Reflections on Being a Cubs Fan: “You Gotta Have Heart”

On “Remember When Wednesdays” I look back a post from the past and re-post it for newer readers. Tonight our beloved Cubs make their first trip to the Postseason since 2008. That year, Wendy and I made a pilgrimage to Wrigley Field early in the season to celebrate my birthday and our hopes were high. It was perhaps apt that I called the post “You gotta have heart.” The Cubs fell short that year and it’s been a long dry spell since. Hope springs eternal. Perhaps this year things will be different.

Here is my post from early in the season 2008…

Summer2004_025My wife and I have looked forward to the coming of spring and the beginning of another season for the Chicago Cubs. We’ve watched their first three games, and our hopes are high. It’s a new season. The slate is clean. This could be our year.

Opening day was a heartbreaker, as our beloved Cubbies raised our spirits on the wings of a Kosuke Fukudome three-run dinger to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth only to dash them to the ground when they gave up the winning run in the tenth.

The second game was nine innings of frustration as our boys were one-step short, one swing behind, one bobbled-ball late through all nine innings.

That’s okay. I turned to Wendy and consoled her. “It’s a long season,” I assured her.

Good thing,” she said.

YeahGood thing,” I repeated, assuring myself.

We’re good that way – Cubs fans. You’ve got to keep your chin up. You’ve got to put a positive spin on ball four. Optimism is required on the resume. So is thick skin. It takes character to be a fan of Chicago’s Northsiders.

In preparation for the season I watched Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball. It’s a good history of the game if you like an East Coast perspective. Sure, there’s the occasional mention of a Midwest club. There’s the passing nod to Hall-of-Famers from the fly-over states. There’s the off-hand mention that St. Louis or Minnesota won a World Series or two. But mostly it’s about teams from New York and Boston.

Early on the documentary did mention the 1908 Chicago Cubs’ World Series winning, double-play threesome of Tinker to Evers to Chance and then promptly brought in a snooty commentator to explain that they really weren’t that good. The Cubs are barely mentioned in the rest of the marathon East Coast love-fest.

Don’t get me wrong. I acknowledge that the Yankees are the winningest club in baseball. I admit that the story of the Dodgers, the signing of Jackie Robinson and their heartbreaking departure for Los Angeles is compelling. I will capitulate that the Curse of the Bambino and the Red Sox eighty-six year World Series drought is a great yarn.

Yet, the eighty-six year suffering of Boston fans pales in comparison to the Wrigley Field faithful who, this year, celebrate…or is it mourn…an entire century with an empty trophy case. Boston’s storied Royal Rooters have nothing on the indomitable spirit of the Bleacher Bums. Boston survived the Bambino’s curse, but Cubs fans are gutting out an unholy trinity of curses (the goat, the black cat, and the Bartman ball).

Mention that you are a Cubs fan and you receive responses that vary from pity on one end (“Awwww, look at the loveable loooooser!”) to outright gleeful condemnation on the other (“Are you serious?! Dude, I’d show you how many World Series the Cardinals have won but I don’t have enough fingers! Ha, ha, ha, ha!). That’s just part of the program.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Does that make Cubs fans comparable to Superman or Popeye juiced on HGH? You know that’s not true. What is true is that what hasn’t killed us has given us heart. Our boys of summer have given us a cardio workout like no other team in the Major Leagues. Our hearts have regularly been pounding off the rate charts only to be stopped short just this side of cardiac arrest. 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1969…talk about a baseball fan’s aerobic workout.

“You Gotta Have Heart – miles and miles and miles of heart,” goes Broadway tune goes in Damn Yankees! Yankees?! What do they know? The Yankees don’t need heart. Ask George Steinbrenner.

For my money (and, granted, it’s no where near what Steinbrenner has), I’ll give the award for the most heart to the Chicago Cubs faithful. In fact, think about that – the Cubs’ faith-ful. That’s what being a Cubs’ fan requires – faith. At the root of a Cubs’ fan’s heartsworn loyalty is unwavering faith.

The Good Book says that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for.”

We get that.

The third game of the opening series was a winner. Ramirez homered. Dempster settled down into a solid outing. Wood got his first save in his new role as Closer. The “W” flag was raised above Wrigley Field for the first time this year as the Cubs’ faith-ful sang “Go Cubs, Go!”.

Yep. I believe this is the year.

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