I had an interesting encounter the other night that got me thinking again about what this whole Cubs thing is all about.
After Nate Schierholtz was thrown out at the plate against Pittsburgh, I was walking to my car when a woman who works at the park briefly stopped and snidely commented, "You know, if we still had Tony Campana, we wouldn't have lost that game."
My first reaction was to politely nod and shrug my shoulders because hey, I'm a nice guy.
On my drive home, though, I began to wonder what it was about the Cubs that could make a fan so upset about a meaningless loss in late September.
Of course, there have been numerous books and documentaries about this franchise and its fans over the years that have attempted to decipher what makes it unique.
But I don't know if anyone has properly given me a one-sentence analysis that succinctly describes the relationship between the franchise and its die-hard followers.
Part of the difficulty in finding common ground is that Cubs fans have wildly varying opinions on every topic surrounding the team -- from free agents to trades to the manager to the seventh-inning stretch singers to the wave at Wrigley Field. (OK, most agree that the wave is bad, but I digress).
There are fans who go into every season believing that this is finally the year, some who hope it is but aren't really sure, and then those who not only always think the team stinks but openly mock anyone who believes otherwise.
There's the fan we all know who begins every conversation with "I've been a Cubs fan since ..." and those who choose to go the "I saw my first game at Wrigley Field on (insert date)" route.
So what's the common bond?
Is it just something you are born into? Is there an unspoken connection based on decades of near-misses and ultimate disappointment? Is it tied somehow to spending days, seasons and in some cases lifetimes inside the unique Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field?
I have to say, I don't totally buy the "Lovable Loser" thing and the idea that misery loves company. Of course, the lack of a World Series appearance since 1945 and a championship since 1908 continue to hover around the franchise, but it's not as if there haven't been a lot of great moments and Hall of Fame players to grab onto over the decades.
Actually, the individual successes and the handful of great regular seasons have made the lack of playoff success all the more frustrating. Losing isn't lovable and the Pollyanna idea of the Cubs fan who just likes to skip school or work and come to Wrigley Field to frolic, drink, get some sun and not care who wins is pretty outdated.
In fact, I sense the opposite these days. There is an impatience and an edge that started after the collapses of 2003 and 2004 when expectations went through the roof.
I think Cubs fans more than ever feel like the team belongs to them. That they have a personal stake in the matter.
And this is where I believe we find the essence of the Chicago Cubs as it pertains to their fans.
The team always matters. Always.
And believe me, that is unique. Most professional sports teams coming off their fourth consecutive losing season would garner mostly apathy from their fan base.
Not here. Cubs fan may not be happy with what has transpired on the field the last few years, but by no means does it signal they have started to care less.
Why else would that nice lady have had her night (and maybe year) ruined by the fact that a fifth outfielder got traded last February?
•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]