Keith Strudler: Chicago Cubs Fans
Cubs fans, it is now time to get nervous. A few days ago, you were up one game to zero in the National League Championship Series. Three more wins against the Dodgers, and it was off to the World Series, where you would be the favorite to win over what now appears to be the Cleveland Indians, who are up three-nil on the Toronto Blue Jays. This would be your first trip to the Series since 1945. And if you won, the first time since 1908. As you’re well aware as a Cubs fan, this is the longest championship drought in professional baseball. Or more precisely, in all professional sports. To be fair, the NBA held its first championship in 1947, and Super Bowl I was in 1967. Still, it’s a remarkable run.
This is not to say that the Cubbies can’t turn the ship around. All kinds of weird things happen in baseball series, when a single pitcher – heck, a single pitch – can change the course of history. Just ask Red Sox and Mets fans about that. But it’s no great sign that the Cubs haven’t scored in two games, which is a requisite in winning in baseball.
Despite their long-standing abstinence from winning titles, Cubs fans have been remarkably happy. At least that's the appearance from camera shots of Wrigley Field on Chicago's Northside, where the Bleacher Bums seem entirely content, win or lose. It's become an endearing quality of the franchise, lovable losers as they're called. You don't hear people say that about other losing teams. No one says that about the Oakland raiders, how they're just a cute bunch of misfits. Or the Philadelphia 76ers, who seem to get more first-round draft picks per year than wins. No one calls that lovable or quaint.
Losing can have a real and enduring impact on the human psyche. Take that up with most anyone from Boston, particularly Red Sox fans. Until they broke through in 2004, die hard Sox fans were the surliest bunch of people outside a DMV. It was like a group of kids that have their Halloween candy stolen every single year. Losing wasn't just something the Boston Red Sox fans did. It became who they were. And if your team's success and failure becomes your sense of self, then consistent and persistent losing can be the equivalent of a psychological disorder. That’s why people tend to jump ship when their team nosedives. It’s a lot easier.
Cleveland sports fans can speak to this. Last year their Cavaliers won the city’s first major sports title since the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964. Apparently, this has lifted the spirits of what some still call the Mistake on the Lake. You could argue it’s probably something else, like a resurgent economy or young people moving back into its urban center. But, if sports matters, deeply matters to you, then you’ll swear it’s LeBron James and the Cavs. Interestingly, now the Cleveland Indians are well poised to win both the American League Championship and, dare I say, perhaps the World Series, something they haven’t done since 1948. Which would make Cleveland the City of Champions, I suppose. So much for rock and roll.
That would be bad news for Cubs fans, who are desperately hoping to grab Game 4 tonight and come home tied 2-2 in this best of seven series. Otherwise, they’re one win away from elimination; one win from staying lovable losers.
To Cubs fans, I say this. I know you want to win. It’s only natural. You’ve had your 108 years of consistent defeat, and now it’s time to drink from the sweet cup of victory. But I implore you to consider the other side. The virtue of losing. Cubs fans have managed to master the one thing no one else seems to be able to do. They’re happy when they lose. Think about that. The one thing we all live in constant fear of, the thing that keeps us awake at night, is the constant fear of failure. Cubs fans have faced that fear – for 108 years, no less – and laughed in its face. That’s like learning to love a blizzard. Or enjoying room temperature coffee. Cubs fans, you don’t know how lucky you are.
And if you win, who knows? Winning is like a drug, one from which you have diligently refrained. But once you reach the mountaintop and enjoy the view, a basement apartment will longer do. You’ll spend the rest of your sports life simply longing to taste that rainbow just one more time, draining the blissful ignorance you embody right out of your baseball loving bodies. Cubs fans, you are happy losing. Please, for your own sake, don’t mess that up.
I’m sure you’ll disagree. And I’m sure you’re tense about tonight’s all-important game. But if you do get past the Dodgers, then find yourself ahead in the World Series, that, I believe, is when you should really get nervous.
Keith Strudler is the director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and an associate professor of communication. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler
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