Monday, October 24, 2016

It Will Never Be the Same

The Chicago Cubs are poised to end the longest championship drought in major US sports history this week.  After capturing their first National League pennant since 1945 (when most quality major leaguers were off fighting World War II) the Cubs will try to win their first World Series since 1908 (when the legendary, Tinkers to Evers to Chance was an actual double play combination--and not a musty old poem).  However, Cubs fans themselves may want to consider very carefully if they actually want that to happen.

As it is now, Cubs fans hold a special place in sports fandom.  (And I'm talking here about the long-time-I-remember-Ron-Santo-and-Ernie-Banks Cubs fans--not the marketing reps that moved to Chicago three years ago and realized the bleachers at Wrigley are the place to be and be seen.)  They are "long-suffering" or "loveable losers".  People feel sympathy for them and will likely root for Chicago in the Series for no other reason than "I want those fans to be happy".

But a Cubs win this week and their fans become just like the rest of us.  They will be no different than Giants fans or Mets fans or any other franchise that has won a world title since the invention of television.  America used to feel the same way about Boston Red Sox fans as they tried to reverse the "Curse of the Bambino"--then the Red Sox won a couple of titles and "Sawks Fans" became reviled and insufferable.  That same fate belies our "loveable Cubby fans" if 1908 is erased from the record books.

And I can tell you from personal experience, Cubs baseball will never be as special to you as it is right now.  I myself am a fan of two franchises that had lengthy title droughts.  The San Francisco Giants had not won a World Series since they were in New York back in 1954.  They had close calls in 1989 (when an earthquake interrupted the series) and in 2002 (when they blew a lead late in Game 6 to the Anaheim Angels before losing Game 7 the next night).  Finally, in 2010 they beat Texas for the World Series title and we could all celebrate. 

My beloved Boston Bruins had never won a Stanley Cup in my lifetime either--last capturing the title in May of 1972--while I was born in July of that year.  They had made the Cup Final several times since then--losing to the juggernaut Edmonton Oilers with Wayne Gretzky a couple of times and to inferior Montreal Canadiens teams in several playoffs as well.  But in a glorious comeback from down 3-2 in 2011 they topped Vancouver to finally hoist the Cup.

While the celebrations after those titles were fantastic--I noticed that playoff runs weren't as exciting after that.  When the Giants won another World Series in 2012, I didn't even stay up to watch the clinching game in Detroit.  And when the Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup Final two years later, my reaction was "Meh".  Gone is that intoxicating mix of excitement, anticipation, desperation and dread that had made pre-championship playoff runs so much more fun.  You had that title "in the bank" and getting another didn't seem as important anymore.

And that is what awaits you, Cubs fans if your team doesn't find a way to blow it this week.  Remember, it will never mean as much to you as it does right now.

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