Nearly 3.2 MILLION fans turned out to watch the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field this baseball season. That is an unprecedented number in sports history. No other franchise can lay claim to such fan support and loyalty. Couple that with the fact that the Cubs haven't won a damn thing since 1908 and you really have to wonder what is wrong with these people called Cubs fans.
I was one of them for almost as many years as I've drawn breath on the planet. I started swearing them off in 1998, got tempted by 2001, and wasn't fooled one bit in 2003. I have accepted the fact that the Cubs will never win a World Series in my lifetime. I doubt it will happen ever again. Why? Because they are the CHICAGO CUBS. They are the single most miserable excuse for a team in all of sports. The many years of misery provided by the Chicago National League franchise is the end result of the sickest, most horrendously failed experiment in professional sports. The second worst? The Chicago White Sox! I have no problems with the Boston Red Sox. They at least get to go to a World Series without having to purchase a ticket!
Thinking of the White Sox, a team I have always hated, I must begin to believe that the fans of this team are right about one thing: They don't support a crappy team. Attendance has faltered at the Sox games for years and years. Sure, this is the team that tore down its favorite stadium, fired Harry Caray, and failed to secure lucrative television coverage by shunning WGN and favoring WSNS (a mistake they've corrected about 20 years too late). But for the most part the main reason their attendance has been poor is because their teams have been even poorer.
When the team has done well they've seen improvements. When they return to their own losing ways, the fans don't waste their money on tickets. This is not a case of being a "fair weather friend." No, this is a case of being an "educated consumer." Show me a commitment to excellence and I will reward you with hard-earned cash and even more loyalty. Show me that you're going through the motions, and I'll happily listen to the games on the radio. Why cant Cubs fans do the same?
You could argue that the Cubs have made the necessary improvements to bring a World Series to Chicago. Indeed they have done well to create a winning team. They did, after all, manage to generate back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in over 30 years. But let's be honest, every time -- and I mean EVERY TIME -- that the Cubs NEEDED to win a vital game this season, they proved to the world just how bad a team filled with great talent can really be. This team failed to exhibit any fundamental baseball skills, executed at the plate in critical scoring situations, and whined like children when things didn't go their way. This is not a commitment to excellence. This is the same old turd in a shiny new wrapper.
Dusty BakerWhen Dusty Baker came to the team he insisted that the idea of the 'loveable losers' should be shelved. He wanted the greatest fans in all of sports to have a winning attitude and EXPECTED the same from the players and owners. 2003 brought MILLIONS of people to his way of thinking and the Cubs fans became people who demanded excellence. They became people who were even more romantically involved with the game. They became fans who knew when to cheer, knew when to boo, and knew when to get another beer.
What happened this year when the fans showed off their new attitude and swagger? Dusty and the team chastised them all for being too critical and cried when the fans booed.
This year we baseball fans have been treated to a season of excuses. We've heard the Cubs whimper about injuries and bandy about accusations of blame towards the umpires, the fans, and even the broadcasters. Never once did it occur to the Cubs that maybe, just MAYBE, the people actually wearing the uniforms might have a little something to do with a miserable and painful season.
After watching and listening to so many games this year (an an observer mind you - NOT as a Cubs fan), I have to wonder how much longer the Tribune Company, owner of the Cubs, will even pretend to have that commitment to excellence. This year the Cubs spent well over 92 million dollars on player payroll. They've made the moves to get the good guys, they've added seats in Wrigley Field, and they've spent a lot of dough to promote this new brand of winning Chicago baseball.
Well, it all worked. The Cubs drew 3,170,172 fans. They aren't in the playoffs and they barely finished third in their division. Of course, when the team was finishing in last place year after year the Cubs were spending about 45 million on payroll and other amenities and consistently drew 2-2.5 million fans. So how long can a well-run for profit business like the Tribune Company continue to throw around the cash if they can enjoy similar results at half the price?
As I write this rant, the final Cubs game of the pointless 2004 season is about to begin. Yet again they will have a capacity crowd of happy-go-lucky fans eager to enjoy one last day in the sun. For today, the nearly 40,000 people in the stands are wearing their 'loveable loser' togs, having taken them out of the closet after a year of collecting dust. How many of these people are saddened to find out that these clothes still fit? How many of these fans can't feel comfortable in them any longer? How many of these people will be back next year?
"Next year." Those two words are the final words in the perennial Cubs mantra, "Wait til next year!" Whenever there is even a glimmer of hope for the Cubs to win SOMETHING there is another unoriginal moron in the stands brandishing a placard that reads, "Next year is HERE!" What I want to know is -- being aware now that so many Cubs fans are expecting better from the team -- will there finally be someone in the stands holding a sign that reads, "Thanks for NOTHING!"
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