It isn't easy being a Cubs fan.
Everyone who knows baseball knows that.
Everyone who can count to one hundred knows that.
The Cubs' misfortune isn't just unlucky, it's cruel.
It's like that sign that restaurants and bars love to hang on their walls which reads: "Free Beer Tomorrow." Most patrons understand the joke. Tomorrow never comes. Don't forget your wallet.
The Cubs have a similar sign that reads: "Wait 'Til Next Year."
The problem with the comparison? For other teams, next year finally did come. And for Cubs fans, it isn't funny.
I originally wrote those words in November 2008 as the introduction to my first-ever piece of sports journalism. At the time, they epitomized the melancholy feeling that sinks deeper within me every October.
It seems that they also typify how the lives of Cubs fans are perceived by the rest of the baseball-loving world.
Every offseason we build up next year as being the year. Every April we watch with eyes wide open, thinking that we may be gazing upon history in the making.
Every May through September the track of our lives resembles the roller coaster of a season that we're put through.
By October, reality strikes again. It strikes our gut. It strikes our heart. It strikes our soul.
It's a sort of voluntary torture.
I have no problem with that perception, mainly because it's entirely true. Well, at least it's true for me.
I do have a problem with the question that follows.
Why do we put such faith in an organization that's a perennial disappointment? Why do we think that this year, or any other year, will be any different than those that have preceded it? Why do we continue this relationship that only a masochist could possibly enjoy?
Why not save ourselves from the annual heartbreak?
I can't speak for everyone, but the only response that I can muster is this: what's the alternative?
The Cubs are my team. They have been my team for as long as I can remember.
Am I going to find happiness by spending every moment we're ahead contemplating how it will turn for the worse? Will I find it by saying "I told you so" after every failure? Will abandoning my team really protect myself from heartache?
And what happens when they do win it all? How would that feel?
If you spent the entire year planning their demise, could you really enjoy the win? Any argument you might have for being a fan in any sense of the word would be tenuous at best. How would it feel to be left out of the celebration?
Or maybe you just stayed "realistic" and didn't get your hopes up. Wouldn't the victory ring hollow?
Even if they never come close again and you get to say your "I told you so's" for the rest of your life, won't there always be that emptiness that comes with never putting yourself out there?
I know people who are this way. They are some of the unhappiest people I know and it's entirely their own fault.
You want to feel sorry for us? Fine, go ahead.
You want to know how we do it? Maybe we can explain it to you, if we even know.
In reality, it's no different for Cubs fans than it is for any other group of fans. Only one of the 30 teams can win it in a given year.
But whatever you do, don't question why we do it.
I'm sticking with these guys, no matter what the results are.
They may cause me some headaches from time to time, but the benefits have always outweighed the damages.
It's just one of those things: if you don't know, you won't know. And I feel very sorry for those that don't.
It's a really great feeling.
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