Maddon says he has this written on his game card: "Do not be a fan." Says biggest way to avoid game stress is to not be a fan. #Cubs
— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) May 16, 2015
I love you, Joe Maddon, but I don’t want to be you. You see, for me, it’s the stress that makes it worthwhile. But I get what he’s saying; when you put on the uniform, you strip off the fandom. Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki, who grew up a die-hard Cubs fan, had to walk into Wrigley Field and try to beat his favorite team. He failed, by the way. Miserably.
There are no such conflicts for me though. I love baseball in general, but my affections are all rooted in the team that plays its games at 1060 West Addison St. in Chicago. That address is how the little girl in the picture above got her name, and a man who spent a fair bit of time playing there gave his name to my son. And Ryne David Altman is becoming quite a ballplayer himself.
As the owner of a Cubs blog, I suppose it would be easy for me to go full-on meatball and just completely fawn over this team. Judging by our pageviews after either wins or losses, it’s clear that that might help things. But I do try to stay balanced and call it how I see it, which is why I’m just as likely to write about Travis Wood’s struggles as I am to run a piece about how great Anthony Rizzo has been.
But I can’t hide the fact that I’ve got EAMUS CATULI tattooed down the back of my right calf or that I proposed to my wife with a customized Cubs jersey that had her new last name on it. I am not a journalist. I am not an employee of the team. I am a fan. And I’m damn proud of that.
This isn’t meant to be about some superiority of my fandom or my team either. Lord knows Cubs fans have little to brag about. My brother-in-law is a huge White Sox fan and I love that he has the same affection for his team as I do for mine. My wife’s family all saw fit to graduate from Purdue University, but I try very hard not to hold that against them.
I have several teams I’ll pull for during their given seasons, but if asked to choose just one, it’d be the Cubs by a wide margin. My affinity for this team goes beyond jersey-wearing, blog-posting fanboy obsession. I truly feel that it’s a part of my soul, something that binds me to generations past and future.
As blessed as I’ve been, it’s difficult for me to make a statement that might be seen as a slight to any of my family members, so what I’m about to say is said with only the utmost respect. My parents are two of the greatest people on the face of this Earth, my wife is amazing woman, and my kids fill me with joy. Each of my grandparents might well pass the sainthood test, but it’s my Grandpap who I’d say is my favorite person ever.
I can’t even hope to describe the depth of emotion I feel when thinking back to those afternoons my brother and I spent on his living room floor watching the Cubs on WGN. Dipping into the well of those childhood memories provides a ladle of palliative nectar that can soothe most any emotional malady.
For me, Cubs baseball runs far deeper than 9 innings on a Saturday afternoon, and I know I’m not alone. I was unable to witness the conclusion of their most recent contest, tied up as I was on a date with my bride. But when I checked my phone later, I had a message from my dad that said “Go Cubs Go!!!!!!”
Earlier in the evening, I had been exchanging text messages with one of my best friend, a man who was about to celebrate his first wedding anniversary. For his bachelor party last year, we attended the Cubs/Cards game that, as luck would have it, happened to be Jake Arrieta’s first start of 2014. Beautiful.
Some may see it as trite, but I absolutely love how much the Cubs’ Twitter account has interacted with fans this year. I continue to be impressed by how interactive the Cubs have been on social media, the results of which were pretty clear tonight.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 16, 2015
This is my team.
It’s only mid-May, but the Cubs have won 6 games in a row and I’m freaking ecstatic. I’ve also had a beer or five, so my judgment might not be quite up to the level set forth for my by my Grandpa Mc (pronounced “Mac,” but he doesn’t cotton to the idea of adding the phonetically assistive extra letter), a man who sat on the bench for several decades.
Is there a point to any of this? Maybe it’s just the mad ramblings of a a guy who’s still trying to live up to being named “most likely to succeed in creative writing” in college, a superlative I’m sure the Hanover faculty would like to rescind. I guess I just need to try to explain why it is that I felt so happy when I saw my dad’s text and checked the final score tonight.
It’s why, despite flagging pageviews in down weeks and an inability to cover the team in as much depth as I’d like, I continue to do this. Joe Maddon was dead-on when he said that the way to avoid stress is to not be a fan. But you know what, Joe? I don’t want to avoid stress.
I remember listening to David Kaplan on the radio last summer saying that you just have to go all-in with this team, like it or not. And he’s right, not that I’ve ever questioned whether or no to do so. The Chicago Cubs were my first love, and they shall be my last. I’m going to die with each loss and revel in each win, and those who love me have learned to understand that.
Because this team is bigger than just a ballpark and 25 highly-paid athletes. My father often laments the exorbitant pay of men playing a child’s game, but it’s evident in messages like the one documented above that he too feels an intrinsic tie to this team that goes beyond reason.
I fear that my self-indulgent foray may be drawing to a close, as indicated by the house music rising to a crescendo behind me. If I have stolen too much of your time without giving you much of substance in return, I apologize as sincerely as a half-crocked man who just watched Pitch Perfect 2 can. But I will never apologize for my fandom.
And I will never apologize for living and dying with a team that has never won anything of note in my lifetime, or in the lifetimes of anyone born in the last century-plus. Being a Cubs fan is hard sometimes, most times. It’s hard because our team has been an abject disaster half the time and because we fans have been insufferable jerks the other half.
For the love of all that is holy, I’m writing a giddily effusive column about a team that just won 6 games in a row for the first time in nearly four years. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to apologize for it. I’m proud of my team and I’ll go to my grave with that pride.
I won’t stop calling them out when I see things that I feel are out of place and I will do my best not to go full-on meatball on you, but you can rest assured that there will forever be a piece of that little boy eating soda crackers on his Grandpap’s floor in everything I write.
With all due respect to Subaru, I believe that love is what makes a Cubs fan, a Cubs fan.