I expected a bachelor party. Ain't nothing like an Old Style too many and a parade of strippers to forget what just happened. Instead, there sat my family and some hippie chick with a psychiatry degree.
"We're here to help you, J.C."
They locked the doors and suddenly I had to face my lose-lose addiction to a baseball team head-on.
Millions of Americans suffer from addiction. Most need help to quit.
I sat down and buried my head in my hands. My mother removed my Cubs hat and set it on her lap. "It's okay, son."
Many Cub fans become addicted due to a phenomenon known as Cubs Optimism Addiction. COA produces a "high" of hope throughout the baseball season followed by a fit of depression, hopelessness, and self-constructed existential crisis. COA can cause an individual to express extreme irrationality, both in placing expectations and relieving the anger.
"I don't understand why I'm here. I'll be fine."
"J.C.," my brother Alex said, "you spent three hours this morning staring at preprinted World Series tickets and crying."
"I just don't understand!" I yelled, straining to hold back hysteria.
J.C. has been a fan of the Chicago Cubs since birth. His mother would often dress him in Cubs clothing while his father and older brother taught him to say "Dernier."
"We're all here today because these people have seen what this baseball team is doing to you and they want it to stop."
"Where's dad?" I asked.
"Dad is..." my sister Gwen fumbled for the words.
"Your father," said the hippie, "has agreed to a recovery stint at the local country club."
J.C.'s father would sit for hours and watch the Cubs with his son. WGN would often be left on, even between games. It served as an important "bonding" element between the father and his children.
"Your mother has something she would like to say. Do you want to hear it?"
I said nothing. I knew what was coming and I didn't want to hear it. I quickly tried to find consoling thoughts: brilliant rainbows arching over verdant Spring fields and the fact that the Cardinals and Mets didn't even make the playoffs. Such comforts have their limits.
She pulled out a stack of paper handwritten and smeared with 30 years worth of anguish. She rattled off the moments one by one and images of goats, black cats, Steve Garveys, and avid 26-year old fans haunted my conscious.
Many Cub fans suffer from delusional thoughts which cause them to redirect their ire at items unrelated to the actual game of baseball in order to rationalize their pain. Often they will go through ridiculous rituals, such as blowing up a baseball in public, in order to "cleanse" the franchise of its "curse."
"Well, what's this year's excuse?" inquires the hippie.
I struggled to make something up. "You just don't understand!" I said.
"Yes, I do," said the hippie. "I was a Cubs fan for twenty-six horrific years. I watched a complete meltdown with three Hall-of-Famers on the roster."
"Four, and it was nothing compared to what happened in '03."
"Stop!" my sister Gwen screamed and cried. "Don't you see what you're doing? It's just one endless cycle of misery, year after year."
"Face it bro'," my laconic brother Will added, "You need to find a new team."
"That's easy for you to say!"
Unlike his other siblings, J.C. has never found a convenient escape from the dreadful throes of COA. Alex wisely said no to baseball years ago, instead opting for high-flown magazines, restaurant ownership, and men. Will moved to Baltimore and became an Orioles fan, which isn't nearly as habit-forming as Cubs sorrow. Gwen married a White Sox fan and paradoxically found a healthy balance for her household. J.C. was left to talk to his father and thus the two fed off each others' habits and thoughts.
"It's just every year, you think is the year. Every time you go back to the park you think this is the one, this is going to be when they end it and they start laughing at the rest of baseball. Hell, it happened for Boston, why not us, right?"
J.C. was dating a die-hard Red Sox fan in 2004. Fully trusting in the notion of curses, he hoped to reap physical benefits when the inevitable breakdown happened and she looked for comfort. He tried repeating the gesture in 2005, when he somehow found a White Sox fan. His sense of optimism has since boomed for the Cubs.
"You need to face the facts," said Alex. "The Cubs are not a good baseball franchise. You can't go pinning your hopes on them every year. This isn't healthy."
"But they were 97-64!"
We rambled on about the differences between healthy and dangerous fan behaviors. I had never realized the line was so thin, and that maybe our obsessing over jinxes and curses had placed a self-fulfilling prophecy upon us as a group, that maybe we spun ourselves into crises to arouse pity and all sorts of other psychiatric voodoo baloney.
"You've tried to quit the team before, your family tells me." I sat there in silence.
"Twice," Gwen said. "Once in '99 and again in '04."
"So you knew you had a problem?"
"I think I realized that the team was flawed and that it was bad to support them with this continual hope that I have, that I needed to look at things more rationally."
Cub fans have a continual slogan, "Wait 'til next year," which constantly justifies losing while providing justification for their continued involvement.
We talked it over and I realized that the three-game collapse this year wasn't entirely fate biting the Cubs in the proverbial behind yet again.
They convinced me there's nothing necessarily wrong with liking the Cubs, just that sometimes it promotes an unhealthy building of emotion and optimism that extends beyond rational boundaries only to be crushed again, sinking lower than normal lows and manifesting enemies.
I needed to step out of the Cubs box and watch baseball for the game it is, they said.
"The other day you were yelling at a copy of Sports Illustrated for putting the Cubs on the front cover."
"I know," I conceded.
I agreed to a recovery plan to free me of my addiction to COA. I would be forced to go two months with no baseball media whatsoever. Slowly, the game could be reintroduced to me, but only if I disassociated myself from any potentially harmful agents.
"You could have hit rock bottom," the hippie said. She explained horror stories of Cubs fans burning all their memorabilia to rid the curse, addicts looking up Steve Bartman, and people breaking into Wrigley to use in shrines to Frank Chance.
Any "wait 'til next year" utterings have to be reported immediately. No more moping. No more reading of literature the sole existence of which is communal moaning and groaning. My Harry Carey "CUBS WIN!" clock had to go.
I had to be rational in my thoughts about the Cubs or baseball in general.
We just can't take it anymore, they explained to me, the year-in-year-out vicious cycle of mania and depression caused by COA. Be a Pirates fan and be morose all the time, or be a Cardinals fan, win and overachieve. Just end this monster, they said.
The Cubs needed to a regular ol' baseball team and not an experiment in communal manic depression, they said.
Perhaps I really should try.
J.C. has been free of any irrational words of optimism or doom regarding the Cubs for twenty-two hours and three minutes.
A full-blown relapse is expected sometime next March.
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