Saturday, October 29, 2016

North Side Confessional

Welp, they did it. The Chicago Cubs are playing in the World Series for the first time in over seven decades. They were on the precipice in 2015, and this year they finally connected the dots. So far things haven't totally worked in their direction; they won Game 2, but now it looks like the Cleveland Indians --another team with a historical schneid-- has the upper hand in the series.

This might sound cavalier for a Chicago native, but I am neither a Cubs or White Sox fan. I've never related to the south siders, but Cubs fans can be insufferable. I've been in and around Wrigleyville enough times, game day or not, to know how cloying their presence can be. Bros and alpha males rule the roost. The playoff atmosphere in the neighborhood has been akin to a zombie movie, albeit with the stench of Axe body spray. I am perfectly oblivious to the fact that the Cubs haven't won a championship in over a century, or that this is their first Fall Classic appearance since Harry Truman was president.

A rational person would blame the Cubs' woes on astonishingly poor management and scouting, with maybe a scintilla of bad luck. Any die-hard fan would tell you that the Cubs are cursed. The 1969 Cubs, the most discussed and hallowed second place team of all time, weren't running on fumes as the season was winding down. The fans blamed a black cat. The 1945 squad, the last to win a pennant until 2016, apparently weren't outmatched by an almost flawless Detroit Tigers team. The fans chose to blame an ornery Greek immigrant and his pet goat. The 2003 Cubs' collapse in the NLCS was fueled by hubris, triggered by Moises Alou's diminishing defensive skills. The fans found a scapegoat in Steve Bartman. Its a giant mess of superstition and false tradition.

So why have the Cubs gone over a century without a title, and endured seven decades without contending for a championship? Look no further than P.K. Wrigley. Upon inheriting the organization in 1932, this scion of a gum empire often let his own personal interests trump most baseball matters. He refused to install lights in the ballpark when night games were more convenient for burgeoning TV audiences. Wrigley was reluctant to sign players of color, and its no coincidence that the Cubs were the last original National League team to integrate. He had a reputation for being frugal, reticent, and petty. Wrigley's damage to the organization was so thorough, it took four decades after his death for the Cubs organization to make a complete recovery.

For all the progress that Theo Epstein has made in the organization these last five years, the Cubs are still another year away from winning a title. For once, they had management that knew what they were doing, and with the Ricketts family, they have ownership that makes an effort. What this collective group is doing is light years ahead of what the Tribune Company did in their 27 years of ownership, and they pulled the seemingly impossible feat of getting the Cubs back in the playoffs. Still, the majority of the Cubs faithful are a shortsighted yet steadfast group, both deserving of some success yet they still stand in their own way.

Next Week: My final thoughts on the 2016 election.


No comments:

Post a Comment