The worst Cubs season in my 45 years of die-hard fan status mercifully came to an end Wednesday with a thrilling walk-off victory. Team President Theo Epstein promises to deliver a eulogy today for a team that was buried by the All-Star break. My youngest son, Will, and I went to the Tuesday night wake, where the Cubs lost their 101st game of the season before 33,168 solemn mourners.
How do we Cubs fans do it? Why do we do it?
Realistic White Sox fans knew even when their team was in first place that this was not going to be a magical season along the lines of the World Series championship in 2005. They realized their Sox were who they thought they were. So they yawned, got ready for the Bears season and distracted themselves with debates about whether the Ryder Cup was a golf tourney, tennis competition, that trophy given to the fastest yacht or an equestrian event that President Barack Obama was itching to bring up during last night's debate with Mitt Romney.
We Cubs fans exhibit a blind loyalty that would make a faithful dog blush. Our team hasn't won a World Series since 1908. We have fewer World Series championships (two) than the Grand Ole Opry has black members (three). The last time our Cubs even made it to a World Series, baseball's best athletes were off finishing up the job of winning World War II.
Working on what must be my 24th annual wallowing in Cubdom column, I grasp at straws. The last times the Cubs lost more than 100 games, in 1962 and 1966, they posted winning seasons the following years, I tell myself, neglecting to note that those teams still missed postseason play by 17 and 14 games, respectively.
Struggling to see the bright side of a team without a .300 hitter in the lineup or a pitcher who can win 10 games, I read the news about how Wrigley Field is going to add 56 new premium seats behind home plate so more fans can pay more money to see more of this team. The Cubs also inform season-ticket holders, including the group of which I buy a small share, that they need us to put down 10 percent by Nov. 12 and pay the whole thing by Jan. 15. We need to lock down our seats because "our inventory is extremely limited," the Cubs warn.
Wrigley Field seats and victories are limited. Fans willing to pay for those rare commodities apparently are in great supply.
My wife, a Cubs fan when we met, has gotten more invested in the team because of her relationship with me, I fear. Our 16-year-old sons, Ross and Ben, perhaps from watching my Cubs habit, have developed healthier habits, such as being fans of music and movies. But 13-year-old Will seems hopelessly hooked on the Cubs.
I justify my Cubs habit and the time and money it takes by rationalizing that I don't spend a minute or a dime on nights out with the boys for weekly poker games, fishing trips, a motorcycle, expensive Ryder Cup souvenirs or some other hobby. But when I hear myself explain being a Cubs fan to people who are not, I recognize how illogical it must sound to them.
When times are tough, I stick to my guns and cling to my faith that Cubs boss Tom Ricketts is going to assemble a team worth cheering. But the biggest cheers I heard and helped deliver this year at Wrigley came the night we fans saw The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, perform in a steady rain that would have brought out the blue tarps if he were a baseball player. I admire Darwin Barney's record errorless streak at second base, but his glove-work still didn't seem as impressive as the way Libertyville's Tom Morello flawlessly manhandled his guitar while performing with Springsteen. That was more memorable than any game this year.
Wrigley Field, of course, remains the draw during seasons with bad teams. But I've got enough Wrigley memories to allow me the luxury of missing a season while the Cubs notch another year in the 104-year rebuilding project. Maybe I should take a pass on renewing my tickets for next year.
"But, Dad," Will says to me as we walk out of Wrigley for the last time this season, "what if 2013 is the year?"