Here it comes, the beginning of the end.
That is what a virtual plethora of Cub fans are feeling right now.
We long-standing backers of the boys in white and blue pinstripes, these are the moments we fear, but have become all too accustomed too.
For in the midst of what seems a remarkable season, we have been too well trained to not get too caught up.
We want to go along for the ride, but the dogged itch is right there, waiting to emerge and distract us, if just for a second.
In the past, it may have been lightning in a bottle, a short burst that suddenly creates hallowed expectations, '89, '98 and '03 were like that.
Teams that not a whole lot was expected of, suddenly were there, in the postseason.
But the shock and surprise were so abundant, that as heartbreaking as the ends were, the means kept us going.
It's not as if, from the first pitch of those seasons we KNEW we had a team capable of getting into the playoffs, so nothing over the top was vested.
We were going through a season of faithfully watching our favorite team, without a whole lot of hope, but happy for any success.
Suddenly, the success exceeded anyone's expectations, and here we were, thrust into sudden hopes.
That they were dashed, in '89, not that big of a deal.
In '98, not much more.
But by '03, they got so much closer, had suddenly appeared so indomitable, that the expectations, hopes and heartbreak became almost a bit too much to bear.
In '69, I only know through reading, as I was a grand total of one at the time, we had a legendary manager, a stacked lineup and lights out pitching staff.
Sure the barren history was there, but not so much as it is now.
That it was such a catastrophic collapse in the waning weeks of the season, I can only imagine the die-hards were appalled to the point of thnking White Castle wasn't a good after-bar stop.
In '84, it wasn't a mindset from the get-go, but it was created early on, that this was a balanced and dominant team, offensively and defensively, that had a real chance.
Of course, then, the 'streak' was only at the 76-year anniversary mark, so of course we weren't quite as fervent as we now are.
We had just come out of the late '70s, where hope was such a foreign concept.
But so here we are again.
We didn't come into the season, right off the bat, thinking that this was THE team.
But it didn't take long for us to think so.
I tried my best, throughout the season, to relish each win, to cherish each game above .500 the team was...appreciating how balanced this team was.
To finally have dismissed the 'nothing but slugger' mentality that caused so many other teams to be doomed before they even started.
Many times I've gotten giddy this summer, seeing and realizing just how good this years team actually is.
But of course, they are our Cubs, needing to twist our stomachs into a pretzel, saving their longest losing streak of the season until September.
While the mathematics of things tell us that it's a next-to impossible scenario for the Cubs to not even make the postseason, for we who have been apart of it for so long, we know that next-to impossible, when it comes to dashing hopes, is somewhat the norm.
We could almost, almost, stomach a three-game home sweep to the Astros.
After all, they have been hot, and if they were in the NL West, they'd be in first place.
But then going on the road to face a Cincinnati team that has been out of it since last October and has traded away its major talent, and get literally clobbered by a 10-2 score - well, that sort of thing has a way of magnifying things even more.
The Cubs are losing in a way they haven't all year, stumbling down the stretch and looking more and more pathetic each day.
Cub fans, meanwhile, are coughing, gasping, saying the right things but feeling others, or just blatantly letting go of that last grasp of hope.
As impossible as it might seem, in both cases, none of it should be a surprise.