Tuesday, August 05, 2008
The Chicago Cubs and Mental Health
If you're a Cub fan, about this time of year, traditionally, you're sad.
You're a member of that big extended Chicago Family of Cub fans, the Sad Family. By early August, without fail, the Cubs have bombed whatever potential they've had for winning a baseball championship. So it goes, we say, but we're still sad.
Back in the fifties, when I was a kid, we had a black and white television set. It took years before we moved up to color, but it wasn't a big deal. You didn't really need color to watch the Cubs, and the Cubs were on television every day! Those were the days when Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, hit more homers than anyone in the majors, including Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron.
I don't follow them closely anymore, but I do follow the emotions of Chicagoans, and I can tell you that one of the problems with being a Cub fan is that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. They're forever ending the season either in the basement or a step or two above it.
It has been 63 years since the Cubs have played in a World Series (1945), one hundred years since they have won one (1908). In one hundred and one years, the Cubs have only won eight times Major League pennants (1907, 1908, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945.) Not a one in my lifetime.
And now there seems to be a chance.
This may be it. The curse may have lifted. North Siders are saying, THIS IS IT! WHAT A TEAM! WE'RE GOING ALL THE WAY!
It amazes me how a team represents a city, how We become the team.
The team is good? We're good. The team is bad? We're bad, too. This is irrational, but it is what it is, which is some form of blurred identity disorder.
Chicago is a city divided, which adds to the confusion. Madison at State Street, downtown, officially divides us. South of Madison Street? The South Side. North of Madison? The North Side. And our two major league ball teams represent the sides, as if the city itself is two cities. The Chicago White Sox work the South Side; the Chicago Cubs, the North Side.
Never the twain shall meet, mutual enmity on both sides of the line. You really can't be a fan of both the Cubs and the Sox or you're suspect, a politician. You have no real understanding of life, or conflict. You are in Disneyland.
Me, being in Disneyland and a North Sider, have tried very hard to like the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago South Side team. My mother told me to like everyone. And after all, the Sox are a Chicago team, and I'm from Chicago.
Surely I must cheer for the Sox over the New York Mets! But when I do, when I speak positively about the White Sox, if I say, for example, that I like the South Side team, I get looks from people, looks that say, Who are you to sing Sox praises? Who are you to cheer for them? You're a Cub fan. Your address tells us who you are. Don't be a pretender. Deal.
This year people talk about a Subway Series. The Red Line connects the North Side to the South Side, the South Side to the North Side. People use the train to get to work, school, and the ball games.
So if the S_ _ win one pennant (I'm afraid to say the name out loud, not together with the W word, for I still like both teams, I don't care what anyone says), and the C_ _ _ (ditto) win the other pennant, then the two teams could play against one another in the World Series in October.
Some of us, the more neurotic Chicago baseball fans, or just the more neurotic, are really afraid to speak this possibility out loud for fear of jinxing the teams. People reading this right now are thinking, You're already jinxing them! It will be all your fault if either the Cubs or the Sox blow the pennant!
I respect this, but recognize that this is coming from deep-seated confusion and anxiety. Chicagoans are not used to feeling good about the Cubs this time of year. Feeling good is a foreign feeling, surreal, strange to North Siders in August. We've had positive feelings like this in May, even in June or early July, in years past. But they have never lasted this long. And the team has a roster of baseball greats, gorgeous, talented young men (K"H) including Derrick Lee, Alfonse Soriano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano.
We're freaking out! We're so scared of disappointment, we're losing weight!
Nobody's counting their chickens, but I'm telling it honest. When the Cubs have a great night, when We inch a little closer, when We sweep a double header, people come into my office, sit down, look up at me slowly with shy smiles and whisper, "Did you hear?"
And I'll go, "I know, I know. Don't say it."
We're used to the Sox winning. They just won a World Series in 2005. But not the Cubs. The Cubs don't win. Cubs don't get to the World Series, don't get that far. But this year, We might. There really doesn't appear to be another team on the horizon that can take US.
Now if this happens, if the C_ _ _ win the pennant and even, dare We even think it, go on to the World Series, Chicago will be one very mentally healthy place. I will probably be out of business. I guess that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but it's exactly the kind of thing that I want to happen. I would be okay with this, the C- - - in the World Series. We really need a respite from chronic loss, our hearts can't take it anymore.
We need the unbeatable plus column, that reason for cheers and celebration, fireworks.
Of course, should there be a Subway Series, I'm predicting violence and insanity, mayhem on the Red Line, gangbangers shooting guns into the outfield.
Someone get me tickets.