My sad friend Jerry

I realize it seems like an awfully suspicious coincidence that the Cubs disappeared at about the same time my blog did last week, but I can assure you one has nothing to do with the other.

I can say this because while I grew up in the northern suburbs surrounded by Cubs fans, I was, by birth, a White Sox fan and therefore have never been privy to that particular brand of angst.

Other kinds of angst, for sure. But not that. And so I have observed each season as the Cubs created new and usually exciting forms of losing with a mixture of awe and yes, empathy for my fellow Chicago fans. It’s not that I haven’t, at various times of my life, been wracked with frustration over the Sox or the Bears, the Bulls or the Hawks. But no one knows despair like that of the Cubs fan.

If I had any doubt of this, my friend Jerry pretty much convinced me with a recent e-mail that both moved me and made me want to get him professional help. The Cubs were in mid-freefall last week and he was giving me his opinion on their current state, which then gave way to his perspective on life as a Cubs’ fan.

I feel I must share this, in part because it is such an exquisite slice of Cubdom and in part because, if you think you have problems, this might cheer you up:

I am convinced that my entire being was shaped in 1969.  I was 13.  I was so into the Cubs and then the final couple of weeks of the season hit and my life began to change.  I firmly believe that my outlook on life was planted in those memories.
 [Jerry referring here to the Cubs’ collapse to the eventual world champion New York Mets]

I wait for the other shoe to drop.  I look at the half-empty glass and know that at any minute that glass is going to fall and break.  I know that the promise of tomorrow is all we can hold out for.  I know that yesterday was crappy, today will probably be just as bad, but tomorrow will be better.  Then tomorrow will come and it will be today and the cycle will repeat all over again.

Then we somehow got to 2003 and I remember being at the playoff games and feeling like I was kicked in the head. Too painful to go back.
[Jerry referring here to the Cubs’ collapse — just five outs short of their first World Series since 1945 — to the eventual champion Florida Marlins]

And another year goes by and another year of season tickets.  And another year of hope.  And then another “wait until next year”.  Next year will be better. 

Then next year is this year and next year will be better.  It repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats.  I can’t stop the madness.
Dr. Missy, what can I do?   
Dear Jerry,

Though I am not, by trade, a psychologist, I feel I could be one if I really wanted to be. Thus, I feel more than qualified to address your problem.
You should have pulled the plug in ’69.

I realize this is like asking most Cubs fans to have a sex-change operation even though they aren’t inclined to switch to the other gender; that it’s not that easy to change one’s orientation from birth. But something should have told you at 13 that you were headed down a dangerous and self-destructive path.

I realize that’s a tender age to make such an important determination, but just think of how your life could have been entirely different. You could have cheered for slugger Dick Allen (just don’t call him Richie)  in the early 70s; could have enjoyed the “South Side Hitmen” wearing the most hideous uniforms in the history of organized sports in the late 70s; then gloried in Tony LaRussa’s team’s “Winning Ugly” in capturing the ’83 division title.

In the 90s, you could have actually watched baseball in a sparkling new stadium (provided you didn’t try to do it from the upper-deck seats, thus contracting altitude sickness); seen some more uniforms come and go; and observed Ozzie Guillen develop from a crazed young shortstop into a crazed young manager.

And finally Jerry, in 2005, you could have celebrated a WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP. A World Series, Jerry.  That’s when the two best teams in baseball, one from the National League and one from the American League (your Chicago White Sox) meet to determine the WORLD SERIES CHAMPION.

Since you are my friend, I may have even brought you a souvenir from that series, which I not so proudly swiped from outside the winning lockerroom in Houston. You see, I knew that my brothers being Sox fans, would appreciate a little trinket of some kind. So breaking every sportswriting code and all journalistic ethics, I removed a used champagne bottle from a dumpster and smuggled it back home, still sticky and smelly and carrying germs of unknown origin.

I brought it to show to my daughter’s fifth-grade class and then I kept it because I thought it was cool and my brothers didn’t seem all that thrilled or grateful enough at the gesture. So Jerry, I probably wouldn’t have ended up giving it to you. But I may have showed it to you and then you too could have shared the thrill that my family and I experienced.
You could, on this very night, be watching the White Sox lose another heartbreaker to those no-good, nickname-stealing, bad accent Boston Red Sox. But at least the White Sox are still in the playoff hunt. Tonight, your Cubs beat one of the few teams in baseball worse than yours, the Washington Nationals, which means that despite the fact that they’re still nine games out of first place in the division with only 38 games to go, you might have just a teeny sliver of hope again. You know you do, Jerry.

And hope is never good. You said it yourself.
It’s madness.

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