I’m not a sports person. I don’t play them, I don’t watch them, I don’t understand what the big deal is. Except for one sport and one team.
When you grow up the daughter of a Cubs’ fan, in a long line of Cubs’ fans, you are a Cubs’ fan. My great-grandmother memorized and recited Cubs’ player stats to my Dad. His enthusiasm for the team led him to ditch school and bum enough money to catch a ride on the “L” downtown to the game where he’d get a hot dog and peanuts and hang out for an afternoon. He raised me on stories of Ernie Banks. And when I got old enough, he’d take me and my sister out of school for Cubs games too.
Sanctioned school skipping is a guaranteed way to become a fan for life. But if that wasn’t enough, I’ll never forget the first time I saw Wrigley Field. You come out of the tunnels, up on to the field and there it is all laid out before you, and I’d never seen anything more beautiful in my life. I loved the spring days we’d spend there. Shivering in the nosebleed section, peeling peanuts with icicle fingers. I love the sunny afternoons in the bleachers, sweating in the sun and watching for fly balls.
I haven’t been a good fan over the years, haven’t stuck with the sport enough to know what’s going on. I shared my dad’s paranoia that the more invested you got the more you doomed them to failure. I loved them from afar.
But there is something to being a Cubs’ fan in a line of Cubs’ fans that sinks in to your life, even day to day.
Cubs’ fans have hope like you can’t explain. Some years the disappointment almost chokes them when they say it. But they believe “next year” just might be the year. I’ve heard my Dad call them “bums” and every other old-timey insult under the sun, but even though they’ve lost all of his 60+ years on earth, there is a glint in his eye, and an excited tapping of his foot when he says “next year.”
Despite over a hundred years of losing, Cubs’ fans have hope. It’s not romantic, it’s not cynical, it’s just hope. It’s a simple, clean expression of their love. These fans are patient, they are long-suffering, they are eternally hopeful, and impossibly loyal.
I’ve never been embarrassed about being a Cubs’ fan, or being related to a fanatical Cubs’ fan. It’s a badge of honor believing in the unbelievable and hoping for the impossible. I’ve always been proud that my Dad rooted for the ultimate underdogs. I’ve been proud of that legacy he gave me.
And for once in my life the Cubs winning the World Series on November 3, 2016 is the one and only time I can truly understand what the big deal is.
This was the “next year”.