Reflections on the end of another Chicago baseball season

Image adapted from

I’m a Cub fan.

Being a Cub fan has its privileges. Among them are suffering, humiliation, and heartbreak.

This year, the pain was almost exquisite. The Cubs finished the regular season with 97 wins, only to be swept 3-0 by the Dodgers in the first playoff round.

“Lovable losers?” asked the article on “No, just losers.”

This debacle transcends the usual heartbreak. This time, there is numbness, followed by an almost serene acceptance that the Cubs will never again make it to the World Series.

I created the above image before the third game was even played. It is still my desktop wallpaper, to remind me daily of how pathetically the Cubs folded.

Why then, you might ask, do I remain a Cub fan? Why do any of us? Are we simply masochists? Do we hate winning?

The answer is complicated. In fact, I’m not sure I can even give you a coherent explanation.

You may have heard the story about the long-suffering Cub fan who tried to auction off his Cubs loyalty on eBay. I understand. I don’t blame him.

I can give you one reason that I’m still a Cub fan. Being raised Catholic, I was taught that suffering is a virtue.

Eventually we will have something to cheer about. And the longer it takes, the more satisfying it will be. Someday the Cubs will win the Series, and I will throw all the insults and ridicule back in the faces of my tormentors, assuming they are not able to outrun my wheelchair.

For now, however, I will take consolation where I find it. And there are in fact a few things to cheer me in this sad time, a hint of a silver lining in this gray and blue cloud.

First: Sam Zell got screwed.

The current owner of the Chicago Tribune, and therefore the Cubs, is a world-class prick. He was supposed to sell the team before the season started, and instead chose to delay the sale in order to cash in on a World Series because this was the year. Instead, the combination of the Cubs’ disastrous postseason and the current financial meltdown means that Zell’s profit on the team will be far less obscene than he had hoped.

So we can all take some small consolation from this. Anything that hurts Sam Zell can’t be all bad.

And second:

The White Sox are still teh suck.

They stunk it up almost as badly in the postseason as we did, winning exactly one game to our zero. And yet, to hear the Sox fans tell it, they were infinitely more successful.

“We’re both going to wash out of the playoffs,” one of my obnoxious Sox fan co-workers told me at the end of September. “But it’s going to be so much worse for you guys because everyone expected you to go all the way. Nobody expected the Sox to do anything.”

No one ever expects the Sox to do anything. Because they suck.

The 2005 season was a fluke, like a vending machine that accidentally dispenses two Clark bars — unexpected, undeserved, and unlikely to happen twice.

Baseball in Chicago is not simply a matter of preferring one team over another. It’s a culture war, the sort that Republican politicians incite when they are down in the polls. Rather than seeking to improve their lot, or looking up to the smart, successful, and attractive among us, losers console themselves by taking aggressive pride in their inferiority, deriding anyone better than them as “elitist.” If Sarah Palin were a Chicagoan, she’d be a White Sox fan. And no, that’s not a compliment.

White Sox fans are the embittered younger brother, forever angry at living in the shadow of their more popular, better-groomed sibling. They wear their second-tier status as a badge of honor, squelching in the mud and shaking their fist at the world as it passes indifferently by.

Needless to say, the Sox fans are positively gleeful right now, thoroughly enjoying our pain as our streak of futility passes the century mark.

But you know what, Sox fans? You should be nicer to us.

You need us. You would not exist without us. The Cubs are your raison d’être.

(Typical Sox fan: “Hey! No fair talkin’ Spanish! This is America! Speak American!”)

Let’s face it, my friends. If the Cubs did not exist, U.S. Cellular Field would sit empty. (In fact, it wouldn’t even be called U.S. Cellular Field. The naming rights would be far cheaper and less prestigious. My guess is “Preparation H Park.”)

Without the Cubs to hate on, there would be no White Sox, and no White Sox fans. Their very existence is predicated on being the lower-grade alternative to the real thing, like store-brand pork and beans.

Without the Cubs, there would be no inferiority complex on the South Side. No pointless indignance or delusions of persecution. No class warfare.

No one would care. No one would come. Tumbleweeds would bounce lazily through the stands on 35th Street, accompanied by the hollow whistle of the wind and the occasional echoing clatter of nearby gunshots.

Come springtime, baseball season will once again be upon us, and I will cheer my beloved Cubbies as usual. I will ride the highs and lows as the season progresses, always hoping, always believing.

And at the end of the season, the Cubs will tear my heart from my chest, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it with their cleats. Just like they do every year.

But thank God I’m not a White Sox fan. That would suck.

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