by Jeff Siegel
In 1969, I was 11, and the Cubs broke my heart, when they collapsed down the stretch and the New York Mets won the National League East.
In 1984, I was 26, and the Cubs broke my heart, when they lost the National League championship series to the San Diego Padres, courtesy of a ground ball that went through first baseman Leon Durham’s legs.
In 2003, I was 45, and the Cubs broke my heart, when they lost the National League championship series to the Florida Marlins, because their two best pitchers couldn’t get anyone out when it counted.
This year, I’m 50, and I’m fully prepared for the Cubs to break my heart again.
The North Siders begin post-season play today (Oct. 1), hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’re favorites to win this series, and they should be favored to win the next playoff series and they should represent the National League in the World Series. Which, of course, the Cubs have not won since 1908.
Cubs fans are giddy. My brother, Jim, who still lives in Chicago, reports that “the Cub mania surrounding the city is obnoxious. I guess people need something to take their minds off the really important stuff.” (He had his heart broken in 1969, too. He just hides it better than I do.)
In one respect, Jim is right. The world that those of us who grew up with at the end of the Baby Boom, our American Century, is ending, to be replaced with who knows what. All of the things that we took for granted — good jobs, a college education, our own homes — aren’t guaranteed any more. But at least we still have the Cubs.
It’s very easy to do what the writer Philip Roth once described as the intellectualization of baseball; that is, to pontificate about how important sports is to the American cultural psyche. His point, and this comes from a major American novelist who wrote a book about baseball, is that we make sports more important than they really are, because it’s so much fun to do. I took a seminar in college called Baseball and the Rise of the American Middle Class. Don’t you think the professor enjoyed teaching that more than his usual history classes?
Which means that, regardless of what the Cubs do, the world won’t end. The economy will still be a mess, the election will still be on Nov. 4, and people will still be starving.
And yet, having lost for so long, wouldn’t it be nice to win just once? Al Yellon, who runs a Cubs blog called Bleed Cubbie Blue, wrote today that “I don't think it boasting to say that the 2008 Cubs should be at the very least, favored to get there, if not win everything. Do I know how I'll feel when it happens? Not for certain.”
I know what you mean, Al.
For more posts about the Cubs, please see:
(The photo shows shortstop Joe Tinker of the 1908 Chicago Cubs. The photo is from the Library of Congress and in the public domain. The Library of Congress asks that it be cited as: SDN-054302, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, from the Chicago Historical Society.)
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by Jeff Siegel