“The Tragic Tale: The Last Days Of A Fan”
Originally Printed In the Fairfield Bay NEWS on August 13, 2003
Rooting for one’s favorite teams and/or individual players ranks right up there with Mother and Apple Pie. A true fan first turns to the sports page leaving all the other news for later. We sit glued to the tube for hours watching our heroes do battle with balls, sticks, helmets, and racquets. We buy and wear their hat and jersey; we decorate our cars and homes with their decals and posters. We memorize our idols’ statistics as if they were more important than John 3:16.
The passion for idolizing players and teams starts very early in life. Kids love to copy their hero’s style of play and their wardrobe. For example, when Bjorn Borg burst on to the tennis scene in the late 70s with his two-handed backhand and beatnik headband, it wasn’t long after that, that every kid holding a tennis racquet looked and played like this Swedish phenom. Similarly, the novel, baggy basketball trunks of Michigan’s very successful 1992-93 “Fab Five” basketball team soon became the standard style wherever basketball was played.
I grew up on the North Side of Chicago in the 1930s where one was either a Cub fan (North Side) or a White Sox fan (South Side). I knew every player on the Cubs as if he were my favorite uncle. Most of these players had been with the Cubs for years, coming to the team thru the Cub farm system. Occasionally there would be some new guy coming in on a trade, but not anything like today’s ever-changing lineups.
As a kid, my prayer life had one focus; that the Cubs would win the National League Championship. Finally, after several years, God answered my relentless requests as He allowed the Cubs to win the N.L. pennant in 1945. God, unfortunately for me, also allowed the Cubs to lose the World Series to the Detroit Tigers, four games to three. I don’t know if it is a coincidence, but shortly after this crushing defeat, I avoided God for the next thirty years.
However, I did not lose my passion and devotion to the Cubs, ‘tho I wished I had. In retrospect, I should have stuck with God and dumped the Cubs. Oh, the needless pain I bore and continue to bear these 58 years since 1945, this being the last time the Cubs won anything! Altho I moved away from Chicago several times since 1945, my heart never left the Cubs. My emotional well-being continued to go up and down (mostly down) like a window shade depending on whether the Cubs won or lost – which they did most of the time. I have tried Valium, Prozac, and even Thorazine but nothing seems to dull the pain one gets from being a Cub fan.
I watched Cub star, Ernie Banks, even tho all his home runs come and go without a pennant. In the summer of 1969, the great Cub third baseman, Ron Santo, clicked his heels for nothing as the NY “Miracle” Mets came from sixteen games behind in August to steal the pennant from the Cubs. The Cubs came close in 1983 only to lose the five game league championship series to the San Diego Padres after leading two games to none and playing the next two at home! What pain! What heartache! Why do they torture us so?!
If you think that I am a whiner, consider this for enduring chronic, unrelenting pain: It is almost one hundred years since the Cubs last won a World Series! You Arkies, with your disappointing Razorbacks, should count your blessings that you grew up in these hills around here without electricity and indoor plumbing rather than in the affluent, fashionable North Side of Chicago like I did. You don’t know what pain really is unless you’ve been a Cub fan for 71 years. Soon (mercifully), it will be over.
Footnote: “The 108 years of suffering is over! On November 2, 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series in the most thrilling game seven in World Series history, 8 to 7 in ten innings over the Cleveland Indians after trailing in the series one game to three! All the agonizing and heartache for over a century is now recompensed in the most glorious fashion: The “Loveable Losers are now the World Champions! I can die in peace now.”