Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Eternal Optimist... a.k.a. The Cubs Fan

I've been a Cubs fan for most of my life. I'm a third-generation loyal to the North Siders, and the Cubbie blue runs deep. And I honestly cannot begin to count the number of times I've said, written, or thought a revised form of the 'someday, my prince will come' quote from the movie Snow White.

Borrowing from the more recent history, I sat through Mike Quade's stint as manager. I remember when acquiring Rich Harden from the Athletics was the deal of the year (a trade that sent future MVP Josh Donaldson to parts unknown). For years and years, the only postseason entertainment I had that was even remotely related to my  guys was counting the number of former Cubs on each team in the postseason and, eventually, the World Series.

After the ill-fated events of 2003, for which Alex Gonzalez gets far too little blame, it… well, wasn’t a lot of fun to be a Cubs fan for a while. In 2007, Sweet Lou Piniella came along. He had seen success as manager in Seattle, albeit with the likes of Griffey Junior on his roster, so perhaps he could turn things around for the boys in blue? The Cubs won the division both of Sweet Lou's first two seasons in town and brought some October baseball to the Friendly Confines once again. The celebrations were short-lived, though, after we were swept out in short order in each season.

Finally, along came Theo Epstein, the careful-crafter of the Boston Red Sox' 2004 championship squad. Perhaps this was the fellow that could turn things around in Wrigleyville? Cubs fans had a renewed faith and hope, applying another timeless quote; "if you build it, they will come".

It was a process, but what is one more year to a Cubs fan?! Epstein brought hope to a fanbase that seemed to be getting close to exhaustion. The addition of manager Joe Maddon brought energy and a fire for victory. The quick emergence of young superstars, names you've heard on SportsCenter a thousand times, like Rizzo; Bryant; and Schwarber brought excitement and renewed passion not just for the game, but for the Cubbies.

The 2015 season ended in somewhat surprising defeat, but it was the closest Cubs fans had come to the Fall Classic since the 1993 release of the Gary Busey-starring film Rookie of the Year, so there wasn't much time to be defeated before it was time to gear up for another ride in '16.

And what a ride it was. The Cubs' starting infield became the All-Star starting infield on behalf of the entire National League. The former Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta became, at times, the third-best pitcher on the starting staff. Rookies jumped to the Majors from Double-A ball and played so well, it couldn't be justified to send them back down.

With their backs against the wall, the Cubs won Game 5 just two nights ago, and now face another do-or-die tonight. Facing a solid Cleveland club, it won't be easy if the World Series trophy is to come home to the North Side for the first time in over a century, and it may not happen at all.

But for this Cubs fan, win or lose, I'll still wear my blue cap with the red "C" with pride and just keep singing...

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