There’s an incredibly clever and derisive acronym favored by the “not since 1908” crowd. Perhaps you’ve heard of it: Considered Unanimous By September. Wait, no, that’s not quite it.
Thing is, this last month or so does have at least some of the same feel as those doomed campaigns during which September was but a eulogy for a long-dead season. Even though each new day brings the Cubs one step closer to the playoffs, it’s as if they’re being forced to finish a marathon with with trudging steps. That could be cause for drawn-out celebration, but it seems skepticism is woven into the very fabric of the Cubs fan’s soul. Some will choose to seek out failure even in the midst of success.
Take Eric Zorn’s Chicago Tribune column titled “Anthony Rizzo’s ‘positivity can cure you’ advice not always welcome,” for instance. In it, Zorn takes issue with Rizzo encouraging a young cancer patient to keep his head up because, as clinical studies have borne out, being positive doesn’t really help. In fact, the American Cancer Society’s website says it can even be “destructive to people who are dealing with cancer and recurrence. Some people feel guilty or blame themselves when they can’t stay positive, which only adds to their emotional burden … (and) when people with cancer don’t do well, they may blame themselves.”
“I don’t mean to pick on Rizzo,” Zorn continues. “I’m sure he meant nothing but the best, just like everyone else who dispenses uplifting bromides to the ailing.
“I just want to note that hope can help patients and their families through the darkest of times, but it is not a prescription.”
And I don’t want to pick on Zorn, whose thoughts on the matter were derived from his wife’s battle with cancer. I have some issues with the propriety and necessity of his message — I’ve also got an issue with that egregiously misplaced comma in Rizzo’s letter, but c’est la vie — though the more I thought about it, the more I saw it as an allegory for this fandom we find ourselves a part of.
Why bother being optimistic when it’ll probably all fall apart anyway?
Just the other day I was listening to a local radio host, an admitted Reds fan, talk about the Cubs’ chances and fans’ thoughts about them. It’d be hugely disappointing, I tweeted, but the blow would be tempered by the fact that their young core sets them up well for years to come.
Well, actually…something something 2003, came the paraphrased response. Because of course. I gritted my teeth while thinking of a thousand flaws in that comparison and withheld my desire to reply again.
Setting aside that kind of fun talk, there are the reminders that past performance is no guarantee of future success. That’s the central premise of a recent feel-bad piece from the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg, who wrote that winning 100 games means nothing. The column might as well have been written by one of the guys who put that ferret in The Dude’s bathtub.
Nihilism, bro, it’s awesome.
Wonder of wonders, postseason play is a minefield of randomness in which the best team doesn’t always prevail. And *gasp* being historically good still doesn’t secure a title at the immediate conclusion of the regular season. So being positive doesn’t matter. We’re all going to die, our teams are still going to lose, eat at Arby’s.
Listen, I’m not saying that you need to get a red ass when the Cubs lose to MadBum or that you need to hang on every single play. I don’t believe in any cancerous curses, nor do I believe that my positivity is some kind of karmic chemotherapy. I’m not happy about each shovelful of earth the Cubs pile on the Cardinals because I think it’ll make a difference in the end, but because it gives me joy to see my team running away with the Central.
So yeah, I’m going to revel in the progress of the waning season because why the hell not. What good is following your team — or life in general, for that matter — if you can’t take some pleasure in it? This isn’t meant to be a treatise on how to fan, as I understand full well that some of you may only feel you’re doing it right when anguish and anxiety over wins and losses give you a peptic ulcer.
There’ll be time enough for that when the do-or-die contests start, when the series are about surging to the next round and not just whittling the magic number . For now, though, I’m gonna have some fun with what the Cubs are doing because, well, it’s fun. Join me, won’t you.