision in their first bout. Apollo insists on drawing Rocky out of his “retirement”, Apollo’s trainer and closest confidante Tony Duke suggests they go after “new meat”.
APOLLO: “What are you afraid of Tony?”
APOLLO: “Yeah, honest.”
Duke looks back at the other advisers and approaches Apollo at his desk and speaks quietly…
DUKE: “He’s all wrong for us baby…I saw you beat that man like I never saw no man beat before…and the man kept COMING AFTER YOU! We don’t need that kind of man in our lives.”
Cubs’ fans…that’s us! How often have we had our hearts ripped out of our chests? We have had our hopes and dreams obliterated and snatched away when they were close enough to feel and touch. We have ridden emotional roller coasters that constantly crash into a fury of despair.
…but we don’t stop. We keep coming back…keep coming after it. Others may scoff at this as naivety or stupidity…and our own insecurities have let that define us. Resilient, irrepressible, tough…these are words we never hear used to describe Cubs’ fans…but we are.
I bet some of you could tell a story of a relative who has passed…a Cubs’ fan “up to their dying days.” I heard these stories all the time when I was at the Cubs Convention this year. People who spend their whole lives dreaming, hoping…not giving up. Cubs’ fans should wear this as a badge of honor; instead we get labeled as Lemmings with paper bags over our heads that plunge into season after season. Change the narrative!
“Yes, I am a Cubs fan…I will never give up!”
Next time a fan of a team that resides approximately 7.1 miles south of Wrigley derides you for rooting for “losers”….simply say:
“Yeah, I am not going to quit now. Quitting is the easy thing to do…that’s why some teams can’t get fans to show up to their games”
I know other fans have suffered greatly (I see you Cleveland!), but no team has endured the history of the Cubs. Embrace it! Market it! Instead of using “Committed” and showing a guy with a Cubs tattoo on his head…present an older fan who has been through it all…and he or she will never give up.
There are great fans in all of sports, and I find it silly when the title of “best fans” is attempted to be quantified. Cubs’ fans are not better fans than any other fans…yet our history differs from any other team. There is no team that has missed as often as the Cubs…but generation after generation keeps coming back.
Some of you may find this corny, cheesy or whatever other food related reference to infer a naïve world view. That’s fine… call it whatever you want…but I observe people quit in life often, in many avenues of their lives.
Cubs’ fans don’t…and instead of embracing the lovable losers’ moniker…we need to embrace a new image. “Wait ‘til next year” is a punch line used on the Cubs’ quite frequently. Here are a few alternatives I would prefer:
We’ll be back.
Knock us down, we’ll get back up.
100 Years of Resiliency!
You think 95 losses will get us down…Hah!
Okay…so that last one is kind of a joke.
I will finish my Cubs’ Psychology lesson with one final thought. Remember that neighborhood kid I mentioned that would root for the Yankees, or any other winner? Well, even an arm-chair psychiatrist like me can figure out why some kids do that…they are afraid…most likely of losing. Say what you want of Cubs’ fans…but we are definitely not afraid of losing!
Neither is Rocky…and that’s what makes him dangerous. Cue the theme music!
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