Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Cubs Are Life

I am the Chicago Cubs.

I grew up a Cubs fan.  Those lovable losers who couldn't win a Championship to save their lives. Doormat of the National League.

When I was a child, my dad and I would listen to their games on WGN in the summer because we didn't have cable.  Cable was expensive and hadn't even been run to some of the areas we lived in so shitty AM radio was all we had.

Often, we'd be fishing someplace like Lake Carlton at Rockwood State Park in Morrison, Illinois. We would drown worms and listen to the Cubs kick everybody's ass until the All-Star Game.  Once that game was played, it was over.  The implosion would begin and the Chicago Cubs would tail-spin into the ground.

In 1983, I was a chubby kid with a paper route.  I wore a massive set of headphones that only got a couple of AM radio stations and would go through 9V batteries every few days.  They were tight, pinched my head, and were huge.  But I wore them and listened to WLS radio and the day then Cubs Manager Lee Elia, had his famous meltdown,  Larry Lujack was the first DJ to play the edited version of it, with all the bleeps, and Les Grobstein was the Sports Reporter who did the introduction.

I think what I remember most about that rant was how Lee Elia went after the unemployed people who went to the game.  My dad was unemployed at the time.  He was laid off from the railroad.  Listening to the Cubs lose was pretty much all he did that summer aside from sitting at the kitchen table and drinking beer.  Oh, and chain-smoking.  He was smoking about four packs a day back then.

My life was shit and so were the Cubs.  We were a pair.  I understood them and felt like they reflected me.  When Dave Kingman dropped a ball and let an inside-the-park homerun happen, I got it--expect bad things to happen because they always will.

But then in 1984 I was in 3rd grade.  Miss Taylor was a huge Cubs fan and I won an Official Cubs calendar that year because I knew the most Cubs facts out of everybody in the class.  That was Our Year.

In 1984, the Cubs were the best team in the National League.  They won more games than anybody else and it looked like they were unstoppable.  My dad was called back to work.  Sure, he got drunk and left my mom for a week, but that didn't matter.  We weren't supposed to remember that.  Mom took us out for pizza and to watch Lady and the Tramp at the theater while Dad packed his shit and left so we didn't have to see it.  It was a Thursday.

But the Cubs were winning and we were all riding high.  Harry Carey used to sing, "Jody, Jody Davis!" every time he came up to bat.  This kid, Ryne Sandberg, was awesome.  He didn't let anybody hit a ball past him.

So then we lost to the San Diego Padres.  The fans in San Diego did the wave non-stop for all four games.  All we had to do was win one more--just one more!  We'd won the first three at home and only had to win once in San Diego.

But this is life.  This is the Chicago Cubs.  And happiness just wasn't in the cards.  Not for them, not for me.  It went downhill after that.  For my family, for me, for a bunch of us.  The Chicago Cubs were tied to my family like E.T. was tied to Eliot.  Our fates were shared.

I didn't think much of the 1989 season.  I was in high school and that whole summer was a blur.  The depression I was in fogged up much of my brain.  I was miserable.  When the Cubs lost, I expected it and just nodded my head as it happened.  Yup, I said to myself.  This is what life is all about.

In January, WGN played a repeat of the 1984 game against the Cardinals known as The Sandberg Game.  All we had were memories of games in seasons that failed.  And that was pretty much the story of my life.

In 2003, the Cubs did it again.  Same story, really.  Great team, great momentum, only to fail when it counted.  That year was horrible for me.  Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  I lost my family, I lost any hope of getting them back, and the only thing I could do was work 70+ hours a week at a dead-end pizza place so I wouldn't have to think about how awful my life had become.

I was a workaholic.  I worked so I didn't have to think about all the shit in my life I couldn't fix.

When the cubs lost, I partially expected it, but some part of me deep down hoped for a miracle.  But there wasn't any.  There is no God.  There is no Devil.  There is nothing.  And all we have are a few moments between ass-kickings where we may have smiled or remembered a great day in the distant past.

My cousin totally lost his shit.  He got drunk and called friends as if the Cubs were a girlfriend who kept cheating on him but he couldn't break up with her because he just loved her too much.  His heart was shattered because the fool didn't understand how pointless hope can be and how cruel it all becomes.  There is no hope with the Chicago Cubs, just as in life, so we have to be happy with those little moments we get.

As I write this, the Cubs have just lost their second game to the New York Mets.  It has already begun to happen again.  Fate has spoken.

I will cheer for the Cubs.  I will clap my hands and do whatever a fan must--but I will not hope.  They don't get that from me.  Whatever hope I had for anything has been ripped out of me, burned, and the ashes scattered into the winds.

Instead, I will watch and I will wait.  I know how this story ends.  I've always known.

1 comment:

  1. You don't mind my saying, but you sound a bit like a Detroit Lions fan. For the life of me I have no clue how these people still keep hoping. I've lived in Southeastern Michigan for over 40 years now. In all that time, IIRC, they've made two postseason appearances, and lost both in the first round.

    Dude, you need to find another team. Maybe then everything else will follow. You never know.