MORRISSEY: Cubs fans know poor quality but aren’t quitters
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 30, 2013 1:11AM
Gayle Babb of Willowbrook was first in line when 2013 single-game tickets went on sale at Wrigley. | John H. White~Sun-Times
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Updated: May 30, 2013 5:27PM
The baseball season opens Monday for Chicago, which means this is the perfect time for a tribute to Cubs fans, of whom so much is asked and so little given.
It’s the perfect time because the team’s 2013 record stands at a perfect 0-0. Life is not going to get much better for the people who donate blood regularly to the franchise.
Yet no group of fans stands by its team so steadfastly. Decade after decade of disappointment, and it doesn’t matter. People stick with the Cubs the way they stick with their DNA. I know the easy thing to do is to make fun of such blind allegiance in the face of so much losing, and Lord knows I’ve done it. But there’s something very noble about that kind of loyalty in today’s culture. The divorce rate in this country is at 50 percent. Pro athletes change teams at the drop of a hat. Hell, high school basketball players change teams at the drop of a hat.
And Cubs fans go on, unchanging. Permanent.
They are not blind and undiscerning, though there was a long period when they closely resembled Odie, the slobbering, gullible dog in the comic strip ‘‘Garfield.’’ Not anymore. They’ve shown their displeasure with the franchise by no longer walking into Wrigley Field like lemmings. Attendance has dropped. It’s still much higher than most teams, but it has dropped.
And yet, I don’t know of many long-suffering followers who have given up on the Cubs. I don’t think they’d know where to go if they did. The Cubs-Sox rivalry makes a shift to the South Side extremely difficult. But it’s more than that. There’s a stick-to-it-ness that the players, no matter how strong their work ethic, can’t touch.
One of the Cubs’ slogans this year is ‘‘Love Deserves a Ring.’’ No one can argue with that. Of course Cubs fans deserve a World Series title for all they’ve been put through. But Charlie Brown deserves to kick the football, too, and how’s that going?
I keep coming back to this: Boy, do the Cubs ask a lot of their fans — economically, emotionally and probably metaphysically. Think about it. A team that lost 101 games last season will be better this year but still likely finish last in the National League Central. Fans are being told to be patient again, as if 104 years with no championships weren’t patience enough. If I have this right, the unstated goal this season is to be bad enough that the team can sell off some of its valuable players to build for the future. Baseball fever, catch it!
The Cubs, even though they dropped ticket prices for 2013, are still asking fans to pay top dollar. They’re asking fans to find parking around Wrigley Field, no easy task, and did I mention they’re asking them to be patient?
The club had eight straight seasons with at least 3 million fans until 2012, when attendance dipped to 2.88 million. Troubling? Perhaps, but it was the highest attendance total in major-league history for a team that had lost at least 100 games, according to numbertamer.com.
The biggest news this spring has had nothing to do with the players on the field and everything to do with the players in the negotiating room. The Cubs want to put up a video scoreboard at Wrigley, likely blocking the view of some of the rooftops across the street. The rooftop owners, the kind of people who would pirate a neighbor’s cable-TV connection and be indignant when caught, are upset. How about they renovate their buildings upward, above any new signage or scoreboard?
The squabbling has either taken away from the experience of watching the actual baseball or helped people forget the actual baseball. Either way, it’s there.
Lots of people will look upon all of these crosses to bear as an indictment of Cubs fans’ intelligence, but I think it’s something else, something better.
I’ve always said that if frustrated sports fans were serious about effecting change, they would boycott games. I’m not so sure when it comes to the Cubs. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that the franchise is resistant to just about everything. And maybe Cubs fans, the one constant in this world, are right to sit and wait.
Will club president Theo Epstein’s way work? I don’t know. I do know Cubs fans will give him time. When they give the benefit of the doubt, they give till it hurts.