Somewhere on the north side of Chicago is a very kind 90-something-year-old man whose father regaled him with tales of the Cubs’ glory days — Tinkers to Evers to Chance, “Bonehead” Merkel, and a pitcher with only three fingers.
He hasn’t missed a game on WGN radio in as long as he can remember and has suffered dutifully with eternal hope for “next year.”
If the Cubbies do indeed win it all in 2016 — something they haven’t done in that man’s considerable lifetime — I sincerely hope he can join the party on Addison Street and, with a tear sparkling in the corner of his eye, look up to heaven and say “now I know how it feels too, Dad!”
What a story.
But there are fathers and sons in Cleveland, too, and they will share tears of joy if their beloved Indians can pull off their first World Series championship since the Truman administration.
And so I wonder: How and when did it become moral imperative to root only for the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs? This remains the refrain I hear among Cubs fans, both the long-suffering lifers and the insufferable bandwagon variety.
You may recall that I wrote about this very topic two weeks ago, arguing that no self-respecting Cardinals fan can root for the Cubs because, you know, a rivalry is a rivalry. But in the spirit of civil discourse, I invited readers to weigh in.
A small handful of Cubs fans ignored my pleas to keep it fun and to not get personal. To them, I can only respond: a) I am neither a hater nor a whiner, b) I do too know about baseball, and c) leave my mother out of it.
But to the majority of you 100-or-so who kindly took the time to drop me a line I say thank you. You chimed in with rational and spirited arguments both for and against hopping the Wee Bear bandwagon.
Chris Hottensen, a pastor and christian school principal, did his best to be respectful in a Facebook comment explaining what the rivalry means to him. He doesn’t “hate” the Cubs, he wrote, and even respects the way this particular team plays, but ...
“It’s so much more fun when we’re rooting against each other — all in fun of course. It makes water cooler conversations so much more interesting and creates excitement even if your team isn’t in the race.”
Life-long Cardinals fan Keka Sanborn emailed from Hawaii to say he “feels a slight bit sorry” for Cubs fans, but that rivalry rules. These are values he’s passed along to his son, who once refused a roster spot on the local Little League team — the Kailua Cubs.
“Without any provocation from me or my wife,” he politely told the coach he “loves the Cardinals and he could never wear his Little League uniform if he were to play on that team. I was so proud of my son that day!”
And as many of you pointed out, the rivalry goes both ways. For instance, when do the Cubs fans ever root for the Cardinals?
“Their die-hard fans haven’t and wouldn’t root for us (nor should they —ridiculous!),” wrote Laura Boedeker, a Cardinals fan who lives in Chicago. “No team is entitled to, or all-deserving of, support. I’m tired of being chided ... I can cheer for any team I (dang) well please. Go Indians!”
To which Fred and Jolynn Melvin responded with a Facebook comment: “That’s OK ... I can’t root for the Cards either.”
There are factors, however, that lure even the most ardent fans across what we all see as baseball’s Mason-Dixon Line. Russell Haggard, a Cubs fan from Springfield, say his friendship with Cards’ fan Emory Appleberry is one of those things.
“This time last year I was rooting for (the Cardinals) because he’s my friend/family, and this year he’s doing the same for me,” Haggard wrote. “So, in short, it can be done.”
Christine Debrecht likewise will be rooting for the Cubs on behalf of her uncle and some college chums — “I just want to see them happy” — but added that she has a more selfish rationale.
“If the Cubs do win the World Series, then somehow I believe it tilts the cosmic favor towards the Blues finally winning the Stanley Cup ... You know, a sort of universe check and balance,” she wrote.
Several of you made the point that if this isn’t the year your beloved Cardinals win their 12th World Series title, you’ll take some solace in knowing they were knocked by the eventual champion.
“If the Cardinals were still alive I would have a different view, but the practice of the vanquished giving allegiance to the victor is a honorable tradition going back thousands of years,” wrote Gary Ayers. “Next year I hope we smash the Cubs. This year I root for the Cubbies all the way.”
Strangely, nobody mentioned the aforementioned example of the aging die-hard and his last request. For all the strong feelings on both sides of the rivalry, there doesn’t seem to be much room for sentiment.
O’Fallon’s Marc Smith, however, made a cold and cynical argument that may just be the most logical of the bunch. He’s a Cardinals fan at heart, but as a 53-year resident of southwestern Illinois, finds it hard not to tie his baseball loyalties to all those income tax dollars he sends north to “some road, train or bus, water or sewer pipe” in Chicago.
If ever there was a case to be made that could influence my personal rooting interest, that would be the one.
It’s just too bad the White Sox aren’t in the World Series.