By: Jeffrey Newholm
Most sports fans have one cherished wish they really want, over everything else. If only they could have that one thing, they’d never experience want again. Perhaps it’s making it past a certain round in the playoffs. Or winning the draft lottery. Or the Browns winning a game. But for the Chicago Cubs, for over 100 years, obviously the goal was to win the World Series. Anything short of this was disappointment, and anything beyond this unnecessary. So naturally one should expect the happiness of a Cubs fan to be divided between pre November 2nd, 2016, and after that date. That’s when a routine grounder to third had, seemingly, earth-shattering consequences:
It was also the last Cubs game, as there was no longer a need for Chicago to compete. Funny, then, how the Cubs fought so hard to beat the Brewers Monday night 7-2 in 11 innings, to reclaim first place in the NL Central. The idea that we need “just that one thing!” to be happy is a universal fallacy. The great pessimist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed that the will, the moving force underlying every object and person, has no ultimate end. How could it? If we stopped wishing and working after every small win, no one would make it past second grade. The fascinating nature of man is to always have a new goal on the horizon. We used this tendency to push through the industrial revolution, and it is taking the Cubs from one win to a potential dynasty.
Chicago fans are clearly not content with one title, as seen by the nearly 3,200,000 fans who packed Wrigley last year. But the mindset has definitely changed, and perhaps not for the better. The North Siders give their fans plenty of reasons to cheer, despite a slow start this season. The team is undaunted by late-game deficits, as evidenced by Jason Heyward’s walk-off slam.
The team has become an emotionless, seemingly wishless machine. And this enabled Jose Quintana to easily bounce back after giving up a go-ahead homer. He continued throwing heater after heater, seemingly oblivious to the score. The defenders behind him made tough chances with terminator like determination and stoic gusto. But the lovable underdog swagger is lost. Multiple times Cubs stood and sulked after clearly making an out, waiting for a challenge that would, and should, never come. The Brewers had a lot more fun, yet lost to their rivals for the seventh straight time. Winning has its costs, and for Chicago, if it includes the thrill of competition, it’s still worth paying.
While the American League is dominated by the hammering Yankees and stat wizard Astros, the NL is a more septic playing field. Same as a crowd awaiting a bases loaded, 3-2 pitch, the baseball world holds its breath waiting for a champion to emerge. Perhaps the Nationals will finally realize its grand visions. Maybe the Dodgers will take another swing for a World Series breakthrough. But much like the Patriots, who quickly lost the luster of an underdog, the Cubs have quickly turned cheers and tears into groans. Popularity is the most fickle of all mistresses, as the plucky Royals find, now in last place. But keeping the chase for the pennant of satisfaction, as the Cubs are discovering, is a courtship bound to turn sour for all but the staunchest of fans and ballplayers.