Reflections of a Cubs fan

There are folks out there who think that the situation is dire for the Chicago Cubs. They are down three games to one in the World Series. That means that tonight’s game is a “must win.” If they lost the game, they lose the World Series. If they win the same situation is true on Tuesday night. The games will return to Cleveland where the Cubs have to win to stay alive in the series. In fact they have to win three games in a row in order to win the series. It is an unlikely scenario, given their record in the series so far. They have been out pitched and out played by Cleveland so far in this series. With the exception of game two, in Cleveland, the Cubs haven’t looked very good at all. It was different before last night’s game. The Friday night game was only 1-0. It seemed like the Cubs might win with every inning of play. And they started out great with a 1-0 lead in the first inning last night. Then things didn’t go so well for the Cubs.

Still, there are some important lessons from the series so far. To begin with, for Cubs fans, it is a dream season and we are in a dream scenario. The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series in my lifetime. To have the best regular season record in all of Major League Baseball and to have won the National League Championship Series is something we have never before seen. And it has felt pretty good to be a fan of the team from Wrigley Field.

And there is something particularly sweet about the opponents the Cubs face in this series. Being the team in baseball that has gone the longest amount of time without making it to the World Series, we Cubs fans know that Cleveland is the team that has gone the second longest time. These are two teams whose die-hard fans know a thing or two about losing. We’ve done that before. It is very important to note that Cubs fans don’ dislike Cleveland Indians fans. We don’t think they are terrible people. We understand their loyalty to their club. We admire their faithfulness and dedication.

Anybody can cheer for a winner.

It takes something special to love a team that, year after year, comes up short.

I’ve read the sports commentators who argue that baseball is no longer America’s sport. They claim that football has surpassed baseball in stadium size and fan base and advertising dollars and all kinds of other factors. But football teams don’t play the number of games that baseball teams do. 161 games in the regular season is an impressive number. Even in a best season in all of baseball scenario like this year, Cubs fans saw our team lose 58 games. Cleveland lost 67 games in the regular season.

What makes baseball America’s sport, however, isn’t just the number of games played or the fact that fans need to be loyal in times of losing as well as times of winning. It is something deeper.

In a season of incredibly divisive politics in which we see the nation carved up into red states and blue states and polls swing wildly and angry words are uttered by candidates and their followers alike, where hatred is expressed in campaign advertisements and on the debate stage and in the angry rhetoric of crowds assembled in stadiums to rally for their candidate, we need a national sport where it is acceptable to love the losers as well as the winners.

Make no mistake about it, however, Cubs fans aren’t ready to admit defeat. We will remain loyal until the last inning of the last game. We can imagine a scenario in which our team wins even though we are down 3-1 in the best of four series.

But we don’t be angry if Cleveland wins. We won’t accuse someone of cheating. We understand that questionable calls fall in our favor and against our team. We know that the rules are there for the benefit of both sides. We believe that the game is fair. The Cubs may have had a little dry spell. We haven’t won the World Series since 1908. But we believe in the inherent fairness of the game. We don’t think the system is rigged against us.

In a divided nation with contentious politics we still believe in baseball. And we will believe in baseball whether we win or lose. And we will believe in the goodness of the fans of the other teams whether they win or lose.

After all, my son-in-law and I have enjoyed watching the games together and his team, the Washington Nationals have never made it to the World Series. And they had a pretty good season this year, falling to the Giants in post season play. Although other teams have had the name Washington Nationals, the current National League Team has only been organized since 2005 when the then Montreal Expos made the move to the city under new ownership and management. The team doesn’t have the history of the Cubs and old guys like me might jokingly refer to the shortness of their history as evidence that their fans haven’t endured enough losses to deserve a really big win, but we respect their fans.

If anything, we Cubs fans are a little bit disappointed in our fellow fans in this World Series. The home field advantage hasn’t been as great as we had hoped. The crowds have been moody and subdued as the Cubs have lost at home. Last night the crowd in Wrigley Field seemed to be fickle and fall silent at all of the wrong moments. Despite that kind of criticism, we know that Cubs fans are more likely to be philosophical and quiet than overly exuberant and rowdy. You don’t wear the bade of “long suffering” without a bit of stoicism.

Win or lose, we love our team. And in baseball, just like farming, there is always next year. After all Anthony Rizzo is only 27 years old. That’s 20 years younger than Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon. Even if the Cubs were to lose this year’s series, and I’m not saying they will, prospects for next year look really good.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!