Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cubbies

[twitter style=”vertical” float=”left”] Of course, this applies to the dads out there too, but that just wouldn’t have fit the song parody quite right.  So let this be a warning to those of you who don’t yet have children, and even those whose kids are still young enough to escape the madness.

It’s too late for me.  My kids were doomed even before they were born, as evidenced by the picture above.  That was taken just a few months before my daughter came into the world.  If you pay close attention, you might even be able to figure out what her name is.

Then one day in October, a son was born to me.  And mama held his hand, saying “Someday, you’ll understand.”  But I’m here to tell you now, each and every mother’s son, you better learn it fast and you better learn it young: when it comes to the Chicago Cubs, someday never comes.

In truth, my own first words to my son really weren’t words at all.  I held him, swaddled in the hospital blankets, and walked to the TV opposite my wife’s bed, where a DVD had already been cued up.  Then the two of us watched Ryne Sandberg cement his place in baseball lore.

As Bob Costas, whose eyes had yet to show signs of Rage Virus infection, called the second bomb off of Bruce Sutter, my own father leaned in over my shoulder and said to my son: “That’s your daddy’s hero.”  Just to clear up any confusion, he wasn’t referring to Sutter, though the split-finger specialist did possess a sweet ‘stache.

My son at 1 day old.
My son at 1 day old.

So now you can probably guess my son’s name too.  But watching Ryno and hearing my father, I felt tears spilling down my cheeks in what was a mix of pride, joy, and fear.  Fear that I was dooming my son to my same fate, the one in which a father watching baseball in October with his boy involves a DVD of a game that took place on a June day 24 years earlier.

Of course, when my kids get a little older and I ask them why they’re angry and depressed over the performance of their favorite team, I fully expect a response of: “I learned it by watching you!”  Parents who love the Cubs have kids who love the Cubs.

My wife and I were blessed by having no trouble starting our little family.  The Cubs, on the other hand, have tried for over a century to conceive a title team.  That’s certainly no surprise lately, given the impotence of the organization’s business arm.

But Drs. Epstein and Hoyer have spent the last few years trying to incubate a test-tube team.  With that comes both anticipation and anxiety.  As de facto expectant parents, fans are pacing the waiting room to burn off the nervous energy and to come to terms with the situation.  

Because while there’s a hope and faith in this plan to deliver a healthy, competitive organization, there’s also a fear that’s aggressively gnawing away at the fans’ collective amygdala that the yet-embryonic team will be still-born.

As a parent, you always feel your children’s pain and suffering more than your own.  So why on Earth would someone who has been through decades of disappointment and abject disaster willingly choose to subject their offspring to a similar future, particularly given the fact that the failure of the current plan would be devastating?

But perhaps my warnings still aren’t enough, just like my own tortured fandom wasn’t enough to prevent me from indoctrinating (“brainwashing” has such a stigma) my offspring.  So why did I, and so many others, do it?

It’s because we also want more for our kids than what we had.  Because being a Cubs fan is about hope.  Because even the slightest glimmer of “maybe” is enough to light the path at your feet and keep you moving ever forward.  And if the Cubs are able to win, just once, it’ll all be worth it.  

So you see, it’s not about putting our children through some sort of trial. Rather, it’s allowing them to participate in the shared experience of dreaming beyond reason.  Because when the impossible does happen, we want them to be present for it, even if we won’t be.  Maybe letting them grow up to be Cubs fans isn’t such a bad thing after all.

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