Just…please. Don’t let the Dodgers be next.
There Was No Curse – Just Crappy Management
In the middle of Game 7 of the World Series, with the Cubs up a few runs, my wife asked me why I am rooting for Cleveland. The reasons are two-fold: (1) to avoid a repeat of the obnoxious Red Sox fans that emerged after 2004 (you can already see it with all the crisply new Cubs hats and shirts all over SF the last month) and (2) to keep with my long standing policy to minimize happiness of a fan base other than my own. Here, Cleveland fans are fewer than Cubs fans, and many of them just got a title in the NBA, so their increased happiness would have been considerably less than Chicago’s increased happiness if the Cubs win.
She thought both reasons are ridiculous and said, “So you don’t like rooting for the underdog.” NO! NO NO NO! The Cubs are NOT the underdog and slap anyone who thinks they are (except my wife, don’t you dare lay a finger on her precious head!). First, they won 103 games this year. That’s a very good team who was absolutely the favorite to win the World Series when the playoffs began. But more importantly, as Albert Burneko delightfully points out, the Cubs are The Death Star, they’ve just really, really, really sucked at it. They are a big market team in a huge, great city. They have a massive fanbase, probably second only to the Yankees.
“The reason the Cubs are not the Yankees of the National League is not that they can’t be or have been too honorable or sweet-natured for it; it’s that they’ve sucked at trying. They’re the Yankees, minus competence. If their myriad squanderings of all that comes with being one of America’s most profitable and popular sports franchises make them the scrappy little guy, then Billy friggin’ Bush, who likewise has done nothing much with vast undeserved advantages, is a scrappy little guy. Rooting for the Cubs to win the World Series isn’t—has never been—rooting for Charlie Brown to finally kick the football; it’s rooting for the Death Star to finally blow up the Rebel base. Congratulations! The Rebellion is in ashes now. You did it! The sun has not shined on a dog’s ass. The sun has shined on an extremely rich ballclub that spent a century pretending to be a dog’s ass to excuse the smell.”
YES. Exactly. The Cubs sucked because their management sucked. They had a huge fanbase and made more money than Scrooge McDuck, and they squandered it (or, quite possibly, didn’t give a crap if they won if winning meant spending more money).
Also, nothing has driven me more crazy over the past days and weeks than people saying Cubs fans have been waiting since 1908. Let’s be clear, there are NO Cubs fans who have been waiting since 1908. That would make that person 113 years old, if you assume they can remember 1908 if they were five at the time. Second, the majority of Cubs fans they show celebrating are in their 20s-40s. Those people have waited 15-35 years, not 108. Plenty of teams’ fanbases wait that long, and longer. The Indians, for example, who have been waiting since 1948. No one seems to care about the Indians fans, who just suffered a gut wrenching loss – blowing a 3-1 series lead, with the final two games AT HOME, even after staging an amazing comeback late in Game 7. I feel you, Cleveland, I feel you. As for the Cubs fans – those of you who cheered for Cubs fans, remember that when they are obnoxious after winning a second or third title and become the new Yankees/Red Sox fans. It’s not your fault, but you should feel bad. -TOB
Source: “The Cubs Don’t Have to Pretend to be Loveable Losers Anymore”, Albert Burneko, Deadspin (11/03/2016)
PAL: I like the heat, TOB. Burneko nails it: “Losing does not automatically bestow charm; underachievement does not make an underdog.”
You know who else nails it? The Dude:
While losing might not bestow charm, and while underachievement doesn’t make an underdog, I think those 108 are felt by a true fan that’s 30. In fact, this very sentiment seems to be at the heart of what makes another featured story this week so touching. “Sports is about family, about passing something down to the next generation.” If sports is about passing something down to the next generation, I think that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. We inherit a team and its lore.
Now, I can’t be certain, but I bet TOB will have a response to my response, so let’s delay that response with a little story.
I ate dinner next to Clint Eastwood Wednesday night on Piedmont Ave. At first there was literally an empty chair between us. Then a friend joined his group, sitting right next to me. The friend overheard me talking about Game 7, and he said, “Don’t tell me!” I thought it was my in to talk baseball with Eastwood’s friend, then Eastwood would join in, compliment my beard and baseball acumen, and give me a firm handshake. I’d squeeze his hand harder, asserting my youthful dominance.
TOB: For Big Lebowski quotes, I’ve always preferred:
The Cubs spent 108 years getting eaten. It’s about time they grew up and ate back.
The Good Stuff That Comes with Winning
These are the kind of heartwarming stories that emerge when a team and its fans have gone lifetimes without winning anything.
Outside of Wrigley, a makeshift memorial has taken shape. Fans are writing the names of lost loved ones in chalk on a brick wall.
“I don’t exactly know what the point is,” one fan said (in the original story Deadspin references). “But it feels good to come here today, make them a part of it.”
Sports fandom, at its best, is a worn path walked between friends and family covering distances of lifetimes. As Barry Petchesky articulates – “Sports is about family, about passing something down to the next generation. In the case of Cubs fans, that something was necessarily hope.”
Drink it in, Cubs fans. Word of advice: Watch out for the newcomers. They’re usually wearing either pink hats or crisp “retro” jerseys. We all know the real fans rock the faded t-shirt jerseys. – PAL
Source: “This One’s For All The Cubs Fans Who Didn’t Live Long Enough To See It”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (11/03/2016)
TOB: This is, indeed, a very cool thing. And I do mean that. It gave me goosebumps. But I must ask again: why are Cubs fans special? In the article, Petchesky says, “This experience, very specific to Cubs fans, has universal lessons.” NO. Why is this “very specific to Cubs fans”? After a certain amount of time, say, two generations, it’s a long ass time to root for a team and not win a title. The Indians fans have been waiting since 1948. So many Indians fans lived and died without seeing their team win a title. And unlike Cubs fans, the entire city of Cleveland went without a title, in three sports, from 1964 until 2016 – a span of 147 team seasons. That’s incredible. In that time, Chicago sports fans celebrated multiple titles for the Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks (and, even, the White Sox). What has gotten on my nerves over the last few weeks is this specific thought: that Cubs fans are somehow special; that they somehow deserve it more. As Phil’s recent dinner companion said in Unforgiven: “Deserve’s got nothin to do with it.”
But if we’re going to go soft, I prefer this Deadspin compilation of old people celebrating the Cubs finally winning the World Series. My three favorites, this sweet old guy, who is shaking he’s so excited:
And this guy drinking this Coors Banquet beer he’d kept since 1984, when the Cubs blew a 2-0 lead in the then best-of-5 NLCS to the Padres. It’s so old, the damn thing has a pull tab!
And finally, the real MVP:
Alright, fine. I’m happy for THOSE Cubs fans, and all the non-bandwagoners who sat through lousy season after lousy season. I know the feeling. And with that, can the god damn Bears win a god damn Rose Bowl before I die, so that Joe Kapp can drink some god damn tequila?
Ted Williams’ Greatest Contribution to Baseball
Last player to hit .400. .482 on base percentage…for his career (19 years). .344 career batting average. 521 home runs. Throw in WWII and Korean War fighter pilot, and Ted Williams left one hell of a legacy.
(Read the next part in the 30 for 30 voice) But what if I told you Williams most far-reaching legacy is not what he did on the field of play or battle?
In 1971 Williams’ book, The Science of Hitting, was released, and his philosophies have influenced generations of greats, including Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Gwynn, Jason Giambi, and likely 2016 NL MVP, Kris Bryant. The book, considered a second bible in Massachusetts, is considered well ahead of its time.
“The first thing you looked at with the book was that in all its simplicity, with everything hand drawn, it was incredibly complex,” Mike Bryant said (Kris Bryant’s dad, a hitting instructor in Las Vegas). “My first impression is, this is not just see it, hit it — monkey see, monkey do. It was very hard for me to understand because it was geometry and trigonometry and angles and all that stuff, and the way I was taught was very different.”
Big League hitting instructors, players, and GMs all remember drawings and charts of the book fondly, but recent technology has proven Williams’ theories correct, so this isn’t just hero worship. There’s no room for that when the difference between an All-Star, multi-million dollar player and a career minor leaguer is 5 percentage points over the course of 500 at-bats. – PAL
Source: “Kris Bryant Takes Lessons From Ted Williams’s Batting Bible”, Billy Witz, New York Times (10/30/2016)
TOB: Godddd, I have been ripping the Cubs to shreds, and so this feels like piling on but I could NOT help but point out this line from pretty-faced, dumb-as-rocks, Kris-with-a-K Bryant. When asked about the book, that we just read paragraph after paragraph about how Kris-with-a-K’s dad introduced him to in order to teach him his swing, Kris-with-a-K says:
“I don’t really like to read. My dad’s the one that does the reading for me and presents the research (Ed. Note: “research” hahaha) to me when I need it. It wasn’t a book that I read; it was more of a teaching tool that my dad used. Obviously, he’s read it a jillion times.”
Oh, to be young, dumb, rich, and handsome. What a life he leads. Also, if you don’t think I didn’t just order that book on Amazon, then YOU DON’T KNOW ME, HOMEY.
Video of the Week
Song of the Week: Traveling Wilburys – “End Of The Line”
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