Imrem: Panic part of the fun of long baseball season

  • Mike Imrem says it's perfectly OK to panic over the slight dip the Chicago Cubs have taken lately, including a few rough outings by starting pitcher John Lackey. Panicking over the slumps is as Chicago as celebrating the surges, Cubs fans, so enjoy both.

    Mike Imrem says it's perfectly OK to panic over the slight dip the Chicago Cubs have taken lately, including a few rough outings by starting pitcher John Lackey. Panicking over the slumps is as Chicago as celebrating the surges, Cubs fans, so enjoy both. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 7/5/2016 7:32 PM

OK, here we go again, having to defend the concept of panic as it relates to the Cubs.

First of all, people have to stop advising other people not to panic over every Cubs loss.

 

I remember what it was like -- before I became a sports writer -- to be emotionally invested in a Chicago sports team.

It was, well, panicky.

And fun.

What prompted this subject was Tuesday's 9-5 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday and one play that ignited a few hilarious flashbacks.

You know, you do have to laugh sometimes to keep from crying.

It was the top of first inning. Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey struggled with his control. Circumstances threatened to give life to the sleepy Reds.

Two runners were on base when ugly quickly plunged to uglier.

Cubs catcher David Ross retreated to the bricks to retrieve a passed ball, which would have been bad enough. But Lackey stood on the mound, raising his arms in disgust at the misplay and failing to cover the plate.

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Not a good idea. Billy Hamilton, perhaps the fastest man in baseball, saw daylight and came around to score.

Sad to say, this bizarre baseball play was too familiar in the bizarre tradition of Cubbie occurrences.

Coming to mind was the day in 1979 when Cubs right fielder Larry Biittner couldn't locate a ball that was hiding under the cap that had fallen off his head.

Also coming to mind was the day in 1959 when, during a Cubs-Cardinals game, two baseballs wound up being in play at one time.

(Relating how this happened is too complicated. Suffice it to say that both teams played the rest of the game under protest, the Cards withdrawing theirs after winning.)

Also coming to mind -- maybe most significantly -- was the Cubs' infamous and oft-lamented 1977 season.

The Cubs were rocking the division lead on June 28 at 25 games over .500.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If only the season ended there. The Cubs' sizzle fizzled and they finished at .500, light years out of first place.

Now, with memories like that, or with stories like that told by parents and grandparents to children and grandchildren, it's only natural to panic when good makes even a soft turn toward bad.

Part of the fun of being a fan of a baseball team like the Cubs is riding ebbs and flows through both a 162-game season and a century of frustration.

As I always try to tell you, every sport is something to care about that doesn't matter.

You do understand that none of it really matters, don't you? Honest. it doesn't. That's why it's called a sport instead of a job or a war or an illness.

Being concerned about the Cubs is a lot less traumatic than being concerned about terrorism, the stock market or presidential politics, so cherish the ups and downs.

The Cubs were 27 games over .500 not long ago but now are at 21 over and, yes, it's time to panic.

Injuries are taking a toll. The offense has slowed. Lackey, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta are pitching like their older selves instead of their old selves. Pedro Strop clearly is the worst reliever in the history of baseball ... isn't he?

No self-respecting Cubs fan should, could or would take even this slight dip lightly.

Panicking over the slumps is as Chicago as celebrating the surges, Cubs fans, so enjoy both.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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