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October 16, 2003

Dear Cubs Fans:

I told you. You didn't believe me. But you believe me now, don't you.

And, my God, it was perfect. Yes, yes, you're in pain, I know. But, honestly, now. If you had to lose -- and you did -- isn't it better this way? Not just to lose, but to lose big, to lose historically, to lose epically, yea, verily, to implode. Think of the stories you'll have. Let's just trot this dog right out and shake its shaggy paw: The Cubs had a collapse of biblical proportions. Biblical. This is the Book of Cubs, which reads rather suspiciously like the Book of Job, except, of course, that after God tests Job's faith, Job is rewarded.

Cubs fans, on the other hand, are precisely personified by the unfortunate Steve Bartman: Hopeful and groping towards history, yet destined to be personally implicated in, and to feel personally responsible for, the Cubbies' failures. Do not blame Steve Bartman, Cubs fans (and certainly don't kill him). He is a 200-proof distillation of everything it's been to be a Cubs fan for the last nine decades, the eye-watering, throat-desiccating, head-spinning Everclear of Wrigleyville. Pointing your angry, shaking finger at him is merely pointing back at your own disappointed self. He is you, with a better seat.

This is not gloating. I know it looks like it. I know it sounds like it. I fully admit you could package this as I Can't Believe It's Not Gloating! and stock it in the refrigerated aisle. But, follow: Gloating implies I wanted the other team to win, and really, who cares about the Marlins? I mean this literally, by the way. The Marlins averaged 16,000 spectators a game in 2003, and a single Cubs fan has more frothing team love than all of those Marlin spectators put together. Being a Marlins fan today is like licking a block of aspartamine: You have the sweetness but you also have that unnatural metallic aftertaste you get from something not quite real. (Cubs love, on the other hand, is pure cane sugar -- it's just too bad about that sugar crash at the end). In all, the Marlins are a speck, a bug, a straw man propped up by the baseball gods. Aside from the small, cheap irony that the Cubs were whomped by a fundamentally ahistorical wild-card collection of nobodies and cast-offs, the Marlins are entirely incidental to this whole thing you've got going.

Nor is it to the point to ask me if I'm happy the Cubs lost. That's like asking me if I'm happy the sun rose today. When the sun comes up, I'm happy to the extent that it means the fundamental laws of physics and reality continue to apply, and that as a consequence, we're not all flung into space by Earth's hard braking maneuver, and our planet sent looping towards doom in the immense gravity well of our star. I'm happy not for the sunrise, but for the well-ordered universe it represents.

Quite obviously you won't see it this way now, Cubs fans. I understand. Hell, I even sympathize. But in your heart, Cubs fans, you know the place of the Cubs and the role they play in the world. You've always known, just like you know what your role is, as the fans of The Team That Can't Close the Deal. You know, it's just that every once in a while you don't want to believe. That's why the baseball gods let you get close to the promised land every once in a while. To remind you.

In any event, it's almost over now. There's just one thing left to do: Root for those damn Yankees. Even if the baseball gods mean for the Cubs to lose and Cubs fans to suffer, they don't mean for you to suffer alone. Maybe that's comforting for you. Probably not so much for Red Sox fans.

Posted by john at October 16, 2003 07:32 AM

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