I used to be a Cubs fan. That is to say, I used to care if they won or lost. I’m pretty sure that constitutes some part of fandom. Honestly, I liked the Braves more as a kid. I begged my dad for one of those awesome red and blue hats with a curved “A” on the front for two years. I had pretty much picked them at random though, and they happened to be a great team at the time. So there was that. But there was never a reason for liking the Cubs other than them being from my neck of the woods. I never felt a connection with the team until I reached my late teens and early 20’s. Perhaps it was the fact that as a teenager I felt like I was in a rut. There wasn’t much going on to make me feel like I had a future. Sound like any baseball team we know? Sure there were some star players, Mark Grace being one of my favorite first basemen of all time (Can we get a hall of fame recount?), but there was never a real feeling that victory could be ours. It was all just for show, and maybe some ticket sales.

 There was always hope.

Baseball’s currency is doled out in hopes and dreams. At the end of the day, the Cubs are pretty much always the biggest spenders with the least to show for it. The phrase, “next season” may have started with the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Red Sox, but the Cubs wear it like a “dunce” cap. “This is the year” is an equally comical codpiece. Even now, in a season that every sensible baseball fan knows is a throwaway rebuilding year, there are people preaching about a possible playoff appearance. What the fuck are they thinking? That’s why people laugh at Cubs fans. In 2003 when the Cubs basically shot themselves in every foot they could during the playoffs, and blamed some poor fan, I had pretty much had it with being one of their fans. I didn’t even want to be associated with those people. It just got so ugly and hateful. I felt like Cubs fans were a crew of Goonies if they had all been Chunk. It was fucking awful, half a city screaming and crying as if their chubby fingers were inches from some rusty blender blades.

But still, I watched. I kept on being a “fan” and hated every minute of it. I actually found myself smiling (sometimes giggling) every time Sosa struck out, as if his every whiff was proof that the natural order of things remained perfectly in line. Then on Saturday October 6th 2007, though I conveniently had another, I threw my favorite Cubs hat into the warehouse trash compactor at the hospital I worked at towards the end of my shift. The Cubs had just lost the division series against the Diamondbacks, three games to zero. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the team that was cursed, it was the fans and the only way to break that curse was to stop watching them. If the 1994 strike had forever ruined my inner baseball child, being a Cubs fan in the time since crammed it into a coffin, slapped a White Sox “2005 World Series Champions” bumper sticker on it, and lowered it into the cold dark earth.

So I did the unthinkable. After nearly 20 years of being a fan of all things baseball, I quit. I stopped paying attention. It didn’t matter anymore. The team I chose to follow was a horrible heart eating monster that wouldn’t stop until I had given it everything. Then it would walk away with my pride in its roided out gorilla hand and finish another season under .500. Fuck that shit.

 It lives…

But I couldn’t ever really let it go. I still loved the game, even if I hated some things that were happening in it. I played All Star Baseball 2003 obsessively for seven years after it came out, as the expansion sensation Indiana Outlaws, building up a team that would rival the great champions of yesterday. I had Ricky Henderson’s ancient ass leading off at the age of 45 and he played 5 seasons with my team, batting .345 with around 40 stolen bases a season until 2008. Fred McGriff, Greg Maddux, and Craig Counsel made up the rest of this come-from-nowhere unstoppable force that I wished the Cubs could be. (Counsel coincidentally lead my league in on base percentage every season until retiring in 2006. Perhaps he should have been given more at-bats in real life?) For all my trying I couldn’t stay away, and I knew baseball was waiting for me, if I ever wanted to hang out again.

Then I met Mo. That jerk loves baseball. He loves it in the way I used to as a child and he’s a grown ass man. He made me feel icky. His love of the game reminded me how much I had enjoyed it and how much fun we had together. It made me feel like I had abandoned a good friend. I just threw baseball in the trash compactor at work and crushed it. So I started paying attention again. I found a changed game. One that, free from any players I knew, wasn’t so bad. It was hard at first. I still had hurt feelings. I was still pretty butt hurt about all the cheating it did. Especially Bonds and McGwire. Fuck Those guys. Eventually, and most recently because of fantasy baseball, I began to like it again. Baseball and I were on good terms. Being civil and all that.

I’m not quite ready to be a Cubs fan yet.

So here I am, all excited for a new baseball season, but there’s a catch. I don’t really have a team to root for. Sure I could join Raul and be a Sox fan, but that wouldn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching the White Sox. I get happy when they win. I get disappointed when they lose, but they don’t feel like they are my team. If you have to try to like something, it’s not meant to be. I could jump on the Marlins’ ship and support the possible one hit wonder they have going on there, but even that feels cheep. Atlanta doesn’t feel the same anymore either, so what’s an estranged baseball fan to do?

As I said before, the Cubs have always been free and easy when it comes to dealing out hopes and dreams. Even now with Theo, I’m skeptical. I don’t know the deal with all these prospects they have. I don’t know if Garza is going to be any good in a year or two. I don’t know if Rizzo or Jackson are going to be worth a nickle, ever. Neither does anybody else honestly, so don’t hate me for being initially unimpressed. I’ve been out of the Cubs loop. I like Theo. He says and does good things. There’s a track record to justify any optimism someone may be inclined to feel. I just don’t want to get hurt again.

 The guys have talked about the bandwagon fan before on the podcast and I agree with their collective opinion that bandwagon fans don’t really exist. But I would be a liar if I didn’t say for all my hatred and anger, baseball angst and regret, for all my idiocy and wasted time, I’ll be the first true bandwagon fan if that bastard Epstein can pull it off. I’ll buy a rude custom jersey, a new hat, and jump for joy in the streets of Wrigleyville if the Cubs even make the playoffs in the next five years. Until then, I’ll be watching other teams. I’ll be playing MLB The Show. I’ll be pretending I know what I’m doing in fantasy baseball, stacking up catchers and talking shit the whole time. But only until they prove that those hopes and dreams they’ve been squandering all these years were worth it. Maybe then, and only then, can I truly be a Cubs fan again. Some people may think that’s shallow, that I’m a fair weather fan, but all relationships are give and take. Cubs fans have been doing all the giving for a century. It’s about time they got something in return.

Email me @ virtualsportsman@gmail.com


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