I am aware, as is more or less anyone who reads this site, that Chicago baseball has been getting just fucking excellent coverage from CSTB’s Chicago and Chicagoan-at-large bureaus. This has done well at filling the vacuum of Mets-related coverage. Gerard handled some of the Mets end-of-days shit; my last word non-comment word on the subject was in my recap of CSTB Day at Shea, which was a lot of fun even if it did help me realize that the Mets reaching the playoffs wasn’t going to be much of a value-add for my life.
For the most part, CSTB’s favorite baseball team (besides the Round Rock Express) has been out of the discussion of late — although Wally Matthews’ hot-douche-stove is apparently heating up. That relative silence doesn’t mean I (and presumably other Mets fans) haven’t been grumping in private over another disappointing season, but at some point it just feels like everything that needs to be said has been. I’m used to the Mets losing, being disappointing, being ridiculous in ways faint and obvious and sometimes graceful or ironic but more often just ridiculous-ridiculous. (I’ll again self-link here and send you back to a game from last year’s collapse in which ’08 Round Rock Express hump Jorge Sosa was entrusted beyond all reason with an important game). It’s a fucking theme in my novel, that’s how used to it I am: when I write what I know, I write about relievers giving up bases-loaded doubles. But Cubs fans…
…Well, they’re used to the losing thing, too, but by this point we know that Cubs fans have a century’s worth of generally not-good memories to sort out, and thus are still working through last week’s nasty, brutish, short sweep at the hands of the Dodgers. We’re lucky, though, that there are Cubs fans writing on the internets who transcend the currency-trader frat-beast Wrigley demo and actually have 1) some perspective on cheering for their team and 2) the ability to communicate that in print. Ben Schwartz is a smart and talented dude, and does so here. And Jeff Johnson, of FittedSweats, is every bit as smart and talented and — despite being from Eau Claire, Wisconsin — apparently also a Cubs fan.
His recent, rambly discourse on that fate at his blog has cameos from John Milner (running interference for Dave Parker), Pavement horseracing expert/percussionist Rob Nastanovich (beating the author’s ass at ping-pong) and Dave Kingman (being a fucking dickhead). But as it makes its course through Johnson’s Cub-fan life, it also picks up a lot of other details — mainly how much more weird and human professional sports were even a couple of decades ago — before winding up at the sort of honest, ambiguous conclusion that I wish all blog-writing had. Here it is:
This year. An amazing regular season. Best in my lifetime. I saw zero games in person. What else is new? I live half a country away. I have two small kids. I watched the televised games when I could. My dad is in the hospital in Wisconsin now. He will be there for a while. My mom took the opportunity to come visit us here. We watched most of the Dodgers series together. I saw the Cubs score maybe one of the few runs they put on the board. They fell apart completely. Across three games. It felt inevitable. This is not meant to be a cliche. I am not a guy who likes Joe Torre or Manny Ramirez. I don’t want Russell Martin to enjoy success. I despise that bearded fucker. There was literally nothing I could do as a fan, though. I couldn’t pout. I couldn’t sit in disbelief. (If you’re a Cubs fan, how can you even feign surprise at this point). I couldn’t put on a rally hat.
So a new perspective finally, slowly washed over me. It is this: If you are a Cubs fan of any age, relish the fact that they may never win a World Series, much less get to one, before you die. And let’s face it, “may” is really a stretch.
This is unique in its own ugly, pathetic way.
There are plenty of teams that have never won it all. Or even made it to a World Series. They have relatively shorter histories. The Cubs have been screwing things up in a different way each season, for 100 years.
Relish the fact that you are not a Red Sox fan, who now feel, every season, a bit more like Dallas Cowboys fans, in their certainty that God is on their side and that everyone in the country remains psyched about their uplifting little story, and their little antique stadium. And, wow, they can incorporate shamrocks into their gear, and drink Sammy Smith and Sammy Adams, and sing “Sweet Caroline.”
Life was great when all I knew about the Red Sox was Fred Lynn, Luis Tiant, Jim Rice and Carlton Fisk and the Green Monster. And I didn’t know that their fans were these Ben Affleck-meets-Staind-meets-Jimmy Fallon drunken douchecakes. There is nothing special about the Red Sox, and there was nothing special about them when they won it all. Johnny Damon aching to whip off that helmet every time he ran the bases just to show off that special glossy hairdo. The other guys’ soiled helmets. We get it. You’re knuckleheads. Millar, let me cut your hair, please. And Schilling, lord, please be quiet. Enough!! It’s fitting that David Wells spent some time up in Boston. It is also fitting that Rudy Giuliani ended up wishing the Red Sox well, too. Like 9/11, New Yorkers should never forget that.
I need to shut up now. The Cubs claim George Will as a fan. Billy fucking Corgan. That alone negates any dis in the previous paragraph. Sorry, Mr. Damon. I wish Hank Steinbrenner would let you grow your hair, so you could do all of that magical stuff again (P.S. if you could send me a picture of your ex-wife Angie Vannice–this is the 90th time I’ve complained about this–please do so. You have no idea how many people wind up on this site looking for an Angie Vannice picture). Finally, if you want to figure out why the Cubs never win, forget the goddamn goat, it’s because Jim Belushi is a Cubs fan.
I need to erase that stuff from my mind. And make my point:
Give me a team that can NEVER prevail. That will NEVER do it. That no matter how well things go for them, they will not go well at all in October. And maybe September. And August. And really, any time after May, most years. There is a certainty in this that right now, at least, is a lot more comforting than “surprise.” Sure, on the years the Cubs get close, and do very well in the regular season, it is hard not to get sucked back in to believing. Don’t do it though, Charlie Brown.
Keep losing Cubs. This fan doesn’t hate you for it.
We’re not experts, generally, we blog-persons. I’ll even give the guys over at the frat-core sports n’ titz blogs enough credit to suggest that they’re not the solipsistic dickweeds they seem to be. The internet lets us act like other things — smirking ironist is the move of choice, but gonzo misogynist or political insider or no-BS tough guy are popular, too — but when internet writing works it’s because we, the people who are writing the stuff, are being honest and really writing. The mutability and anonymity and distance of the internet gives us all kinds of enticements not to be honest — to forget that there are readers reading or even a real author, with some literary obligations, writing. But the same principle holds for this as for any other writing that works: the more honest, the better. The truer, the truer. Jeff’s piece is a good reminder of how many and how different and how many interesting different ways there are to care about a team, and to write about that.