I briefly spoke to a friend of mine today. One of the first things she asked was, “Did you watch the game yesterday?” I replied that I had. Without bothering to inquire as to my rooting interest, she flatly stated, “Well f**k the Cubs and their fans.” We then moved on to other topics of conversation.
Let me lay out my rooting interests when it comes to baseball. My first love remains my hometown Detroit Tigers. Hey, you can take the boy out of Detroit, but you can’t take the crack pipe out of his glove box. Or something like that. When it comes to Chicago baseball, my first team is the White Sox, despite the fact that I live much closer to Wrigley Field than I do to US Cellular Field (née Comiskey Park). Describing my regard for the Cubs is a bit more complex.
Let me start with the team itself. Since the departure of Sammy Sosa, for whom I could never root, I have nothing at all against the players themselves. I wish all of them the best in their personal and professional endeavors. They also have my genuine sympathy for their shockingly abrupt exit from the playoffs this year.
I see their fans as residing in two distinct groups, for whom I have two divergent sentiments. For the group comprised of sincere, knowledgeable fans of the game, who live and die with the rising and falling fortunes of the team on the field, I offer my sincere condolences. As a fan of the Tigers, I am no stranger to witnessing failure. At the same time, I have seen the Tigers win 3 pennants and 2 World Series during my time as a fan, so perhaps the comparison isn’t entirely fair, but I will nevertheless claim some psychic kinship with this type of Cubs fan.
But then there’s that other group of Cubs fans. They include the ones who have to leave Wrigley Field early to get a good seat at the Cubby Bear. The ones who still jump to their feet and scream, “All right Sammy!” whenever someone hits a fly ball. The ones for whom the game is merely an accessory to their social ensemble. The ones who are okay with the Cubs being knocked out of the playoffs “…as long as the White Sox get knocked out too” (yes, I heard that one last week). The ones who strut down the middle of Clark Street after the game and flip off any motorist who expects them to get out of the way. Such people make it very difficult to wish the team well. For all the members of that group of Cubs fans, I really can’t improve upon the succinct terminology employed by my friend, quoted earlier in this post.
And let’s not let the Cubs management off the hook either, while we’re at it. These are the people who a few years ago began scalping their own tickets. Haven’t heard about it? Yeah, a lot of the games are announced as sellouts, with choice tickets never going on sale to the public. Instead, they are sent directly to their scalping company, where they are sold at substantially inflated prices. Management initially tried to deny any connection, claiming that this ticket service was an independent company. After local reporters uncovered the truth, management basically shrugged and went about their business without apology. Look, I have no illusions about these Major League teams; they are in the business of making money. But somehow, the Cubs management manages to set the standard for arrogance, and they are well rewarded for their efforts.
So as to the question of whether or not I root for the Cubs, I guess the answer would be that it depends who I’m with. I would dearly love to have seen an all-Chicago World Series this year. It would have been a spectacle like nothing seen in this town since the Century of Progress World’s Fair back in 1933. Yes, we might have destroyed our city and ourselves in a mad frenzy – but what a way to go! Ah well. There’s. Always. Next. Year.