Where’s Henry Rowengartner When You Need Him?

Hello, my name is Matthew, and I’m a Cubs fan. Now bring on the sympathetic hugs and free punch and cake that come along with these sad bastard gatherings.

Last night’s game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs easily symbolizes my twenty-year long love/hate fest with the boys from the northside of Chicago. At first, I’m punched in the gut, sort of taken down to one knee (Cubs go down 5), but then, a second wind comes, and I connect with the 1000 lb. haymaker straight to the chin of my oppressor (Cubs score 8 consecutive for the lead). I think he’s down for the count, he looks dazed, like his head is far off in the land of Nod, and I start to celebrate, maybe dance around like I just found 20 bucks in an old pair of Dockers. But then, oh, but then,  he comes storming back from La-La Land to shank me in the gut from behind, like the dirty bastard he is (Cubs lose in typical bumbling fashion).

I don’t know why I’m continually shocked when this happens. You would think, after twenty years, that I would expect them to constantly prick tease me with such games. No, no, no, I actually thought that game was over. In fact, I was already checking the standings to see how much closer they would inch to first place. It never fails, they have to find a way to lose. Realistically, I don’t believe in luck, or karma, or the “secret to success,” or anything promoted by Oprah, so I can’t say this poor team and its fans are cursed for a lifetime of tears and leaps off bridges. The problem really boils down to this: the team almost always sucks. That’s just it — the players aren’t very good at baseball. Seriously, and even those with a larger amount of talent tend to get sucked down by the massive suck pull given off by those that suck. I mean, just look at what happened to Mark Prior. That guy could have been the next Roger Clemens, but no, he donned the same uniform that Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams once wore, and it was game over for him. Not bad luck, just going with the general flow of things. You can’t swim upstream in this sport.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, seriously. After the playoff runs of ’84, ’89, ’98, and ’03, any remnant of hope should have been washed away. To be honest, I never expected those teams to win the whole thing — they really weren’t that good — but just the thought of winning a title keeps that spark going, sadly. This is what we, as Cubs fans, have in common with many others in this league. The last thing I want to do is put on a pity party and act like the last ones picked at kickball, because that certainly isn’t the case. There are very similar things going on in places like Cleveland and Philadelphia. These poor sacks have had it just as rough, even rougher, you could say. Both teams actually managed to make it to the World Series after years of god-awful-itude, only to have their dreams crushed in the end. What is worse? Never making it, or getting there and losing? The latter seems more soul destroying. The only thing separating Cubs fans from the rest of the pack is the Lovable Losers tag. For being dubbed the City of Brotherly Love, the people of Philadelphia, and their teams, sure are hateful bastards. There is nothing to love about the Phillies, at all. As for Cleveland, well, they’re stuck in Cleveland. People from Cleveland don’t even love Cleveland. Sure, they have Major League 1 & 2, but last time I checked, Albert Belle was no Pedro Cerrano. He’s more like Cerrano on horse hormones, with a dash of pure insanity. And I can hear you muffling his name under your bourbon soaked breaths — “What about Sammy Sosa? Wasn’t he on those same back acne inducers?” Well, yes, yes he was, but he did it was a smile. I mean, come on, look at the punim…..he’s adorable!!

But seriously, screw that moniker ten ways to Lake Wobegon; I’m sick of being lovable and/or a loser. I want to be badass, a winner. Okay, I wouldn’t be either of those (we all know that’s not even in the realm of possibilities), but I would be attached to a badass, a winner. Basically, I want to be a Red Sox fan. They have proven that it’s possible to shed the years of negativity to become the grade A, bonafide, “King S**t of F**k Mountain,” hot shots of the entire league. And, as it seems, the Cubbies are following the blueprint left by the boys from Beantown. You know what I’m talking about, the “Spend More Money Than Necessary Because You Can” blueprint. That’s really all the Sox did, but only after they won the Series in ’04. That team wasn’t exactly full of record breaking contracts, but it did have some big names, like Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling. But after winning it all, they got greedy, and started spending money like Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions. The strange thing is that this plan actually worked. They’ve only gotten better. Of course, they haven’t won a title in the two years since, but they’ve competed, and maintained one of the top records in the league. Bosox fans now expect to win every single year. Cubs fans expect to finish fourth in their division, and maybe,  just maybe, finish ahead of the lowly Pirates. Perhaps expecting to win, and then falling short, might actually sting more than missing the playoffs entirely,  but that’s not likely. I mean, the Yankees have been a playoff team for over a decade now, and I’m willing to bet if you ask your typical Eye-talian from the Bronx if he’d rather root for a team mired in the middle, that he’d immediately tell you to go choke on Bon Jovi’s mullet.

So, I guess I can say things are starting to move in the right direction. I guess. The guys in charge certainly did spend a lot of money in the offseason, bringing in some big bats and arms in the process. So far, these new guys have contributed fairly well, especially the new pitchers, but things haven’t gelled just yet. They’ve managed to lose games they should have won several times (like last night), the offense is very inconsistent, and their top pitcher (Zambrano) is currently their worst pitcher. Yeah, that makes sense. But you know what? They’re light years ahead of last year’s team, and only out of first by 5-6 games. This isn’t the end of the world. Why can’t we be like those Cheers loving nutjobs up in Massachusetts? I say we can. But only if nightmares like last night become a thing of our lovably losing past.

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