Being a Cubs fan sucks.
I was born into the tradition of waiting, tho I may not have realized it until the magical summer of 1998. That summer Sammy Sosa (my hero, until I realized he was a dirty cheater) and Mark McGwire raced each other to see who would set the record for most home runs hit in a single season. Both players broke the previous record of 61 (*) but McGwire ended up with the higher tally.
No big deal, Sosa's heroics (like McGwire's, probably fueled by steroids), along with help from rookie phenom (and current BEAST of a closer) Kery Wood, had fueled the Cubs on their way to securing the Wild Card spot in the playoffs. The team got the spot after a one game playoff and riding the wave of their momentum they were swept by the Atlanta Braves, only totally four hits during the three game series.
I still dared to hope, loving the losers as they failed to make the playoffs for the next few years. Then came 2003, the year where I realized that I just might hate being a Cubs fan...
If I remember it right, the Cubs were up in the National League Championship series three games to one, after a dominating performance over the Atlanta Braves. The 2003 Cubs could hit, and their pitching was amazing, led by aces Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. They had a lead in game five of the best-of-seven series against the Florida Marlins (yes, the Marlins) and were only a few outs away from making it to the World Series for the first time since World War II.
The Marlins batter hit the ball deep into foul territory in the outfield. Cubs outfielder Moises Alou jumps up for what should have been an easy out and instead the ball is knocked away from him by the hand of fate...in this case going by the hated name of Steve Bartman
I stayed long enough to watch the Cubs blow their lead after that and then left the room, slamming the door and vowing not to watch baseball any more.
I didn't miss much.
The Cubs managed to lose the next two games, and the Marlins went on to win the World Series. Steve Bartman would later go into the witness protection program...
I casually followed the Cubs for the next few years in disgust as they continued their tradition of abstinence from excellence. I say "casually" like I didn't really care, when really it was only due to the fact that we don't have TV. Otherwise I don't think I would have missed out on much of the losing. I happened to catch a game last year, and watched in wonder as the Cubs showed some fight.
"Fight" taking the form of an actual brawl between ace Carlos Zambrano and teammate Michael Barret and later a shouting match between manager Lou Piniella and an umpire. I was intrigued, but not much else, after all the Cubs were having a miserable season. But they managed to turn it around somehow...the team stormed back to take the Central Division away from the Milwaukee Brewers...and thus claimed a playoff spot.
The Cubs were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks that year.
I shouted at my poor computer that did nothing other than display the espn.com GameCast...
This year was something new. I had TV finally and was able to catch the tail end of the Cubbies' dominating 2008 regular season. I witnessed brilliant home runs, a no-hitter by Zambrano, and amazing catches. They went 96-64, winning the Central Division by a huge margin and had the best record in the National League.
This all added up to a playoff matchup with the lowly Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that buoyed by new aquistion Manny Ramirez had managed to barely have a winning record.
I watched the first few innings of Game One, skipping dinner to make sure Ryan Dempster (how is this guy a starter?) was worthy of the trust Piniella had placed in him. I was impressed. And when Mark DeRosa hit a two-run homer to put the Cubs ahead 2-0 I happily went to my study session. Then I watched the GameCast in horror as suddenly the Dodgers are up by four...a grand slam. Then the lead grows...LA wins 7-2.
It's ok, I didn't expect much out of Dempster. I still had hope...
Game Two featured Zambrano against another pitcher I had never heard of. Big Z gets shelled...
I couldn't watch most of this...but I still followed the score on the Net, cringing w/ each update.
Game Three I had to watch from beginning to end. I prayed for a miracle. And suddenly a miracle happens...the ball is hit perfectly, it hits third base and goes foul, somehow ending up INSIDE of the wall....and the Dodgers runner advances to second on what should have been an out. He makes it to third on what appeared to be an easy tag...then scores on the next play.
And the Cubs never recovered.
Swept by the Dodgers...It was everything I could to restrain my screams at the TV. I couldn't turn it off as I watched Los Angeles celebrate what was supposed to be our year.
My dad says he gave up on the Cubs in 1969...That year the Cubbies had a division lead of 8.5 games as late as August 19th. AUGUST...NINETEENTH...
They blew it and didn't make the playoffs.
I think if I am lucky enough to have kids I will tell them that 2008 is the year I gave up on the Cubs. I hope that they will still have hope, because I'm sure that the Cubs still won't have won by then. It's now been 101 years since the Cubs won the World Series...and time keeps going by...
I'm still a Cubs fan...but it sucks.