I remember it like it was yesterday. The first time I made a visit to Wrigley Field, at the age of 11 or so, the Cubs were not a winning ballclub. Yet, though a lousy team, the stands were packed. I learned that day, that Cubs fans were loyal.
Being loyal is one thing, but as I got older, I learned that Cubs fans were also forgiving. It didn't matter whether they won 95 games or lost the same, the stadium would be packed, and the fans would love there "Lovable Losers."
I myself was never really satisfied. I have always hated losing. I never would turn my back on the Cubs, but I was also utterly disappointed when they were terrible.
Then in 1998 we got a taste of the playoffs. The feeling of seeing the Cubs in the postseason was fantastic, but short lived to say the least.
We forgave them and braced ourselves for a let down in 1999.
In 2003, falling just a few outs short of the first World Series appearance since 1945, we felt the most disappointment in recent history. We didn't protect ourselves, by tagging them World Series favorites in 2004.
Once again, our hearts were broken, but we forgave them, even though 2005 and 2006 were lousy seasons also.
2007 and 2008 were much of the same, though the first time since 1906-1908 they made the playoffs in back to back years. Our hearts were shattered two years straight come October.
There is a big difference though, which I have learned over the past couple years. We forgave them for 2007, but I don't think we have for 2008.
Over the past two weeks, I have spent a substantial part of my free time at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN. Only a short drive from Chicago, I have met a lot of Cubs fans, young and old.
One guy was irritated that the Cubs did not sign Adam Dunn. His argument was that his on-base percentage and home run total even out his inability to be an adequate right fielder in Wrigley, his horrendous batting average, and his lack of speed.
He quickly called me a "moron" when I said that Adam Dunn would have been a worse pick-up than Milton Bradley. He had yet to hear my argument. I said that while Dunn will get on base at around .400 (as does Bradley), he would clog the bases.
See, Adam Dunn is normally trotting around the bases or stopping at first. We don't have Jason Marquis to pinch-run for him once a game anymore.
After being dubbed the biggest "moron" at the casino, we proceeded to talk about Milton Bradley.
At this point, I was completely comfortable speaking my mind. I am already the biggest moron, so what do I have to lose at this point. Come to find out, you can do a lot worse than being the biggest moron.
With my major points being that the upside of Bradley, despite his past, is much higher than any outfielder they could have signed (outside of Manny Ramirez possibly). His ability, just like Dunn, to reach base is outstanding. The bigger plus, though fewer home runs, are more doubles.
Bradley, if (while a big if) healthy, could be a guy to hit 25 home runs, 40 doubles and bat .315 with a .400+ on base percentage. Not only that, but he can field much better than Dunn, as well as run the bases better.
At this point, I had apparently dug myself a grave and buried myself alive.
This is when something came apparent to me. While I myself like the signing of Milton Bradley. Fans are just fed up with not being first.
A lot of people were happy with the Cliff Floyd signing at the time. They also liked when we traded for Nomar. We also endured their continued injury plagued seasons.
We went through 10 years of Kerry Wood being in and out of rehab and on and off the disabled list. We saw one of our own, who was projected to be one of the best pitchers of our generation, fall from earth, in Mark Prior.
We hate injuries. We hate losing. We just want a World Series Championship, so we do not have to defend our loyalty to the Cubs anymore.
To me, this is fantastic. While I myself have loved the Cubs the same each year (I got the '60s logo tattoo on my shoulder back in 2005), I am happy that we are more critical now. We no longer settle for less just because we are Cubs fans.
We love being NL Central Champions, but that is no longer enough.
In 2009, nothing less than a World Series trophy will satisfy. I think when I say that, I am speaking for Cubs fans in general.
If you are drinking while reading this, please put your glass in the air and say,
"Cheers, to the day we are no longer known as the "Lovable Losers."