October 08, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Anonymous

In keeping with the dying dregs of the baseball talk around these parts, I thought it best to look one final time (at least I think it's the final time, depending on whatever posts follow this week) at our Cubs, in the hopes that I can bring myself some closure to the Summer of 2008.

It had all the trappings of greatness; belief, talent, good fortune, desire and momentum. Of course, as anyone who visits Los Angeles knows, it's the place where all of these things go to perish. One long drive up and down Sunset Boulevard on a Saturday night will prove this. You can almost taste the pain.

Looking at the Cubs, we already call them the "Lovable Losers." This got me thinking. How deep are they on the spectrum of losers throughout history, throughout media, literature, and culture? If I was to attempt a rough grading system for being a loser, where might the '08 Cubs fall?

For this analysis, I'll need to come up with a few good examples of losers before slotting them in somewhere. Although my methods are heavy-handed and unscientific, they're very much open for debate.

So let's begin.

Christ, this lot were terrible losers. Although some might debate this, allow my completely inaccurate, abbreviated history: a bunch of people, miserable and unhappy, decided to split from the Church of England and found their own movement. The King was pissed, and their beliefs brought them tremendous criticism, mockery and derision.

They moved to Amsterdam, where they still couldn't find peace due to the culture gap and their inability to adapt to the Dutch way of life.

Thus, they left again, this time for America. They landed in Cape Cod, had a tough time finding food due to the impending winter, and nearly half of the colonists died during the first winter either from scurvy, ill effects of the freezing weather, or other diseases.

They then moved further inland, only to stumble upon a cleared village where almost everyone died of smallpox. Some contracted the illness, and only 47 from the colony and the Mayflower survived.

You don't get more "loser" than that; a group of miserable fundamentalist malcontents who moved around a lot to find acceptance and once they found it, almost all of them died from native illnesses for which they had no cure.

Unsettled, uncertain, struck by the urge to find a perfect place no matter what the cost, ultimately leading to their death.

Hmm... think the Cubs are not as far along the Loser Scale as this. More research needed.

Regarded as one of the worst films ever, and one of the biggest box office flops ever (outside of anything made by Uwe Boll), Ishtar paved the way for many overambitious, overblown efforts at bringing grandeur and pomp to the big screen.

Made for 30 million dollars (in 1987's money, that equates to well over double in this day and age), the film was a bloated vehicle for Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty, filmed in the actual desert and with perhaps one of the worst story concepts ever committed to paper:

Two terrible lounge singers get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the Emir of Ishtar, and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime.

Yep, it's as fucking terrible as it sounds.

Despite having two Oscar winners in the lead roles, the film only recouped 10 million or so at box office, and became the punchline to many jokes about the film industry in general. That is, until Michael Bay came along.

An overpriced experiment in design and star power, constructed at a lavish budget and never quite fully used.

The Cubs? Definitely worse than this.

LITERARY LOSERS: Holden Caulfield
Amazing book... terrible douchebag loser. Holden is the ultimate wise guy; full of wit and sardonic commentary on the lives of others, yet no compunction or energy to go and fulfill his own. Stuck in a world of being afraid to do anything, he spends 277 pages wandering around, observing the world yet never actually participating.

I idolized this lad at one point, and I can't for the life of me remember why. He's compelling yet completely irritating, the epitome of the man who sits on the toilet and cannot decide whether to shit or get off the pot.

He gets kicked out of school (a wild idea for the early 50s, I know), gets beaten up by a New York City pimp, looks at an awful lot of art, is totally and utterly scared to grow up, hatches a plan to move out west with his sister, gets her on board with the plan, and then decides he's not going to go.

Frozen in time due to an inability to move forward, leading to loneliness and aimlessness.

Maybe this is the Cubs? I think we're getting closer.

SHAKESPEAREAN LOSER(S): Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
The two idiots from Hamlet play a short, sweet role in the play, showing up in the life of their childhood friend Hamlet after the rather shocking murder of Polonius takes place.

They try to cajole him and joke him into coming to England, where the King is to murder him.

How do we know this?

Because one of the morons receives a letter from Hamlet's uncle, King Claudius, with all of it written down. Hamlet changes the letter to read that they are the ones to be killed, and so they happily sail to England where they're murdered.

Dim-witted idiots that meant well but ended up dead?


Why does this guy ever bother? Forever usurped and overtalked by his loudmouth compadre (and spawn of Satan) Sean Hannity, he spends his time on their FOX News talk show staring at the ceiling or figuring out why Hannity cut his microphone yet again.

Their show exists primarily to give Hannity a platform for his voluminous load of right-wing bullshit, and Colmes gamely plays along as the left-wing counterpoint to this TV news melee.

Occasionally, if Colmes has been a good little TV host, Hannity lets him ask a question or two before giving him some Werther's Original and putting him back in his air-conditioned cage.

It's an exercise in futility, although one assumes the dog and pony show at least pays well. Sure, he could be looking for a job that gives him enough respect to look at himself in the mirror each morning, but like every loser, his self-awareness to the inherent problems with his work life only make the struggle that much more difficult.

A nice guy who is willing to subjugate himself to a more forceful, more charismatic persona?

Close again! Not much further now, surely...

MUSICAL LOSER: Weird Al Yankovic
Yeah yeah yeah, we all know at least one Weird Al parody, but his oeuvre is pretty sad when you think about it. A guy who's devoted his entire life to nerdy paraphrasing of popular songs from all genres of the musical zeitgeist. He's made rap into Amish, Michael Jackson into an musing on obesity, and he's just about ruined any well-known song with his witless reappropriations.

And now, many years removed from his initial modest success, he's still trying pretty damn hard to live up to that zany character we all barely remember. Honestly, it's depressing. He needs to let go, get a haircut, and sit down to try and compose something meaningful beyond PG-13 jokes in a 4-minute cover song.

A fading icon trying to recreate long-past glories?

Not loser-y enough...


In short, the Cubs borrow a bit from all of these legendary losers. They're a big-budget flop (well, modest compared to the Yankees, but you get the point), they're clearly stuck in a mental headspace that renders them impotent against their own history, and they're yet another footnote in the annals of the Nearly There.

They're not quite as bad as the miserable Pilgrims, but they're damn close. Except, for the Chicago Cubs, it's the fans who keep dying from their playoff brand of "smallpox baseball."