When Dexter “Benedict Arnold” Fowler returned to Wrigley yesterday you’d have thought Halle Berry was walkin’ through the aisles naked handin’ out $100 bills. The place went full on Mt Vesuvius. It was almost as if he’d stepped onto the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field and right then and there … on the spot … accessed the public address system to announce that he was activating some sorta double-secret Jared Kushner back-channel clause in his contract that returned him to the Cubs for the duration of the season.
Did he do that? No.
Still, the Cubs faithful made a spectacle outta Fowler’s return to Chicago — a guy who not only chose to leave a World Series Champion team, he defected to the baseball equivalent of ISIS. At least to the Cubs. If you’re a real Cubs fan — not the safe-spacing, snow flake, powder puff kind that marches to Katie Perry’s “just unite and love on each other” mantra — then you know that in spite of all the great crap Fowler did for us last year, he’s dead to us now. That’s why yesterday’s fan reaction boggles my Old Style altered mind.
When Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, did you see the Rebel Alliance embracing him when he came back to deal with that whole Dantooine thing? No, you did not. But yesterday, when the Cubs presented Fowler with his World Series ring, they did everything but have the Blue Angels buzz the friggin’ stadium. I grant you, he earned it. But if the ring exchange had been planned by me, 1) it woulda only happened if Theo had put a gun to my head or threatened to make me eat ketchup on my Chicago dogs and 2) I woulda placed his Series bling in plain sight somewhere in Garfield Park and invited Fowler to a game of Finders Keepers.
And the fans? They were just as goo-goo-eyed. They delivered an ovation for the ring thing, and then another one when Fowler goes yard in the first off Lackey. SERIOUSLY?! You’re gonna cheer a guy hittin’ a home run against us? And of all people a St Louis Cardinal?! In-friggin’-credible. That’s like throwing a parade for Osama Bin Laden or inviting Kim Jong-un over for Sunday Night Baseball. You never ever ever never EVER cheer for a Cardinal. Ever.
Now I know trades go both ways, and when we raided the Cards lineup before last season, I was plenty happy about that. Still not gonna throw any parties for St Louis … but a thank you note? That might have been appropriate. I can’ t imagine any die-hard Cardinals fans were firing up a Cuban or turning cartwheels, though. And I don’t blame ’em. Hating your arch rival is like jock itch, moronic questions from the media, and $14 Budweiser — it’s part of sports. The size of the rivalry should dictate the amount of prescribed venom. It goes something like this:
H = rc²
That’s the Joe Schlombowski theory of relativity, where hate (H) equals the rival (r) times the speed of light (c) squared. And lemme tell you, pallie, when you multiply St Louis by the speed of light squared, you get a number that’s light years away from givin’ Dexter Fowler a friggin’ ovation.
This whole thing raises a number of questions: What kind of a Cubs fan would cheer for a Cardinals player? Should they be summarily ejected? Should fans be required to submit to random “fan testing?” Should that test be multiple choice, essay or both? Should failures be reported to the proper authorities? Who are the proper authorities? If there are proper authorities, doesn’t that imply that there are improper authorities? If John Mellencamp were to fight these particular authorities, would they still win? What happened to John Mellencamp? Why did he drop the “Cougar” from his name? Is a cougar the same thing as a MILF? What does “summarily” mean? I’m definitely going to lose some sleep over this.
Hey there, pocket squares. Have you seen the “what not to wear” fashion fart from joesportsfan.com? Once again, Cardinals fans are livin’ up to my expectations. In true, sniveling, diaper-wearin’, I-didn’t-get-what-I-want-so-I’m-gonna-protest political fashion, good ol’ Joe is sellin’ a t-shirt with a Cubs-like logo and “Not my World Series champions” on it.
“Not my World Series champions?”
Is there another World Series somewhere with another champion? Last time I checked, the Fall Classic was it, my friend. Maybe there’s one on another planet or somethin’. Like the planet Uranus … where Cards fans rule, cuz it was named after ’em.
How many fans gathered to commemorate the last Cards championship? I have no friggin’ clue, but I can tell you it wasn’t five million, my friend. I am, however, willing to concede that whatever the headcount it was surely the largest gathering of pinheads in the history of the world. Congratulations. Have a lollipop.
Anyway, go to Joe Sports Fan and take a look at that friggin’ shirt! Any self-respecting Cards fan would rather take a nap with a scorned Lorena Bobbitt and a four-foot machete than strut around with a bastardized Cubs logo on his chest. I mean, the Cubs-Cards thing is baseball’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys, right? They hate us; we hate them. So wearin’ your arch enemy’s colors is a weird way of showin’ whose side your on.
You’ll never ever ever never see a Cubs fan wearin’ a Cards logo, I guarantee you. Not and live to tell about it. Quite the opposite, my friend. For example: You know those urinal cookie thingies? Well, down at the plant we got a bunch made with Cards logos on ’em. THAT’S what Cubs fans do with Cards logos. Great for target practice.
I’d also like to point out the copy that Joe Sports Fan writes about the shirt. It reads, “We are strong. We are united. We are clothed in a delicious blend of cotton and polyester sure to make friends jealous on Opening Day as the 11-time World Champion St. Louis Cardinals take the field against a team that hasn’t won one in over a century. Sad!” Since the Cubs are currently sittin’ on the trophy, I’d say if anything is “sad” it’s that Joe Sports Fan can’t count to 1. Typical.
So … while St Louis fans are busy protesting one of the greatest sports stories in a hundred years, the Cubs are quietly goin’ about the business of repeatin’ as Series champs, just like they did in 1907 and ’08 — something the Cards have never done.
When I was a kid, my dad used to take my brothers and me to Cubs games. Not all the time, but once in a while. Even took my sister once, but she fell asleep on his lap which meant he couldn’t get up and cheer when circumstances called for it. Oh yeah … that was the Cubs of the 1970s — no need to stand and cheer.
Goin’ to Wrigley was one of my favorite things as a kid. Still is. There’s nothin’ like that first glimpse of the impossibly green grass, the perfection of the infield carved from it, and the billowing clouds pushin’ across Chicago’s summer sky. But what sticks in my mind most from those trips to Wrigley was how tall everybody was. Walkin’ in the crowd was like bein’ in a forest of human redwoods. Even in our seats I couldn’t see a thing unless everyone was sittin’ down and I was up on my knees. That’s how I remember watchin’ most games at Wrigley. Makes my ACL swell up just thinkin’ about it.
My dad loved baseball. And more than that, he loved the Cubs. April was the most optimistic month in the Schlombowski household, but there was always a measure of it, no matter how far outta first the Cubs fell. “A 10-game win streak starts today, Joe,” he’d say as he was leavin’ for work. And when he’d get home, it’d be “See, I told ya,” or “I meant tomorrow,” depending on what the Cubs did that day. When they were on the road, Dad would haul our crappy, old black-and-white TV out on the stoop to escape the suffocating heat in our apartment, and watch the games with our neighbor, Mr. Kowalski. They’d smoke cigars and listen to Fergie Jenkins, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo try as they might to carry a team that was neck-deep in billy goat curse. The smoke seemed sweet, and curled up through the screen on the window of the room my brothers and I shared. I’d fall asleep to the sound of Jack Brickhouse or Vince Lloyd, the muffled conversation, and my dad’s occasionally animated and always colorful commentary on whatever the Cubs were doin’, and whoever was doin’ it to ’em.
To me, the quintessential ($5 word score!) Cubs fan was long ago defined by the intersection of my father and the Chicago Cubs. At Wrigley, I’d look up at him from my seat and see a guy who loved the experience of just being there much more than the game’s outcome. It was about the theater of the sport — its ebb and flow, the glacial pace interrupted by periodic moments of volcanic excitement. My father saw himself as a player in this nine-act play —the jester, if you will — the guy in the stands who has people three sections away laughin’ their asses off, and wishing they had the wit and courage to sling crap at the opposition like he did. You know, the kind of icy yet good-natured barbs that sting, but make one smile at the same time. If they gave a gold glove for that, my dad would have a trophy case full of ’em, and a couple of boxes in the garage for the ones that wouldn’t fit.
Dad wouldn’t pull punches if the Cubs needed a wake up call, either. “That’s part of bein’ a good fan,” he’d say. He taught me that you gotta hold the Cubs’ spikes to the fire when they F-up. And they do F-up. Two words: Greg Maddux. I learned that if you blindly defend a player’s on- and off-field brain farts, or an ownership that’s smothered in lame sauce, or hemorrhoid-inducing front office moves that make you lose your will to live, you’re not a real fan. You’re a “homer.” You’re like Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, the guys that do radio for San Francisco — two guys that wouldn’t say anything negative about a Giants player if he stole his grandmother’s life savings and blew it at the track. You could pour their broadcasts over your friggin’ pancakes, my friend. Real fans, Dad taught me, were loyal as a golden retriever, but didn’t act like public defenders when the Cubs play was criminally bad.
Don’t get me wrong. Except for my mom and us kids, my dad loved the Cubs more than anything. Sometimes bowling night would take the pole position, but that was in the off-season. Mostly, though, he lived and died with the Cubs, but did it in a rational way. And THAT, my friend, is what separates Cubs fans from all others. We don’t turn into raving phycho killers when the Cubs lose, and we don’t become obnoxious, our-shit-don’t-stink St Louis fans when we win … actin’ like our team is the best thing that ever stepped foot on a diamond … includin’ the ’27 Yankees.
I think it’s been all the years of sleepin’ in the rest of baseball’s garbage that’s given us some perspective. Of course, those decades of ineptitude (another $5 word score) have given us a lotta heartache, too. But you won’t find Cubs fans, even this year, countin’ any chickens just cuz we’re havin’ the best season since 1908. Giants fans, on the other hand? Crimminy … they’ve been sayin’ how 2016 is a lock for their 4th ring in 7 years just cuz it’s an even numbered year. And they been doin’ it since last year. Arrogance anyone? Makes me glad I didn’t grow up in San Francisco, where they serve crap like gluten-free flatbread, strawberry lavender spa water and fried Brussels sprouts with lemon aioli in their ball park. That ain’t baseball food! But that’s cuz those ain’t real baseball fans, either. They’re mostly new money tech geeks goin’ to games cuz it’s a “cool” thing to do, not cuz they grew up with posters of Mays and McCovey plasterin’ their bedroom walls. Me? My room looked like the friggin’ Chicago Cubs wing at Cooperstown, I had baseball cards of every Cubs player since they were known as the Orphans, my glove was an Ernie Banks autographed Rawlings, and Sister Mary Rachel used to yank my Cubs hat off me so I wouldn’t wear it up for communion.
It’s no surprise I turned out this way — with a blue pinstriped soul and a heart covered in ivy. I was brain washed … only it was carried out in a subtle, methodical way as to not be identified with such a negative term. That’s how it works with fathers and sons. It’s gradual — an almost imperceptible indoctrination ($10 word bonus) that takes decades, and from which there is no salvation. It’s passed along from father to son, like your great great grandfather’s pocket watch, only with the Cubs it’s a pocket watch that, until last year, was more like a friggin’ sun dial. No modern digital readout, no stop watch functionality, no Swiss movement. Sentimental, but not workin’ that great. Still, in spite of the Cubs bein’ the Cubs for the past 108 years, stickin’ with ’em has been a source of pride. Of course it’s been a source of frustration, depression and the frequent four-letter word salads, too. Mostly, though, bein’ a Cubs fan is a matter of character — a demonstration of loyalty and brotherhood, perseverance and patience. Anyone can root for the Yankees and their 27 rings, but it takes a special person to follow a team that’s lived in the basement longer than your grade school hockey skates. Can you imagine the Hollywooders in LA stickin’ with the Dodgers on a century-long drought? Not a friggin’ chance. They don’t even stick it out for one game — typically showin’ up late, leavin’ early, and braggin’ about beatin’ the traffic instead of the slapdicks in the other dugout. Pathetic.
Anyway, my father is guilty. Guilty of makin’ me love somethin’ that hasn’t loved me back. Guilty of makin’ me a slave to hope. Guilty of makin’ me go back to a well that’s been as dry as the chalk between third and home. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why? Because of everything that makes a Cubs fan a Cubs fan — none of which has ever had a damn thing to do with wins or losses. How could it? If followin’ the Cubs was tied to the record you wouldn’t have three million churning through Wrigley’s turnstiles every year. You wouldn’t flip on the radio for a game in Pittsburgh and, based on the crowd noise, swear to Jesus they were playin’ at home. You wouldn’t have 108 years of “wait until next year” cuz the Cubs woulda left years ago for greener infields outside of Chicago.
So, here’s to you, Cubs fans, especially you, Dad, for dyein’ me in the wool. I raise a frosty Old Style to all of you. You make goin’ to Wrigley like sittin’ in my living room with 40,000 of my best friends, and what the hell is better than that? (Except for playin’ hide the sausage with the missus, of course.) Meetin’ one of you, anywhere — like Pauly, one of the faithful I met the other day in Seattle, of all places — is like runnin’ into a long lost friend. Thanks for that. You’re the best. Each and every one of you.
Holy crap! The Cubs lay a couple of goose eggs on Wednesday and you’d think the friggin’ sky was falling. Hey, Cubs fans, what the hell is wrong with you people?! Did you really think we were gonna go the entire season without losing 2 in a row? Is that realistic? I can understand that maybe … just maybe … your perspective might be a little off. After all, the Cubs are havin’ their best start in 109 years, we’ve got a run differential as wide as Bartolo Colon’s butt, and we’ve had both our offense and pitching in annihilation mode since we broke camp. It’s easy to get caught up in that, I know, but you gotta stop the Varuca Salt impersonations when every little thing doesn’t go our way. Grow the hell up.
My advice: Crack open an icy cold Old Style and try to enjoy what’s happened so far. Think about it. With just a Donald Trump-sized handful of exceptions, the Cubs have basically sucked for over a hundred years. This year? We’re good. I mean for real, we’re good. For the first 5 weeks of the season the Cubs have been the main topic of conversation on just about every sports program known to man. Why? Partly because when the Cubs win with monotonous regularity it’s pretty unusual. Partly because we’re really kicking the crap outta just about everybody, and then rubbin’ their noses in what we kicked out of ’em. We’re so good, in fact, that ESPN’s resident pinhead, Stephen A. Smith (middle name always initialed due to obscenity reasons) felt compelled to attribute Arrieta’s performance to PEDs. He just had to pin that kind of exceptional play on something … anything but the fact that we’re actually good. Too monstrous of a concept for the feeble minded.
If I’m Maddon, I’m takin’ a trip to the mound to settle you down. Try to remember that for a team that’s been defined by our ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we’re doin’ pretty damn good. We lost a couple in a row … to a crappy team. Don’t jump off the Sears Tower just yet, pal. Take a deep breath, do some of that zen yoga meditation crap or somethin’ and have a little faith, baby. Did we fold when Schwarber went down? No. Have we found ways to win some close ones? Yes. Have we mostly treated opposing pitching staffs like a baby treats a diaper? Absolutely. So let’s have a little more Alfred E. Newman and a little less Chicken Little.
In the words of Nuke LaLoosh, “You win some, you lose some. Sometimes it rains.” It’s a long season, my friend. You gotta trust it.
I don’t know what it is … maybe I’m just a product of the 60s, when ballplayers were loyal to their teams (even if it was because the owners were as much slave owners as they were team owners). Still, when I read that Jake Arrieta — who’s havin’ by FAR the two best years of his career — is willing to walk away if the Cubs don’t offer him a minimum of $200 million and 7 years, I just wanna slap his greedy little Wall Street face.
I get it. Arrieta won the trophy last year, and he’s looking like Cy Young himself this year, while Strasburg — an inferior pitcher, if you go by the numbers — just penned a seven-year extension with the Nats for Jesus money. Plus, if you throw in the deals Price and Scherzer got (both 7-year stints for more than $200 million) then mix all that information together in the context bowl, then yeah, it sounds like Arrieta is worth what he and that bottom-feeder Boras are gonna be asking for. However, it’s totally friggin’ unreasonable in a world where garbage men are gettin’ 60-some grand a year to wade through Chicago’s trash, no matter what it’s doin’ outside. And what really rubs me raw is when I hear some of these guys, who drive Bentleys outta their 10 car garages to the ballpark, talk about how much they care about the fans. Quite frankly it insults my intelligence. Limited though it may be, I got enough gray matter up there to tell when a guy who plays a game for a living is dropping his kids off at the pool … and I’m the pool.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for everything Jake has brought to the Cubs. I admire his work ethic and his focus. And there’s no getting around the impact he’s had on this team and its win/loss record. To be fair, he also said he’d like to stay in Chicago. I appreciate that, I do. It’s the way he said it that chaps my backside. “I made it clear I like Chicago.” Arrieta said. “I think everyone knows that. If I had it my way, I’d stay here.” To which I have to ask one question: “Well, Jake, who the friggin’ hell do you think is making the decision?!” That whole “if I had it my way” line of thinking is the most condescending kinda bull shit there is. No one points a gun to a player’s head and forces ’em to put their John Hancock on the starvation wage that $130 million for 5 years would be. The player makes the decision. Period. Even if a shark like Boras — who makes his living off of the backs of people with talent — wants more.
The fact that this is even up for discussion at this point in the 2016 season, thus possibly causing an unneeded distraction, is beyond me. It’s like we already won the World Series or something, when we haven’t even been in the damn thing since the year we dropped the bomb on Japan. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on checking that item off the list first, before everyone gets their panties in a wad over the assumption that Arrieta will march through the season (80% of which has yet to be played) in the manner he’s established thus far? There’s plenty of time to contemplate the $20 beer prices and tickets so expensive you gotta have a co-signer to buy, likely required to keep the likes of Arrieta from feeling under-appreciated. If we could just concentrate on winning the division instead of being confrontational within the organization, I think that would be a better use of everyone’s time. And us poor SOBs who are scrimping and scratching to save enough to go to a game or two — you know, those fans everyone always says they care so much about — we’d appreciate it.