Kasper: Cubs fans always riding emotional roller coaster
I am often asked, "what's the best part of your job?" My answer tends to be long because there are so many things that qualify as the "best" parts.
I don't need to bore you with the long list, but I want to focus on the most important one -- broadcasting games for the Cubs' fan base.
There are 30 Major League Baseball teams and all have a relatively large following. But nobody would argue that the Cubs' group of fans is larger than most and extends well beyond Chicago.
With WGN's former superstation reach, Cubs games were available to the entire country every single day, helping to create a national following. Couple that with the fact this franchise was a charter member of the National League in 1876 and you have a rock-solid, multigenerational heritage.
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know if you've been a Cubs fan your whole life. But when other teams' broadcasters and fans ask me what makes the Cubs thing special, it is the hold this team's daily success or failure has on its fans. The bond is as tight as one has with a family member.
I feel it doing what I do. Twitter has made that more immediate than ever before, but I have always had a sense of the weight of Cubs' fans emotions on my shoulders in the ninth inning of a tight ballgame. I feel deep in my soul the pure jubilation of a big win and the utter dejection of a tough loss.
It affects me as a broadcaster and I get caught up in it.
This feeling does not exist everywhere in pro sports. Yes, all teams have their die-hards who live and die with every game, but the daily roller coaster of anxiety, exasperation and joy of "Cubdom" is unique in its vastness.
That landscape makes 2016 particularly interesting and intense. Last year's somewhat surprise run, along with a big off-season of moves, pushed in all the chips for many following this team. The Las Vegas odds started to look almost silly as it seemed as if fate would finally be on the Cubs' side.
Then you had this season's historic start when it looked like nothing could go wrong before "baseball" happened and things started to even out a little bit.
When the Cubs went through their rough patch, there was a lot of angst and outright anger among a lot of fans. Those who have lived through many previous disappointments fell back to the default emotion of waiting for, even expecting, the other shoe to drop.
And while I tried to calm the waters a bit with some of my Twitter followers, many didn't want to hear it.
Here's the thing: I totally understand it. There is a conditioned response in these moments. And it's emotionally painful.
Ultimately, I cannot guarantee that "things will be OK" because in baseball anything can happen, good or bad.
And no matter how many games this team wins in the regular season, October can be cruelly random. By the way, that is why the Aroldis Chapman acquisition could loom large as the Cubs try to take some of that randomness out of the mix late in potential postseason nail-biters.
Will this finally be the big roll of the dice that beats the house? Gosh I hope so.
I do know that if this isn't the year, it will sting like heck, as it should. But the alternative to that is the dream this team's fans have had their whole lives. It's a fantasy that is closer to reality than it has been in a very long time.
• Len Kasper is in his 12th season as the television play-by-play voice for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter@LenKasper.