Last year I took the Cubs playoff loss to the D-Backs extremely hard and couldn’t bring myself to write about it here until mid-November. So in a conscious effort to update this blog more often and come to grips with the Cubs early playoff exit…Here we go. I don’t want to rehash the three playoff losses to the Dodgers, you saw it. The list of reasons for the Cubs failure is long and extensive; no doubt you have heard them all by now so I will dispense with the postmortem inventory.
The build-up to this season was huge – 2008 being the 100 year World Series anniversary, the Cubs 2007 Central Champs, a new star from Japan, all of this going on before spring training even started. Expectations were huge for 2008, so the team goes out and wins a National League best 97 Games (the most for a Cubs team in 63 years), and THEN…The post season. As a Cubs fan I know you got that sinking “here we go again” feeling when Dempster served up that Grand Salami in game one…..and not the “oh we might be in trouble today” feeling, but the “doomed” numbness a prisoner might feel on a slow walk to the gallows before facing the inevitable.
Hey, I didn’t want that feeling in my head and I quickly tried to push it away, telling myself at every turn – “Here is where the Cubs step up and change history”, “Here is where D-Lee, A-Ram, Big Z, etc. come up with the big hit or pitch to stifle the insurgent Dodgers”…They didn’t. Once again the Cubs playoff failure was a very bitter pill to swallow, you might think it would get easier…It doesn’t.
The rest of the playoffs and World Series could be interesting but with the Cubs out, my appetite for such things has diminished. So where do we go from here? With the build-up to 2008 and incredible regular season I just can’t see the same intensity level from the fans next year, after all “this” was the year. Then again, the one thing that Cubs fans seem to possess more than any other fans is…Resiliency. Going forward will the Cubs success during the season be judged on getting to and winning the World Series? Is spring training and the regular season only a preamble to what is important – the playoffs and World Series?
In the end I guess it depends on what success means to you, if the Cubs winning the World Series is your definition of success, then they are a very unsuccessful ballclub. If you define success as the Tribune Company probably does in terms of game attendance, apparel sales, and franchise value then the Cubs are very successful.
As a hardcore fan all these factors play a part in the Cubs appeal but there’s something else; a visceral link formed with a Cubs player or a year (for me 1984). Since most often this link to the team is instigated and perpetuated by one of our family members the bond with the Cubs grows over time. Before you realize what has happened it’s too late, you are a Cubs fan or as some might see it – one of the “Doomed”. The team is woven so deeply into many of our families and memories that it’s often hard to separate the Cubs and our own self-image. It tends to be especially difficult after a tough loss like this years playoffs to remember that baseball and the Cubs are in the end, entertainment.
As most of you know I try to be realistic about the Cubs and not delude myself about what this team will do any given year. At the same time I am optimistic by nature so I can see potential in most Cubs teams given the “if things go right” caveat. After last years playoff loss the D-Backs it took me quite a while to start getting excited about spring training. For some reason that isn’t the case right now, and it’s not because I think the Cubs will be any better, that remains to be seen. It’s probably a selfish desire to be around the team again and enjoy the great weather and feeling that Cubs spring training here in Arizona offers. Or perhaps it’s an extension of an email that my friend George from Waukegan sent the other day, after talking about the Cubs failure and “Blue Funk’ that had set in after the loss, George closed with this:
“See you in February pitchers, catchers and anyone else who wants to get an early start on winning it all in 2009! The Cubs Media guide will be updated with these grizzly 2008 stats…0-3 NLDS…but 2009 starts out like all the rest 0-0 Won-Lost and nobody knows what will happen, optimism reigns supreme!
The sooner winter comes, the sooner spring training starts!”
Thanks Geo, spoken like a true Cubs fan! The title of this blog is a quote from Buddha in which I switched the first two words, “It is” to “Is it” in order to pose a question.
Word is the Cubs will have 18 home games at Hohokam Stadium this coming spring. This is a photo of my view from the press box at Hohokam, walk up the stairs between sections 200 and 202 before the game and say hello…See you in March. Tim