I finally am saying it: I am a fan of the Chicago Cubs. I am a Cubs fan, I always have been a Cubs fan, and I always will be a Cubs fan.
I am not ashamed of my loyalty. I proudly wear their cap and T-shirt, I fly their flag, and when I can I watch their games. But I have not written about the Cubs this year because I did not want to jinx them while they were playing. My very first post mentioned the Cubs, and they lost on opening day. Since then, I have written nothing about the Cubs—nothing on this blog, nothing on social media, nothing even in letters to my family. The misfortune of the Chicago Bulls after I wrote a blog post about them made me more determined not to bring disaster on the Cubs of 2015. Now that we are back in the season of “wait until next year,” I can proclaim my pride in this year’s team and my high esteem for all the Cubs teams, both good and bad, that I have watched over the years.
Cubs fans speak more about the near-successes than about the losing seasons. I remember the Cubs of 1969: Ernie Banks, Glenn Beckert, Don Kessinger, Ron Santo, Randy Hundley, Billy Williams, and Fergie Jenkins. They were far ahead of their opposition that summer, but they wilted in the August heat and were overtaken by the dreaded New York Mets. I remember the playoffs of 1984 when the Cubs won the first two games against the San Diego Padres only to be beaten three straight times. In 1989 it was the turn of the San Francisco Giants. Then came the Atlanta Braves in 1998. In 2003, the Cubs were within five outs of winning the National League pennant, but once again it was not to be. The Florida Marlins prevailed in that series. Then came the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and 2008. This year it was the turn of the Mets.
Every time the Cubs lost their chance at the pennant to a rival from another National League division, they have lost to a different team. In 1998 they defeated the Giants in a one-game play-off, and in 2003 they got past the Atlanta Braves. This year they proved that they cannot be restrained by divisional rivals in the playoffs, as they won against the Pirates and the Cardinals. This leaves only three National League teams that can deny them a pennant: the Washington Nationals, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Colorado Rockies. When the Cubs make the playoffs and none of those three teams stand in their way, they are sure to win it all.
Most of the players we saw this year will probably achieve that goal. They have assembled a very talented team of young players; barring severe injuries to more than one of their rising stars, the Cubs are going to be even better in the next few years to come. The Mets prevailed with superb young pitching, and Cubs fans expect a new pitcher or two to join the team over the winter, either through a free-agent signing or through a trade.
The Cubs were one of the first professional baseball teams organized. Their best streak was in 1906-1908, in which they won three pennants and two championships. Notoriously, the Cubs have not won a championship since 1908, making them the only professional team in any sport that has existed for one hundred years without winning a championship at least once in those hundred years. The Cubs have not even been in the World Series since 1945, meaning that the majority of their fans have never seen the Cubs play in a World Series game.
Being a Cubs fan involves endurance, faith, hope, and great inner strength. When the Cubs are doing well, their fans are careful not to change anything, for fear of breaking the magic. During their playoff games this year I did not even replace burned-out light bulbs in my house. When the Cubs do poorly, especially those years when they have done well to raise expectations, a Cub fan will blame himself or herself for breaking the magic. By Friday October 16, all my blue socks were in the laundry and I had to wear different colored socks Saturday and Sunday. That may have turned the tide for the hitherto unstoppable Cubs.
A Cubs fan might blame himself or herself, but real Cubs fans do not blame other Cubs fans. The fan who tried to catch a foul ball in the playoff game against the Marlins did nothing wrong, and no real fan of the Cubs blames him. Most of the blame is media-generated, since the media loves a good story. I have been told more than once that “it’s bad luck to be superstitious,” and I try my best not to bring more bad luck upon the Cubs with my silly superstitions. Even so, I did my best to help by writing nothing about them all year.
Until now. Now, even though they lost to the Mets, they still had a wonderfully successful season. I am proud to be a Cubs fan, and I look forward to more successes on their part in the years to come. J.