Filed under Opinion Columns

A cubs fan, never say die

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Let me start off by making it clear that I am a Cubs fan and as such here’s a message to Cardinals fans: there’s always next year.

Unlike many sports fans around the country, I wasn’t born a fan of one team or another, as my family in northern Illinois favored several different teams in baseball. However, while I got to choose other favorite teams, my baseball team was ingrained in me at such a young age I was calling myself a fan before I knew what the game was even about.

My great uncle, a die-hard Cubs fan through thick and thin, used to give me candy to say things like “go Cubs” at family functions. At this young impressionable age of not quite two, I had no idea that I would be set into a lifelong journey of excitement, heartbreak, rivalry and kinsmanship that would forever shape how I saw the game.

Even though I didn’t realize that I was not so subtly being turned into a Cubs fan as a child, I grew to appreciate and even love the team, with Ryne Sandberg becoming the first player I knew by name and my favorite players spanning from Mark Grace, to Sammy Sosa, to Mark Prior over the years. Don’t get me started on the direction some of these players went, that’s another topic all together. Anyway, I eventually got to the point I could name every player on the roster and I watched every game I could.

I came to learn that rivalry and the Cubs are practically linked together. When I was growing up however, I lived in Rockford, IL and I knew very little of the rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that seemed practically across the country.  The one time I remember it being a huge deal was when two individuals (you know the ones) were vying for the single season homerun record.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the rivalry in the northern part of the state is different than it is near Springfield. I don’t believe there is a fan rivalry bigger than that of the Cubs and the White Sox in northern Illinois. It is all about North Side vs. South Side, NL vs. AL, Wrigley vs. Comiskey (which is really U.S. Cellular Park now, but let’s be honest, this is one of many terrible corporate names ball parks have gotten stuck with). This tradition even spawned its own set of New Era commercials which you can find if you Youtube Chicago vs. Chicago.

When I moved to the Springfield area when I was 10, I was in for a, quite literally, rude awakening. Down in central Illinois I was brought to the harsh realization that I was apparently supposed to hate most of my new classmates on principle, because that is how the Cubs/ Cardinals rivalry works. Of course I have been bombarded with questions like “isn’t it painful to cheer for a team that never wins,” “do you think you’ll live to see a Cubs world series,” “why don’t you just give up,” and other “insert rude sarcastic remark here” comments, but I have learned to ignore it or shoot it right back.

I have my reasons for enduring the ups and downs that come with being a Cubs fan. One of the main ones being the memories I have acquired over the years.

Now I’ve been to several major league games in several different ballparks, including Tropicana Field, U.S Cellular, and Sun Life Stadium (back when it was Dolphin Stadium and hosted the Marlins). My first game, in fact, was at old Busch stadium for a Cards/ Reds game (yuck). However, the biggest experience of my baseball-viewing career was getting to see two Cubs playoff games in Atlanta during the 2003 season. During one of which, I got to witness Kerry Wood pitch a game in his prime.

I loved every minute of being in Turner Field with one exception. As much as I like to give Cardinals fans crap and appreciate that rivalry, I will never dislike a Cardinals fan with the same severity that developed at those playoff games vs. the Braves. It. Was. Awful. The games were great the fans, not so much.

In addition to being a Cubs fan, I am a Wrigley fan. It is hands down my favorite ballpark. The best experiences I have had at a ballgame have been in the bleachers beyond that iconic ivy; I even have a few baseballs to show for it. Other parks have great features, but nothing compares to the fun and excitement of talking to bleacher bums, sharing the fun of “Take me out to the ball game,” or belting “Go Cubs Go” after a win.

While my personal vendetta against Cardinals fans is minimal at this point, I was sort of hoping for a rematch of the 2006 series. However, I would have loved to see the match up go differently. And really, society taught me to cheer for my “enemies” downfall right? I, as a Cubs fan, always cheer for a comeback, but the chance for that is gone. So again I say, maybe next year. Is that annoying yet? So sorry, now you know how it feels…just saying.

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