“Now of course I’d love it if the Cubs win, but hey, if they don’t at least maybe Sammy will hit a home run. And if that doesn’t happen, at least it’s a sunny day…”
“What!?! FUCK YOU!!” I screamed as I turned the radio dial so that I wouldn’t have to hear any more of this moron’s pontificating on being a Cub fan. That idiot just said the definition of thinking like a loser. Then again, as Cubs fans, that's all some of us know how to do.
You see, things are heating up here on the North Side of Chicago about how things will be going with the Cubs this season. After the heartbreaking loss in last year’s NLCS, everyone’s thoughts quickly turned to February and the start of spring training, hoping that the Cubs and their owners the Tribune Corporation would make the right off-season moves to finally put the team over the hump and into their first World Series since 1945.
And they actually did it! Trading our long-gestating (and somewhat disappointing) young 1B Hee Seop Choi for Marlins hitter Derrek Lee, shoring up our shaky bullpen with LaTroy Hawkins and Kent Mercker, and finally bringing future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux back to Chicago to give us a fifth high-quality starter (Bye bye, Shawn Estes! Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!). Cubs GM (and player-trading wizard) Jim Hendry has even stated that the notoriously tightfisted Tribune will allow him to make any deal necessary during the season in order to ensure a playoff berth. Expectations are running high amongst the fans and the baseball pundits, with even the inimitable Peter Gammons stating that the Cubs now have the pitching depth and power to win the World Series. Tickets are being sold at a record pace and people are already making plans for October.
And I’m friggin’ scared.
Every March the Cubs and their fans are seemingly infused with a sense of innocent optimism. “This could be our year!” most of us think and say, but we know it’s not true. Denial ain’t just a river. We know that this year will probably be just like the last 90 years, and it will only end in defeat. We long for the seemingly unattainable .500 mark. We hope that the Pirates or some other poor team will go completely to shit, just to keep us out of last place. When you go in with a mindset like this, it’s not as easy to get hurt. If the team does good, then it’s a wonderful surprise. If they do poorly, well, it’s what you were expecting in the first place.
Now we suddenly have idiots saying things like “Anything less than a World Series for this team would be a failure.” Where have these people been for the last century? Were they watching the same team as I was? Let’s face it, the Cubs got extremely lucky last season, they barely won the NL Central by the skin of their teeth, and if you actually pay attention to Pythagorean winning percentage, the Astros and Cardinals should have killed them.
Yes yes, I know the Cubs should do great. I know we look excellent on paper. Even though I hope that eight months from now I can look back at this and scoff at what a worrywart I was, I can’t help but conjure up nightmare scenarios in my head. What if Wood loses his slider again? What if all the innings Prior has racked up finally catch up with him? What if Sammy loses his modicum of plate discipline and kills his hitting? What if Zambrano stops talking to his glove?
I walked through the streets of Wrigleyville after the loss in Game 6 last year, and it was the most surreal thing I have ever seen in my life. Literally thousands of people shuffling down the middle of Clark Street in stunned silence. Everyone looked totally shell-shocked with some people even weeping openly in the street. I won’t…I can’t see that again.
The Cubs have sucked my entire life. They have not had back-to-back winning seasons since 1971-72. They have made the playoffs four times in my lifetime. I have suffered through countless losses, coaching changes, player changes, the slings and arrows of surly White Sox fans, inane curses, and a poor bastard named Steve Bartman. All of this has made me build a box around my heart. I love the Cubs and I am really excited about our chances, but pardon me if I don’t join in the rah-rah parade this early.
Let’s wait and see.