With Derrek Lee’s evacuation of Wrigley’s home dugout (and swift move across the field to the visitor’s dugout for Friday’s series opener against his new team, the Braves), the Cubs front office has effectively cut out the heart of the team that has had some near-misses over the past few years. Lee was a professional, on and off of the field. One of the greatest Cubs of the past 20 years, Lee’s defense will be missed, and his ability to carry a team offensively, though lacking much of this year, is one of the things I’ll remember about him the most.
DLee is a stand-up guy, too, as evidenced by his out-of-character encounters with Chris Young a few seasons back, and his own pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, earlier this season. None of the adjectives you ever hear used to describe Derrek is a negative one, and as somebody who lives in a very pro-Atlanta Braves market, there is a great deal of excitement around here regarding this deal. And rightfully so; I know I will miss Lee terribly, and might try to make a Braves game later this year to see him again.
But Derrek Lee embodies all that is wrong with the Cubs, and the fanbase in general.
The Lovable Losers.
Sure, Derrek Lee has a World Series ring. Sure, he has playoff experience, including holding the title of “Only Cubs Player Who Remembers How To Hit” in the 08 playoffs. But Lee fell into the culture of Chicago Cubs Baseball, a fact he himself pointed out in his interview after the trade was announced yesterday. The Cubs, rich with their tradition of losing piled on top of losing, are stuck in a deep, mucky hole of sucktitude; how else can you explain a roster full of All-Stars getting paid megabucks constantly coming up short?
In my estimation, there are four main types of Cubs fans:
1) You have the optimistic lifers: this is the category I fall into. Your love affairs with the Cubs are more than likely tied to memories of games…but the memories involve the circumstances surrounding the games. Stories your parents or told. Sitting at your grandparents house watching WGN with your grandpa. Emulating Mark Grace or Rick Sutcliffe or Andre Dawson with your younger brother in the back yard. In my experience, (and I talked all about this in my previous post) I love the Cubs as much for the memories they invoke as for the product on the field. Am I bummed when they lose? Most definitely. Am I excited when they win? More than I should be. Will I potentially die from a heart attack when they finally win the World Series? I think this is a certainty. Optimistic Lifers are Cubs fans that, win or lose, awesome or suck, love to love the Cubs. Guilty.
2) Pessimistic Lifers: these fans are typically a little bit older than our first group, and through the course of failure after failure have become jaded to the point of expecting to live out their lives without ever seeing a World Series title brought back to the North Side. These are the fans who correctly predicted the 07 playoff collapse after incorrectly predicting earlier in the season that the Cubs would finish 35 games under .500. These are the fans who leave the game in the 4th inning when trailing 2-0. These fans have a point.
3) Post-2003 fans: this group could really be broken down into two separate groups – fans and non-fans. This is largely a young group of people who saw the Cubs success, and then failure, in the 03 NLCS and wanted something to be associated with. What better team to latch on to than one that has a history of horror? There are some legitimate fans here: some that have embraced the team, good or bad, and put themselves voluntarily into a life of servitude to an ungrateful master. These fans have probably assimilated themselves into one of the previous two categories. Everyone knows the rest of them: disinterested people who fill Wrigley because its the “cool” thing to do, buying the expensive hats and jerseys just so they can say they are fans. Talking on their cell phones all game long. Generally looking like douches. Often making up stories about how long they’ve suffered with the Cubs, even though they don’t really support them now. The most obnoxious group of them all.
The problem is that we’re all guilty, in one way or another, of contributing to the Lovable Loser mentality. The first group looks like they don’t care; the second, like they care too much. The third group really doesn’t care at all and just wants to be seen, preferably drunk and on TV.
The reason the Yankees haven’t had this problem is that they have a pedigree of winning: their fans expect it. The reason the Red Sox broke their curse in 04 is that they all supported their team feverishly: their fans expected it. The reason the Cubs can’t take it all the way? The fans expect failure, or just don’t give a crap at all. Then its “Just Wait Till Next Year!”
I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of being a national laughingstock while my head is in the sand. Its time to EXPECT victory and championships out of this franchise, and time to hold the franchise accountable when it drastically underperforms.