There is a quote attributed to both Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein for its origin that summarizes a key characteristic of the Chicago Cubs and their fans: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.” Maybe that is why Cubs fans are so loyal the north side “Lovable Losers”—we’re both insane.
However, the Cubs, over the last decade-and-a-half or so, have attempted doing something different expecting different results. Yet, we have shown up to the “Friendly Confines,” rain or shine—and some cases snow—to root on our boys no matter how deplorable their play or management was. It is this mental makeup of Cubs fans that can both endear itself with a franchise, but can also cause the organization to cower in fear if the fans decide they do not like what they are seeing. This belief, or disbelief, in the Cubs manifested itself on April 5.
The 2012 home opener for the Chicago Cubs gave a glimpse of what Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the rest of the Cubs' front office have to change before the organizational climate can transform. When Kerry Wood struggled through the eighth inning, in part to three should-have-been strike three calls to three different batters being called balls, fan attendees began to exit Wrigley Field en masse.
Never mind their exodus began before the top half of the inning came to a conclusion, nor coming after the Cubs sputtered in their half of the eighth. The game was lost, and we all knew it. This is where the greatest need of change the new guard needs to concern themselves with: within the fan.
Epstein and Hoyer can espouse as much rhetoric of change as President Obama did in his 2008 presidential campaign, but until Cubs fans buy what they are selling, the climate around the organization will remain. The plan for them is to rebuild the franchise from the top down with great focus on the farm system, so as to avoid ever again being the “same ol’ Cubs.”
Unfortunately, Thursday’s results proved these are the same ol’ Cubs—at least in the eyes of the fans. With Cubs fans, when one brick falls, it is expected the entire wall will shortly follow. So when Wood struggled, we knew the Cubs were going to lose—to us it was inevitable—hence the mass exodus of fans in the eighth when the Cubs were still leading 1-0 over the Nationals.
The Nationals did not even need to score a single run to deflate the morale of the Cubs fans in attendance. We knew the sky in the eighth inning would fall when Wood went haywire. This is the disposition of the typical Cubs fan towards the team, and the greatest challenge for this new Cubs administration.
As a society, we are told “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Sadly, for Cubs fans—and the Cubs—we have read this book so many times before for so long, judging the team by its cover has not only become practice, but a usual occurrence. Nonetheless, Cubs fans do appreciate Theo and Jud’s determination to rewrite the book, but until they change the cover, these will always be the “same ol’ Cubs” to us.