The Life And Times Of An Average Cubs Fan

October 07, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

I'm not here to beat a dead horse. Yes, the Cubs got swept out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. I'm not going to re-hash what should have happened, what could have been done differently, who came up short, etc. I'm not going to play the guessing game that is "Who Will/Won't Be Back Next Season", because at this point, no one really knows.

I'm here to say goodbye to 2008. I'm here to put this one in the history books and move on.

This, my friends, is the story of The First One That Hurt.

I love baseball. I love the statistics, the players, the pace of the game, everything. I love the length of the season, the excitement of Spring Training and Fantasy Baseball. To say that baseball is my second religion would imply that something would have to rank in front of it in the first place.

This wasn't always the case though. I quit baseball at a young age to focus on a career as a professional comic book reader. I knew that my parents were big Cubs fans and that they were the "good guys", but seeing how I was born in late 1982, I wasn't really old enough to get caught up in Cubs Playoff fever in the '84 and '89 seasons. To me, World Series baseball on Fox was just one more thing that delayed the start of the new season of The Simpsons.

I can't even tell you when the switch flipped in my head in 1998. Apparently there were 3 guys on pace to hit more home runs than anyone else in a season. Sounded interesting. And who is this Kerry Wood guy and why is everyone so excited when he pitches? Wow, that Beck guy's got a sweet mullet!

I was learning on the fly. I knew the rules of baseball. I knew some of the current Cubs players. And of course, I knew about "The Curse". But everything else was learned as 1998 unfolded. The 1998 Wild Card Cubs were the first Cubs team to grab my attention. But even though I was invested in them, I wasn't really too "close" to them. Remember, I was between my Freshman and Sophomore years of high school. There were more important things going on like trying to date girls and learning to drive and...umm...ok, there were only 2 things, but they were pretty important.

The 1999 Cubs had my full attention as they made a charge for first place right before the beginning of interleague play. I remember staying up super late to watch them battle Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks. The Astros had lost that day, so if the Cubs could take the final game in Arizona, they'd be tied for first. Unfortunately, Randy Johnson had their number (something that would continue to haunt me for years) and they lost. Then they went to the South Side and got swept. This led to a terrible record for the rest of the season, and they finished with a record of about 40-325. I wasn't upset about it. After all, everyone made it seem like the Cubs did that kind of thing all the time, so I just thought it was normal.

Over the next few years, my love for the Cubs stayed about the same, but my love of baseball took off. My love of statistics naturally led me into fantasy baseball, which is where I learned about the players on other teams. I remember very little about my first team, but I know it included many immortal baseball legends such as John Rocker, Jose Mesa and Ben Grieve.

The 2001 Cubs were fun to watch, but again I wasn't completely invested in them. I really pulled for them to make the playoffs, but I had missed most of the season getting ready to go off to college. 2003 was the same deal. I worked all summer, so I missed a lot of games. When the playoffs rolled around, I only got to catch a few games because I was involved with a school play that was actually opening the week of the NLCS. What were the people running my college thinking? I tried to get the production moved back 3 weeks, but somehow my protests were ignored. Maybe it would have hurt more in 2003 if I had actually been able to see Game 6 in person.

By the time 2007 came around, I was ready to be a 100% committed die-hard. I loved the guys on the team, loved Lou, and hell, my cable provider had added WGN! It's fate! When the playoffs rolled around and the Cubs got ZonaRoll'd, it sucked. But it didn't hurt that much. Sure, I would have loved to make a deep playoff run, but the Diamondbacks actually had the better record, so it wasn't as shocking that they would win. Getting swept is painful, but the pain was dulled because I knew the Cubs would be back and even better in 2008.

I can't even begin to tell you how jacked I was for the Cubs at the beginning of 2008. The offense was ready to go, our pitching was stacked, and everything seemed like it was destiny. The Cubs winning the World Series on exactly the 100 year mark of the last time it happened? The media would eat that up! You couldn't write a more perfect scenario than that. In 2004, when the Red Sox came back to beat the Yankees, they didn't lose to the Cardinals. It was fate! Teams of Destiny don't lose! The Red Sox won it all, the Cards won it all and the White Sox won it all. It was our turn, dammit!

I did everything I could to show my support for the Cubs. I wore my Cubs hat to work as often as I could. I went to games. I hit up every day to see if the Cubs were involved in any active trading. I was elated with every winning streak and prone to drinking heavily with consecutive losses.

It was after the 4 game series sweep in Milwaukee in July that I decided that this was the team. This was the best Cubs team of my lifetime. This was the team that would finally end the suffering. This was the team that wasn't going to fold down the stretch like in 1969 and 2004 and 2005. It was safe to get emotionally invested in this club. If they couldn't win the World Series, no Cubs team could.

And they didn't.

As the 9th inning of game 3 wound down, I was tired and I was frustrated. To this day, I still have not seen Soriano's final at-bat. I couldn't watch. I stared at my feet and listened to Soriano strike out.

A week earlier, I was mad at all the Cub haters out there that were convinced that the Cubs were going to choke because that's what the Cubs do.

Now, I was mad because they were right.

The next morning, I wasn't really that mad anymore. I was still disappointed, but not as much as I thought I would be. I was mad at myself for not being more upset. Not being upset meant that my worst fear had come true; I was expecting the Cubs to lose game 3.

For years, I read stories about how the Cubs of 1969 broke the hearts of their fans. Same with the 1984 and 1989 teams. Some people were never able to get over 2003.

2008 was my year. Now I feel like I'm really a Cubs fan. I think everyone should go through their own personal 2008. It'll make the eventual World Series win that much sweeter. As much as White Sox and Cardinal fans savored their Series wins recently, and even as much as the Red Sox and their fans loved 2004, there's no way that what they all felt will possibly come close to how good it'll be to see the North Siders as the last team standing.

So how do we move on? There are as many ways to deal with this collapse as there are Cub fans. Some fans will grieve. Some fans will pack all their Cubs stuff in a box and leave it till the spring. Some fans will be angry, and some fans will swear off the team forever, only to come back. Whatever way we go through it, however much it may seem like some fans gave up on the Cubs, we'll all be back in 2009. Whoever is on the club will still be a part of our family, and we'll criticize them and call for them to be benched at times, but we'll support them until the final out of the season is recorded. Soriano may be too much of a free swinger, but he's our free swinger. Zambrano may act like a spoiled child on the mound, but he's our spoiled child. It's like when you can make fun of your own family members all you want, but as soon as someone else says a word about them, they've got a fight on their hands. We'll always be there for our players...because, well, we don't have a choice.

After 2008, I firmly believe that Cubs fans are born. It has to be something you're born into, because no one in their right mind would purposefully choose to put themselves through this.