Let it go, let it go

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Over the past couple of years, I’ve simplified my life in some ways. I gave up drinking in 2011, television in 2013, and McDonald’s in 2014. I’ve tried giving up coffee, too, but I’ve succeeded at keeping my consumption down. Baby steps, I suppose.

I’m not really on a self-deprivation kick, although it might seem that way. Giving up some of my favorite things–ones that had been a part of my life for decades–seems like a fool’s mission. But there’s not much I have that I can’t live without. People often say “I’d die without (insert item here)” but that’s really not so. The things that we need and the things that we think we need are two different groups.

I’m so much better off without the things I’ve given up. I now wonder how life would have been different without them. But that’s something I’ll never know for certain.

Last night I took this to drastic, and almost unthinkable degree: I renounced the Chicago Cubs. I’ve always been off the deep end, to varying degrees, when it comes to the Cubs. They were my window into Chicago, and thus the wider world, to me back in the 70s and 80s. They were my destination of choice in the dark days of the 1990s. They were a source of optimism and ultimate disappointment in the first decade of this century. But in this decade they’ve been…nothing. Nothing but frustration and anger and, ultimately, indifference. I wait around for months for the baseball season to return, and then I’m hopeful for a month to six weeks, and finally I’m wondering why I do this to myself, over and over again.

The Cubs have never won in my lifetime, but up until a couple of years ago, they were always worth a watch. But they aren’t anymore. I think of a campfire as an apt metaphor for this: The fire will burn hot and then die down, but it has to be tended occasionally or else it will go out. Throwing a small log or a few twigs onto the coals every so often is all that it takes. But if you don’t do it, the consequences speak for themselves.

The Cubs have not been tending the fire, at least at the major league level. They’ve started playing a game with trading older players for younger prospects, and demanding complete control over a player’s career. Signing free agents to big-dollar contracts has been anathema to this club, and the talent level (or lack thereof) is painfully obvious. They are, and are apparently aiming to be, the worst team in the major leagues.

Tanking the season has benefits when it comes to high draft positions, and some Cubs fans have embraced this as the path to getting better in the long run. It worked for the Chicago Blackhawks, at least. But it’s a bridge too far, for me.

Last night I did as Hemingway once instructed; I sat in front of a keyboard and bled. I opened up about what’s wrong with this team, and how I can’t abide their losing ways anymore. So I quit. I dclared my independence. I walked away from something that has mattered to me for almost 40 years. It was hard, but today I feel free.

How did the Cubs do today? For the first time I can remember, I don’t care. They win and they’re still bad, or they lose and it just reinforces what I’ve been saying. If ever they win, I’ll see what happens then. But I’m no longer vested in this team, emotionally. To paraphrase Axl Rose, nothing last forever, even my interest in the Cubs.

The downward spiral continues

NCAA Football: Michigan at Northwestern

After still another painful defeat for Northwestern’s football team yeserday, I wrote something about it for FiveWideSports. I thought this was going to be a special year, but not in the way that it has been so far. I’m pretty sure nobody saw this one coming, actually. But there’s just two more games, and then the sporting off season can really begin in earnest. And I’m looking forward to that, in a very odd way.

The end comes at last

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I spend four months of the year in hibernation between baseball seasons, and then a month getting up for it in spring training, six months doing more suffering than anything else during the regular season, and then one last month on the outside looking in during the playoffs.

Being a Cubs fan is a lousy way to go through life. And the older you get, it starts to dawn on you that a lifetime of following the team is likely to go unrewarded, as untold numbers of fans alive today won’t be here when next year’s opening day rolls around.

It’s a losing racket, in the end, but one that I’ll probably never break free from, either.Let’s hope the cycle is broken somehow, someday.

Another lost season

JayBud

I wish that I had more productive creative muses than the Chicago Cubs. It’s such a draining and aggravating experience following this team. But baseball is my game and Chicago is my home and I  would rather eat my keyboard than become a White Sox fan. So here I am.

I ruminated again about how bad the Cubs have been this year on ThroughTheFenceBaseball. It’s like that old poem about gathering rosebuds: Bash your baseball team while ye may. Winter’s coming soon.

Link to a post on ThroughTheFenceBaseball

HawksCup

While the Blackhawks have come back from Boston in triumph, the Cubs are now dropping into last place in Milwaukee. The opposite nature of these two teams–the yin and yang, if you will–was not lost on me as I wrote a piece for ThroughTheFenceBaseball last night.

I don’t care too much about hockey, but it does feel nice to be around a winner. And the Cubs have forced me to wait nearly my entire lifetime for a winner, and all of it in vain so far. There’s a lot more to life than winning, but I can’t imagine that winning isn’t important, either.

I’ll be watching the Blackhawks’ victory parade on Friday, while becoming edgier by the day over the Cubs and their complete failure in this regard. And I hope I’m not the only one to feel this way either. It’s Hooray for the Blackhawks, and WTF for the Cubs.

Link to a piece on ThroughTheFenceBaseball

The 2012 Cubs have officially collapsed, and are knocking on the door of 100 losses for the season out in Phoenix this afternoon. I wrote about one element of this season, and it appeared this morning on ThroughTheFenceBaseball. Here’s the piece.

You shouldn’t have to hope something you waited six months for would end quickly, but that’s exactly where I’m at right now.

Countdown to the #DoubleTriple

The second part of the baseball season begins tonight. Many teams, perhaps even most teams, still have something to play for, whether it’s a division title or a chance at a wild card berth. My team, the Chicago Cubs, isn’t so lucky. They ended the first part of the season at 18 games below the breakeven point (and since it’s a bit more than the 81 games that makes up a “half” of the schedule, I’m just calling them “parts” instead). With 70 games left, the Cubs find themselves 45 losses away from 100 on the season.

I explained a couple of posts ago why that’s significant. For as much as people have identified the Cubs with losing in recent years (ever since 1945, really), they haven’t lost 100 games in a season since 1966. I was born a couple of years after that, meaning that I have not seen the Cubs lose 100 games in a season before. And, even though it means rooting for losses over the second part of the season, I’m willing to do that because the other alternative–a playoff berth–is not going to happen. A team that cannot win four straight games has no business believing that playoffs are in their future. Time to face facts about that.

I wanted to find a way to commemorate the Cubs’ march toward infamy. True, other teams have lost 100 games in a season before, and more franchises have suffered this ignomity over the past 44 years than have avoided it. I won’t say that this team will set any historic loss records for the rest of this season. The 120 losses that the Mets suffered in their expansion year is probably safe for this year. At least from the Cubs, it is. I’m not sure about Houston, though.

What I am saying is that none of the 100 loss seasons ever happened to a team that had also gone 100 years or more without a World Series title. Let’s face it, if any other team gets to that point, I–and anyone who can read this blog–will not be around to see it.

So, since the Cubs are already halfway home to what I am calling the #DoubleTriple, I’m going to call attention to losses that pull the team closer to the second half of this unprecedented feat. And here’s how I’ll do it:

I am going to start in 1967, which is the first season after the Cubs’ last 100 loss season (but keep in mind their championship drought was a mere 61 years at that time). The next Cubs loss will trigger an examination of the team that lost 100 or more games that season. Some years had zero teams with that many losses, while one season had four teams hit that level of futility. Each of the teams from that year will be looked at in some way or another. And if there weren’t any teams, I reserve the right to blather on about any baseball and losing-related topic that comes to mind. And trust me, I can be really creative on that front.

So as the losses mount up, the present day will get closer and closer. With loss #40, for example, 100-loss teams (there were two of them) from 2006 will be profiled. One has since gotten better, and one really has not. That’s what will make this interesting, for myself and anyone who wants to read this.

With loss #45, the year 2011 will kick in, and the Cubs will likely find themselves sharing a column with the Houston Astros, who are (and probably will remain) the only team worse than the Cubs this year. They have never lost 100 games before, and certainly not in the timeframe I’ll be discussing. Some franchises make multiple appearances, and some won’t appear at all. But I’ll keep going until the 100 threshhold is reached. What happens if the losses keep coming after that? I’m sure I can think of something.

Understand that I’m not a Cubs hater, wishing bad things on the team I’ve followed since I was seven years old. On the contrary, I love this team. The front office suits want to promote the Cubs as a “brand,” but I have danced when this team has won, and I have sat dumbstruck when they have lost. And I’ll keep coming back as long as I’m on this earth, because I love Chicago and I love baseball and I love the National League style of play. Where else am I gonna go?

But, having said all of that, I’m not going to shy away from what may end up as a historic season within an already historic championship drought. I truly want to see that, rather than playing .500 ball and having Jim Hendry back to cause even greater damage next year.  I don’t want Mike Quade back either, but until the Cubs remove Jim Hendry as General Manager, this team will continue on a downward spiral. I’m quite confident that his lack of results speak for themselves in this regard. How many World Series wins have come during Hendry’s tenure? Zero. And that’s all that really matters to this fan.

So first up, with the next Cubs’ loss, will be 1967. I reserve the right to write about topics other than the Cubs as inspiration strikes, but I’m certain this will dominate the postings from here until the season ends on September 28. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Here’s how the Cubs can make baseball history in 2012

Who knows losing better than the Cubs? Ask anybody to play word association between a baseball franchise and the word “losers” and at least 90% will say Cubs. And the 10% who wouldn’t just don’t know anything about baseball.

And yet, for all that mediocrity, the gold standard of ineptitude–the 100-loss season–has eluded the Cubs throughout my entire lifetime. So, even though I know losing as well as anybody else, I kind of want to know what that feels like.

The Cubs have only lost 100 games or more in 2 seasons: 1962 and 1966. Both of these happened before the Cubs passed the century mark in years without a World Series win back in 2008. So, with the century mark for a single season now within reach, this could be the first time that a professional sports team with a 100 year championship drought could also lose that many games. It could only happen in baseball, and only to the Cubs. So why not revel in it?

I’m calling this the “double triple” because it turns the basketball term of a “triple double” on its head. Rather than one player having a really good game, this achievement would mark the low water point for a team in the history of professional sports. And who could be afraid of that?

All of the “good” Cubs fans would probably shake their heads in disgust at the idea of wanting their team to lose. Words to the effect of “Let’s let the young kids develop and not get their egos bruised by losing so much.” But you know what? These are professional athletes. They cash those paychecks whether they win or lose. Shed no tears for them.

“But where’s your team pride?” others might say. Let it be said that being a Cubs fan is not about being proud. The first Cubs game that I ever watched on TV, back in 1975, was a 22-0 loss at home. And the very week that I was born, in June of 1968, the Cubs didn’t score a single run for 48 straight innings, which no other team has even come close to since then. So please don’t talk to me about pride.

I can think of three things that I have not seen from the Cubs in my lifetime: being no-hit by another team (which happened to them twice back in 1965), playing in the World Series, and losing 100 games in a single season.

The World Series won’t happen this year. The no-hitter could happen at any time, and A.J. Burnett recently came very, very close. When it does happen, it will just confirm the level of ineptitude of this year’s team, or whichever year’s team it finally happens to. That’s only 27 outs over the course of a few hours, though. But losing a hundred games? That’s about to happen. It would take something remarkable to prevent it, at this point.

If the Cubs win at least one game in Arizona this weekend, and then sweep an otherwise meaningless series with the Astros next week in Wrigley Field, they’ll narrowly avoid 100 losses on the season. Anything less than that, and the Double Triple is a reality. If the losing is going to come, then let’s have those losses at least count toward something.

As Aerosmith says, you’ve got to lose to know how to win. And if that’s true, the Cubs should have some serious winning in their future. But for now, this year’s team could set a futility mark that we’ll all laugh about someday. So Cubs fans like myself will just have to Dream On beginning–as always–with next year.