We’re Getting the Bandwagon Back Together!
Something about this season feels different.
This is the first year in 108 years that Cubs fans have gone into the season rooting for the defending champs. It’s uncharted territory for, I mean, it’s gotta be everyone now, right? No one who was alive 108 years ago, and is still kicking, was old enough to really care about baseball. So we’re all kinda lost. Or at least I am.
I gave a really dumb quote to Esquire once about how I was stoked for the Cubs to win, but bummed by the prospect of the BANDWAGON FANS. Which, you know, yeah. I am. I’m salty as hell about having spent season after season watching the Cubs CUBS IT UP, about going and spending $5 on two tickets to watch them lose (that was in 2010. My wife and I would head over in the third inning and get a DEAL on tickets. Good for a cheap date, bad for watching quality baseball). But even more than that. I remember sitting in my window as a kid, about a mile away from Wrigley, and listening as the crowd sang take me out to the ball game. I played little league games in left field at Wrigley every year. I’ve been to home openers so cold that we took refuge in the bathrooms by the pee-trough. I wrote a book about the Cubs! GODDAMNIT, I WATCHED THE MLB.COM PLAY-BY-PLAY IN 2012 WHEN I COULDN’T BE BY A TV!
**Side note: That was the year that Kerry Wood retired (after a month). He pitched in the season opener and walked the bases loaded before walking in a run. God that season sucked so hard**
I feel, because of my weird, long history of being a Cubs fan, that I get to have ownership over Cubs fandom. So when transplants from other MLB cities start to adopt Cubby blue, I roll my eyes at them and scoff. When non-fans suddenly adopt the Cubs as the team they’ll watch in the postseason, I feel like I have vertigo. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN MARK GRACE GOT HIS 2,000th HIT AND THAT DUDE FELL OVER THE OUTFIELD WALL? I WAS AT THE GAME WITH MY DAD. SO STEP OFF. If you weren’t there in 2003 (goes my thinking), you don’t get to celebrate with us now.
But here’s the thing about that: it’s fucking stupid. It’s that sort of BEST FANS IN BASEBALL attitude that makes St. Louis fans so insufferable. Why do I care about more people liking the thing I like? Shouldn’t I be stoked to be able to look over at almost anyone in Chicago right now and be like “How ‘bout them Cubs?” and have the person return my excitement? And even beyond that, why should my having sat through some truly bad baseball make me any MORE of a fan?
Worse, too, is my affinity for the Blackhawks. My dad took me to a handful of games as a kid, but I never, NEVER cared about the Hawks until 2010. I don’t think I watched more than two games that season, and both were Stanley Cup games. Hell, even after that, when I legitimately watched hockey, when I watched almost every game, I still wasn’t super committed. I was too worn out from baseball to pay much attention this year, watching MAYBE a double-digit number of games, to the point where I was surprised they were in first place. WHY’D YOU ALL LOSE SO MUCH WHEN I WATCHED AND SKEW MY IDEAS? Still, I own Blackhawks shirts (though none with the real logo because it’s racist. Yes it is. Fuck off, it is, you know it deep inside. Let’s stop using marginalized groups as logo, alright? Plus, shit, here’s a free idea: Black Hawks. Boom. Make a bird your logo! EASY and BETTER than the “Golden Knights”).
So I’ve gone into this season feeling weird. It’s new expecting so much out of the Cubs after expecting so little for so long. It’s weird to know that when I talk to someone about baseball, they might only know the Good Cubs, and not have any memories of the Bad Cubs. And all the shit talking I’ve done in the past about being a TRUE FAN because I stuck with the bad team for so long, that I’ve never known winning so losing doesn’t get to me, now I have to back it up. I feel like everyone gets to start this season on the level, new fans and old. It’s what we do after those big lights at Wrigley stop looking so bright that’s going to count.