Monday, October 17, 2016

FANtastic

So far the Major League playoffs have lived up to everybody's expectations as far as compelling baseball has been concerned. That of course is unless your team has been eliminated. It's especially true for Washington Nationals fans who have yet to see their team, on paper one of the better teams for the past several years, win a playoff series, ever. My hometown Chicago Cubs keep rolling along as millions and millions of Americans are rooting for them to end their 71 year World Series and 108 year Championship droughts.

Yesterday I had a little Facebook exchange with a friend extolling our mutual admiration for the Cubs' young infielder, Javier Baez. Another friend chimed in: "It's amazing how you White Sox fans have gotten on the Cubs bandwagon." My response was that I am a baseball fan first and a White Sox fan second, which is true. Many of my fellow Sox fans don't feel the same way, as they take pains to profess their abject hatred for the Cubs. Watering holes in the traditional Sox bastions on the far south side of the city get nationwide attention for posting "Go (whatever team is currently playing the Cubs)" signs outside their establishments whenever the Cubs get into the playoffs.

That animosity is understandable as the South Side of Chicago where the Sox play, always gets the short shrift when it comes to getting attention in this city, unless that attention has to do with murder and mayhem. The Sox as well are the poor stepchild to the Cubs when it comes to media coverage. I think that's what attracted me to the team in the first place, more years ago than I care to admit.

Without any reservation, I'm rooting for the Cubs to win it all this year. That said, I'm still not a Cubs fan, at least not in the strictest sense of the term. It's been said that the term "fan" short for fanatic, was coined by Chris von der Ahe, the colorful owner of the old St. Louis Browns, the team that would later become the Cardinals. In the 19th Century, the term for a devoted follower of a particular baseball team was "crank", an appropriate word, especially describing a fan's state of being when his or her team loses. But fan(atic) is even more appropriate as it describes the emotional response to the success or failure of an organization comprised of mercenary strangers who are hired to play a game, for a huge compensation I might add.

In other words, it's completely irrational to be a fan of a professional sports team. The same can be said about falling in love. As anyone who has ever experienced unrequited love knows, it can plunge the victim into the deepest depths of pain and depression. The experience of the pain of loving someone who does not love you back can be so profound, so crippling, it makes you wonder why anyone would allow him or herself to become attached to another human being in such a way. On the other hand, as anyone who has ever fallen in love can tell you, it can be the most thrilling, exhilarating, magnificent feeling in the world. The two feelings intrinsically correspond, the more you are in love with someone, the greater the potential of heartbreak as well as ecstasy.

Rooting for a sports team is much the same. I think back to when the White Sox won the World Series eleven years ago. Until the Houston Astros made the last out in the last game of the 2005 Series, I was miserable. Even though the Sox won all but one game of the playoffs and the World Series, every game was close and nerve racking. My pulse was racing, my nerves were shot, my heart was palpitating for two weeks. Year after year of disappointment as a Chicago sports fan convinced me that somehow, someway, my team would blow it. That feeling continued until Game Four of the World Series with the tying run on second and two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Astro Orlando Palmeiro grounded out to Juan Uribe, winning the championship for the White Sox.

I know Cub fans all over the world including my son, are going through that same misery right now. Frankly, I have enough to worry about in my life, I don't want to go through all that myself. At this writing, the Cubs just lost game two of the NLCS to the LA Dodgers, and I'm perfectly fine with that. If the Cubs lose two nights from now I'll be OK and if somehow the Dodgers manage to win the series, I'll feel bad, truly bad, especially for the folks who are a part of the Cubs diaspora who have waited all their lives to see their team actually win something. But I won't be depressed.

Rooting for a team you're not a fan of is much like being a grandparent, you can enjoy your grandkid (or team) until it becomes tired, cranky, and not much fun to be around, then give it back to its parents, (or fans).

By the same token, if the Chicago Cubs  manage to win the National League Championship and possibly the World Series this year, I'll be extremely happy for my Cub fan friends and family who have suffered with the team their entire lives. I'll be happy for my city which desperately needs something to celebrate at this moment. I'll be happy for baseball, as I believe that the Cubs are the best team in the game right now and will have deserved to win. And I'll be happy for the Cubs organization as I respect the players and the people who have put this team together. Heck I even like the owner as I've done some work for him.  But I won't be able to share the ecstacy with them because I am not truly a Cubs fan(atic). It's not by choice, it just is. In other words, I root for the Cubs in my head, but not in my heart. Doing so would be irrational.

As far as baseball is concerned, I'm saving my heart for the White Sox, the true unrequited love of my life.

Go Cubs.

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