Lifers or Newbies

STOP!! Before you read on ask yourself this question….What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Chicago Cubs? When you have an answer….continue reading. I would venture a guess that your answer was one of two things and we will get to that later.

I see and speak to a lot of people on a daily basis and whenever I see anything to do with the Cubs the first question I always ask is, “Are you a lifer or a newbie?” When I receive a puzzled look, I know the answer without them saying a word.

This rant or as I call it “Notes from the Soapbox” was inspirerd by the “skit” before and a comment made during the telecast on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, the comment came from Joe Morgan during the latest Cubs debacle. Sunday night was just another embarrassment by our beloved Cubs and the fans in attendance. Throwing anything on the field is a classless move, I understand the frustration, believe me, but throwing things on the field sheds a bad light on who I think are the best fans in baseball. Booing is one thing, but throwing things on the field for the second time in front of a national audience is just plain bad sportsmanship and made me think of Brian’s signoff….”Stay Classy Cubs Fans”. I would like to think that Sunday’s brand of baseball we all witnessed was the tip of the iceberg this season, but like Jason reminds us on a weekly basis….this season, I know better.

Joe Morgan, whom I do have other issues with, made the statement that going to Cubs games is “an event”, they always draw well whether at Wrigley or on the road. And while that is the case, is that necessarily a bad thing? When I first heard the comment I just added it to the list of “Morganisms” that drive me crazy but then I thought about it and he is right, it is an event….but why?

The Events as We Know Them

The lead in that ESPN did on Sunday as contrived as it was, was accurate. My wife even made the comment as to how depressing that was. Those “actor-fans”, in any case, did speak the truth. The Cubs have not won the big prize in almost a century and have not even received an invitation to the dance in 60 years (and counting). They have had chances, but as obvious man always points out, they have fallen short. This franchise has had back-to-back winning seasons once since the 70’s and yet they play in front of more people (notice I did not say fans) than a franchise that has won two championships in 10 years. How could that be? Is it cool to just be seen at Wrigley or to don the Cubbie Blue?

Loveable Losers

I personally despise that tag. How many actually like to hear that description used to describe the Cubs? But I guarantee you that was one of the first things that popped in your head when I asked the question at the beginning of this article. For some of the Faithful being a member has reached the 50 plus year status. You were alive the last time they were at the dance, but you just can’t remember it. The franchise played 1538 games in the 50’s and posted a 672-866 record with a .437 winning percentage. They survived the “College of Coaches” in the 60’s, had a record of 735-868 with a .459 winning percentage and fielded arguably the best Cubs team of the modern era in 1969 (92-70). The 70’s got off to a good start with a 329-311 (.514) but the franchise slipped after 1973, lost 96 games and finished the decade with a 785-827 (.469) record. The 80’s started slow, but along came Harry, Cable TV, two division championships and an entirely new generation of the Faithful joined the ones that came before. Wrigleyville enjoyed a rebirth, Sammy Sosa came and went, the 90’s (739-813, .476) was equally as frustrating as I would imagine the 50’s were but late in the decade came a promise, a hope of possibility that this troubled franchise would turn the corner and winning on the Northside would become common place, not a once in a decade surprise that just adds to the frustration of the Lifers and adds Newbies to the dedicated core of the Faithful.

I Don’t Consider Myself a Loser

I am a winner and have been successful in life as well as in business. The softball team I help organize in my “spare” time just won our league championship. But no matter what is going on, in the back of my head I think about the glass that is ready to spill. Where does that come from? I believe that what you think about you bring about, so why do I allow those thoughts to cross my mind? I refuse to allow myself to celebrate a possible win by any of the teams that I follow until the clock has run out, or the last out is made. I have allowed myself to be conditioned to wait for something bad to happen, whether it is an injury, or a fumble or an error….as long as there is time left, something could happen. And I think that is what the problem is, as fans of this franchise, we always wait for them to fall apart, they always have, right?….so they always will. I know this is easy to say, but maybe we, the Faithful, need to change or outlook, our attitude and rid ourselves of the “poor pitiful us” syndrome and do what those little bracelets that sold so well last year says and just “believe”. The Braves expect to win the game every single time they take the field; the Cubs just hope to do so….see the difference?

Action Speaks Louder Than Words

So now that you all think I am crazy and have lost my mind, please do not get me wrong. The Cubs’ management MUST do everything they can to change the outlook of the franchise as well. You can think all of the positive thoughts you want but to be successful you have to move your feet and work hard to accomplish the goal at hand. The prize that all of the Cubs Faithful everywhere want is the World Series Championship, but you have to learn how to crawl before you walk and so on. This team is in a disarray that I have never seen, even when they were posting three out of four 90 loss seasons, not to long ago (1997-2000) but it can be fixed over time. Changes have to be made that will not make everyone happy, some of your favorite Cubs will be traded or released, but what is there is not working so we should all welcome the change in both personnel and philosophy. The Cubs MUST surround themselves with winners in both players and personnel that are willing to work to succeed, not just show up, go through the motions, get paid and go home. They must find players and coaches that hold them and each other accountable for their actions and most importantly that trust one another and realize it takes a team to be successful and an individual usually fails.

Wrigley Field

Finally….This was probably the other thing that popped in your head when I asked the question, way back when this article started. Why is there a gray cloud over the most beautiful place on the face of the earth? I love Wrigley Field, like I would imagine all of you do, but could the Cubs greatest asset be its biggest problem? On one hand, the event that Mr. Morgan mentioned is just that. I ran across a guy on the softball field that said, “A Cubs fan? Wow, I’m just not a fan, I like baseball but not the Cubs. But no matter how bad the Cubs are that is still the best place to watch a ballgame.” And while it is, the powers that be will not make the changes necessary to change the direction of this franchise as long as the park is sold out, game after game, year after year….not by the Faithful, but by the “people” that just want to experience Wrigley Field on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

The Cubs have had difficulties winning at home for years. Since 2001, they have a winning home record twice. This year they are 15-27 and since 2003 they are 142-144. The Cubs have to build a team that can win at home. At the beginning of the season we were led to believe that the Cubs needed more speed to be successful at Wrigley, home run hitters had not provided the desired results….winning. And while that is the case when you are being out homered at home more than 2 to 1, something is wrong and change must be made.

Bottom Line

As frustrating as it can be to be a fan of this franchise, winning was never a part of the equation that brought you aboard. So while expectations have never been as high as they are right now, let’s remember that the one thing we all want is for the Cubs to get an invitation to the dance and win that World Championship that many of our friends and relatives were not able to see. When it does come, we will all be there, with our flags a flying and for once and all, we will know what Cloud Nine feels like, but for now let’s just “Stay Classy”.

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax