Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Being A Cubs Fan...

Hello, my name is Thomas Galicia, and I’m a Chicago Cubs fan.

It all started when I was a baby. It was 1984 (I was born in 1983) and the Cubs were enjoying their best season since 1969. My father was raised in Chicago and fell in love with the team at a young age. My mom had moved around but ended up moving with my dad to Chicago in the mid 70s when he attended college, and she got sucked into the bug too. That I was born a year before what would be the Cubs best season was either a good omen or a bad omen.

In 1984, the Cubs won the National League East with an impressive 96-65 record. Even more impressive was on their heels were the up and coming New York Cocaine is a hell of drug Mets led by phenom Doc Gooden, the always tough St. Louis Cardinals, and defending NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The team was led by MVP second baseman Ryne Sandberg and mid-season acquisition and Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe. They lead the National League in Runs scored and were second in attendance, a feat that the Florida Marlins will never, ever achieve.

Everything seemed to be going right for the Cubs that year, but of course, they’re the Cubs.
When Leon Durham failed to field that groundball in the NLCS against the Padres, I cried. Hell, if there was a doody in my diaper or I was hungry I would’ve cried even if the Cubs won because, I was barely a year old. But from that moment, I was hooked. I was always watching games with my dad, and they were always on because Miami didn’t have a baseball team, our cable company piped in WGN, and games that usually weren’t on WGN were on NBC. However after 1984, they wouldn’t regain the magic touch they had that year. No playoff appearances until 1989.

After losing in five in 1989, it would be almost a full decade until the Cubs got back to the Promised Land. In between that time, we saw the best pitcher in baseball leave the Cubs for Atlanta because the Cubs didn’t even offer him a contract (because trying to keep a Cy Young winning pitcher in his prime and building your team around him is never a good decision), a strike that cancelled the World Series, four baseball teams added in Denver (the Rockies), Phoenix (Diamondbacks), St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay Rays), and of course my hometown of Miami (Marlins, and yes I know, each team has reached the World Series while the Cubs haven’t), the rise and fall of Canseco, the end of the concrete ashtray stadium era thanks to Camden Yards in Baltimore, and of course, about ten billion Tony LaRussa pitching changes.
During that time, I also kind of committed a crime. After seeing on opening day 1997 that the Marlins had a shot at winning the World Series while the Cubs had a shot of starring in Bad News Bears, All Grown Up, I latched onto the Marlins that year. Yes, Tommy became a bandwagoner. Thankfully God works in mysterious ways, like having the first ever dismantling of a World Champion the same year that one Kerry Wood came into my life.

You really had to be there to appreciate 1998 Kerry Wood. The 20 year old fireball throwing Texan was just bigger than life. Nothing intimidated this guy, he not only threw fast, but he had balls too. On top of that, he carried himself with more swag than any Cubs pitcher had in my lifetime. (Maddox was more methodical, nothing really much in the swag department.) I still remember where I was and what I was doing when Woody struck out 20 Astros, just an incredible afternoon.

Then came June, and Sosa hit 20 home runs in one month. Now I know steroids played a huge part in it, but please remember he wasn’t the only one using, and there were pitchers using too. Sosa competed with McGwire for the Home Run crown, the Cubs were in contention, and just like that, the franchise was hooked to the juvenation machine. It ended with a tie breaker against Barry and the Giants (managed by Dusty, more on him later) where we defeated them and went to the post season to take on the Atlanta Braves. Yes we were swept, and yes we ended up sucking for another five years, but I was hooked.

Of course, that would be 2003, which everyone blamed Bartman for. I can’t blame Bartman for that, I refuse to. Reality is Dusty should’ve pulled Prior before that inning began. He just didn’t have anything on his fastball, and his breaking ball wasn’t breaking. He became easier than Amber and Tiffany, and everyone would have their turn. Bartman just gets the blame because, well, I’ve realized why the Cubs really haven’t won anything in over 100 years.

This curse is used as a crutch, a marketing tool, and a way to cover up incompetence. Fact is, you don’t win a World Series by signing people like Milton Bradley to $10 Million a year contracts, you don’t win a World Series by putting together teams with no semblance of chemistry, and you sure as hell don’t win a World Series by having players on the team that don’t seem to have an “EFF YOU!” mode. The 2004 Red Sox had that mode, and used it, and that’s why the Red Sox went from being a tortured, cursed team into being the team of the decade, and the team that I’d most want the Cubs to play if we make it to the World Series this year. (Ok I’ve wanted the Red Sox since I was a kid, but even more so this year because of everything that’s happened since 2004, and so that Albie and I can have a reason to talk shit to each other and make stupid bets that involve drinking.)

The curse sells t-shirts, making a cottage industry around Wrigley that stimulates the economy better than any stimulus package, but most importantly, it takes the responsibility off the people who are in charge. Truth is the law of averages dictates that no team should go 100 years without a world title, curse or no curse. But with bad management, That’s different. Trading Lou Brock was a historically dumb idea. Letting go of Maddox after his first Cy Young season was a stupid decision. Not trading Sosa in 2000 when the Cubs were hopelessly out of it and the whole steroid thing hadn’t happened yet for prospects that would still be helping out was stupid. Signing Milton Bradley was stupid. Trading DeRosa was stupid. Not trading Derrick Lee is so stupid that when the Cubs come down here I might bring a shit sandwich to his hotel room. I could go on and on.

At the beginning of this decade, I was so sure we’d have at least one World Series appearance. There’s still time, we’re only two games back, there’s still hope, and that’s why I still cheer for the Cubs. I’m a hopeless romantic, when I want something really bad, even if it seems like there’s no hope, I’ll still hold on to some. Some years its better than others. If they do terrible, then when Training Camp starts I’ll pour myself into the Dolphins (another hopeless case for another time). But only once in the last ten years have they been terrible (2006, Dusty’s final season). Will they win it all this year? Well, I’ll tell you next week when I do my all-star break predictions. But the fact is, part of being a Cubs fan, it’s like being a Dolphins fan, or some other aspects of my life, I just got to hold on to hope, and it will happen…am I right?

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