Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hate Crimes on Waveland Avenue

As readers of this feature may know, this blog recently joined the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (a/k/a the MOB). There are something like 100 blogs that are members and they span the spectrum of blogging. One blog I like to read is the Northern Alliance Wannabe (www.northernalliancewannabe.blogspot.com), which is hosted by a guy who happens to be a Cubs fan. The Cubs have been, to put it mildly, a bone of contention on this blog, which tends to be a bastion of Brewerdom. To make a long story short, the Wannabe linked to this blog and called one of my earlier Cub-bashing posts a "hate crime." While I suspect the Wannabe's tongue may have been pretty firmly lodged in his cheek, that sort of rhetoric practically begs for a response, no?

My particular cri de couer against the Wrigleyites stems from their long-standing charade as lovable loser underdogs. There is no question that the Cubs have been losers for a long time; they last won a World Series in 1908. There is also no question that they have been, at times, somewhat lovable. My father, God rest his soul, was a lifelong Cub fan, as were many people who came of age in Wisconsin prior to the arrival of the Braves (and later Brewers). I have strong memories of watching the Cubs on WGN back in the 1970s, when the Cubs featured the likes of Manny Trillo, Larry Biittner (not a typo, that's how it's spelled), Ivan de Jesus, Barry Foote and other such dubious luminaries. It seemed like every other game you'd see portly righthander Rick Reuschel on the mound, throwing his precise sinkers to various Pirates and Phillies and Cardinals. And accompanying the visuals would be the dulcet tones of Jack "Hey Hey" Brickhouse, with the high pitched yelpings of Lou Boudreau through the middle innings. The Cubs of that era weren't very good, but they were generally entertaining.

We are a long time removed from those days. The Chicago Tribune bought out the Wrigley family in the early 1980s and the Cubs went from being a mom and pop operation to part of a well-oiled corporate machine. The talent level improved and the Cubs began to feature some really good players, like Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace, Greg Maddux and Sammy Sosa. Money was never the issue; the Cubs were able to afford talent in ways that my beloved Brewers or teams like the Twins and Royals never could. But they didn't win anyway. The Cubs got really close in 2003, but have scuffled ever since.

This year it looks like they will win. They went out and bought the best free agent on the market, Alfonso Soriano, and they also brought on a number of other high-buck players. The lovable Cubs behaved more like the Yankees. And it looks now like this approach will at least get them into the playoffs.

So be it - I don't dispute that there are a lot of Cubs fans who have suffered their entire lifetimes, waiting for a chance to see a championship. It had to be especially galling for these folks to watch the downmarket White Sox win it all in 2005. Having spent five years in Chicago, I recognize the animosity between the North Side and the South Side. I used to eat at the Billy Goat at least once a month, so I know well the legendary curse. And, after watching the most insufferable of fans, the odious Red Sox Nation, celebrate a championship as well, Cubs fans have to be even more galled by it all. Perhaps this will be the year.

Enjoy it, Cubs fans. Just watch your back. The Brewers aren't going away. And for the first time in a long time, the eternal cry of "Wait until next year" has meaning in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin.


Dan S. said...

Good post, Mark, and thanks for the nod.

Personally, I never got that worked up over the North Side vs. South Side stuff. I'm from downstate Illinois originally, so for me it was all about Cubs vs. Cards. The Cardinals' championship last year? -- now that was galling! It's been fun to see the Cubs/Brewers rivalry develop, though, since the Brewskis joined the senior circuit.

Now, about comparing my Cubbies to the Yankees?! (you know how to hurt a guy...), when they went out and bought Soriano last winter, I thought, "about freakin' time!" Knowing that Tribune Co. had the dough to field a winning team - and for years watching them not do it - was frustrating.

I'm really hoping the Cubs go all the way this year, if for no other reason than to avoid having to hear all the "100 year anniversary" crap next year.

And yes, of course, the "hate crime" jab was entirely tongue-in-cheek. :-)

Anonymous said...

Dan S, perhaps the Cubs winning will take the sting out of Rex Grossman's campaign to become as hated as Bartman in the eyes of Bear Fans. Funny though, the Brewers are not going away...Brewers beat Cardinals, Cubs lose to Marlins. The lead is now only 2 games. Personally I'd rather be leading than trailing, but I wasn't the one who originally cast "THE CURSE" Cub fans beware.....

Mark said...

My pleasure, Dan - as I mentioned, I really do enjoy your blog a lot.

When I lived in the Chicago area, I lived in Oak Park, which is very much divided territory between the Cubs and the Sox. It was very interesting to see how the teams are perceived as well - the Sox are definitely the poor relations.

Either way, this pennant race has been fun and I agree, the Cubs/Brewers rivalry has a chance to become a very good one. Expect lots of jawing from this corner, good sir.