Brian Batty 11/18/14
This is what I signed up for when I was 9 years old. When I made the conscious decision (with a little help from Glenallen Hill) to become a fan of the Chicago Cubs, hopelessness is what I chose as path of my life.
I grew up in a Cubs household. My Dad never missed a game, and my mother bless her heart sat right there at his side whenever she could. I watched my dad go through about 28 completely separate emotions for three hours every single afternoon. At least that’s how I remember it. To make matter worse, I fancied myself a Yankee fan.
I know I know, at that point in my life I became the worst possible baseball fan that anyone can possibly be, a Yankee fan outside of New York. But I promise you I had some legitimate reasons for this. I was the starting catcher on a little league team that won the World Series with the name “Yankees” plastered across the front of the jersey. What was a 7 year old supposed to do? I experienced being a champion at a seriously young age and it’s pretty amazing I turned out as normal as I did. Usually child stars find themselves sucked into a world of sex, drugs, and rock an roll by the time they hit their 20’s. Luckily, and possibly because it was still at the point where the coaches were pitching to the kids, I was able to fight through the adversity and become the person I am today
That all changed on the day I went to Wrigley Field for the first time when I was 8 years old. It was a chilly, windy day in Chicago when the Cubs faced off against the Reds in what would amount to an absolutely meaningless game in the standings, but changed my life forever. Former Cub great (had to) Glenallen HIll hit two home runs that day, one of which I’m pretty sure didn’t land until the day I graduated high school. The second of those two eventually turned out to be the difference in a 3-2 Cubs win and I was instantly hooked. It took me about 3.8 seconds of leaving that stadium to be completely immersed in the world of being a Cubs fan
Fast forward to 2014 and nothings changed. Well, I’m a little taller and definitely not 100% convinced I’m going to be a Major League 2nd basemen, but other than that everything’s the same. The Cubs have only been to the playoffs four times in my lifetime (98, 03, 07, 08) and broke my heart roughly 4,000 times during that same time. I don’t think there is any other species on earth that had endured losing quite like a Cubs fan.
We’re the easiest target in sports. There may as well be a “kick-me” sign taped to our backs. We haven’t won a World Series since, well you know how effing long it’s been I don’t need to remind anyone. And during that time there really aren’t that many “we were so close” moments along the way. It’s just kind of been a lot of losing. Like, a lot of losing. You want to know what hell on earth is for a sports fan, try living in the South side of Chicago in 2005.
2000-goddamn-5. That freaking year. In 2005 the Chicago White Sox won it all and EVERY SINGLE WHITE SOX FAN THAT DIDN’T EXIST BEFORE AND DOESN’T EXIST NOW GOT THEIR TWO CENTS IN. When I say got their two cents in, what I really mean is they enjoyed the experience of laughing at Cubs fans more than they enjoyed their team actually winning. I heard the two word combination of “Cubs suck” more often than I heard the bell ring at the end of class in high school. And in the least stunning turn of events of all time, White Sox fans barely exist anymore. There’s actually a new exhibit in the Field Museum that gives the history of White Sox fans when they existed from 2005-2008. Only eight people have showed up so far, but hey, the “Cubs suck”.
When Theo Epstein was hired from Boston in 2011 it represented a lot of things. Here’s a guy that took the Boston Red Sox to the promised land not once, BUT TWICE! When I heard the news, and what I gathered from most Cub fans that I know, I didn’t even necessarily feel excitement, it was more of a calming feeling. I felt good. It brought me to a good place in my baseball fandom. I knew deep down in my heart that this was a guy that knew what he was doing. He knows how to build a winning baseball team because he’s done it before in the only place comparable to the North side of Chicago.
In just three years he took an incredibly underwhelming farm system and turned it into the envy of baseball GMs everywhere. Guys like Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Hendricks have come into our lives with talent spilling out of their butts. He tore everything down and rebuilt it from scratch and what has come out of it is a shining beacon of light that’s drawing all of Cubdom in like mosquito’s.
Then, the big one. Joe Maddon was hired on November 3rd, it became official. That hope, that dangerous, somewhat frightening word that Cubs fans have held onto for years, has become a real and vivacious part of my life. What Joe Maddon, and Theo, and all these young kids really bring is just that; hope.
Before Maddon, before Theo, Cubs fans were just Red from Shawshank Redemption, waxing poetic to Andy saying things like “Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” Now? Nowadays we’re gallivanting around town like we just crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness you can’t even imagine, spewing things like “Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”. That’s right Andy, maybe hope is a good thing.