“He never complained about his team’s bad luck or bad talent, never stopped playing the game with joy, never stopped giving his all, never lost his proud demeanor, and never acted like anything but a winner. He was a symbol of the Cub fan’s undiminishing resilience. If he could be happy to come to the park each afternoon, then so could we.” Joe Mantegna talking about Mr Cub, Ernie Banks.
If you ask gals my age what their favorite memories of childhood are, they may tell you about their favorite doll, or first kiss, or high school prom. I am wired a little differently. My memories deal with sports…from fishing in the ponds on our farm to wiffle ball in the front yard and basketball in the back, growing up with older brothers who are very athletic you adapt or get left out. Unfortunately, while I had the desire to take part in every game out there, I had no natural abilities so I watched, listened, studied and used knowledge as my way of being part of team family. Mind you, this was the early 1970’s-pre cable television and pre internet so becoming sports smart and staying current was no easy task.
Sports viewing was also very different in the early 1970’s compared to now. You could not watch just your favorite team or any specific team for that matter. We had the Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons and Monday Night Baseball. Two games were advertised throughout the week; a regional game, which growing up in mid Missouri was always the Cardinals and whoever they were playing, and the national game, large market teams or those in the pennant race. Needless to say, we saw, much to my chagrin, plenty of Dodger, Yankee, and Met games. I recall one particular Saturday when the regional game was advertised as a Cubs/Cardinals game. Televising a Cub/Card game only happened about once a year so we always looked forward to it. I got my daily chores completed early and had my Double Cola and chips with me and awaited the start of the game. Much to my dismay, it was the national game that was televised. I have no memory of who was playing but I recall I did make a face when I heard what game it was. Now my dad, who at that time was a bit like a box of chocolates, you never knew what to expect, saw said face and said, “You either like baseball or you don’t. You can’t have favorites in a game you don’t know anything about.” While that meant nothing to me at the time, the fact that I recall that one exchange so many years later shows its importance. So I watched baseball and learned to appreciate baseball. I was able to see Pete Rose in 1973 when he won both MVP and batting title. I watched players like Bench, Stargell, Reggie Jackson, Carew, Clemete, Santo, Banks and pitchers like Seaver, Jenkins, Gibson, and Catfish Hunter. I saw Hank Aaron hit 715 in April 1974 and I saw the Oakland A’s three-peat. It was a good time for baseball, regardless of your favorite team.
If I got my Baseball Bachelors Degree in the 1970’s, I earned a PhD in the 1980’s. When cable television came to town, Missourians finally had the opportunity to watch the Cubs everyday. Because I was a waitress/bartender in much of the 80’s, it allowed me time in the afternoons to go to my dads and watch the games before the evening work shift. (of course, the lights changed everything) It was during this time I learned specifics of the game. Pitches thrown and why, when it is the batter who can’t hit or the pitcher throwing nasty pitches, sacrifices, balks, intentional walks, base stealing, the job of the base coaches, pitching mechanics, offensive strategy and the most important lesson of all what it really means to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs.
My dad was of the generation that never saw the Chicago Cubs win a world series in his lifetime yet had unwavering loyalty toward the Cubs. While watching games, it was okay to criticize a player for not getting that clutch hit or getting picked off on second and even to question a coaching decision. However when the game was complete, credit was given where due, and tomorrow another day. Did not matter if the Cubs lost 10 in a row, or lost 10-0, when that game was over you stood behind the boys in blue with the faith you would give them tomorrow. They win as a team and lose as a team and never is one player to take all the credit for a win nor all the blame for a loss. You understand while baseball might be the perfect game, players certainly are not, but it is those same players who will take the field the following day and who you stand behind as a devoted fan and cheer them on to victory. Because of human nature, we all will have players we, for one reason or another, won’t like as well as others. Whether it is their play, personality, or you just don’t like their looks, it happens. But it still does not give you free rein to bash that player publicly day in day out. Because in the end, if he is playing, you are going to have to hope he does well for the team. Living in Missouri, Cub fans have continually listened to Cardinal fans and smiled through the jokes and sarcasm, always taking the high road and always sticking up for every Chicago Cub player. No whining no complaining no excuses, simple loyalty.
Being the brunt of all baseball jokes for many years was not easy, however, there are days I think it was easier to be a Cub fan before the World Series win. The new generation of fans have no idea what it means to be loyal and lack the understanding of how losing makes winning even sweeter. I don’t care if you claim to have been a fan 50 years or 50 minutes, if, after every single game you feel the need to go on social media and tell the world how badly, in your opinion, a player on the Chicago Cubs played in a game and call that player out for the reason the team lost, or tell the world he should be traded, or continually plead for a player on a rival team to sign with the Cubs, you should not being included in the fan base. I have been near and observed from afar devoted fans, not only to the Chicago Cubs, but sports fans in general, and because I was taught so many important lessons regarding the actions and responsibilities of fan devotion, I need to take a minute to address a few things.
Salaries. Some fans continue to harp on how much baseball players get paid and somehow connect their salaries not only to perfection but also act like they personally are paying the salary. Or, complain players are greedy and that is why they can’t afford to take their family to a ball game. BEEP. That entire logic is flawed. Baseball is a business and MLB made 10 billion dollars last year. Perhaps we as a society do overvalue entertainers, but the cost of a ticket is simply supply and demand and nothing ties it to a player salary. As of today, ball players salaries are only 30% of the revenue taken in by MLB. Considering that they are the reason for the 10 billion dollar revenue, I would say they are underpaid. I think contracts continually discussed and basically in our face daily, could be part of the problem. Or perhaps some are jealous because they once played the game but were never good enough for the show. But the bigger problem is the lack of understanding of simple economics. Contracts are paid based on estimated future revenue. The greater portion of that money is generated by television dollars. There is no link between ticket prices and salaries AT ALL; if there were, tickets would continually fluctuate. So if you think players are paid too much, stop spending your money on merchandise, television, and tickets. It is called capitalism and the concept is supply and demand. Take a course on economics before sounding off on social media.
He is just greedy! Nobody is worth that much money. Comments like this are emotional outbursts, or temper tantrums and not based on common sense. Baseball players are uniquely talented people and their jobs draw 40,000 people nightly who pay a three digit ticket price to see them. In a free market economy, nobody is overpaid; they are paid according to fair market value. Does someone who plays a game throwing a ball and swinging a bat deserve the millions they make? Yes, they sure do because for some reason, our society values what they do. Players are loyal to their families. They know that any given day could be their last day playing baseball so why would they not seek out the contract that will assure he and his family will be taken care of financially now and in the future? How can you begrudge anyone of doing so? Why should they be concerned with the fans and their feelings when there is zero fan loyalty to a player?
Trade the loser, he can’t hit. Get rid of him for somebody that knows how to catch a ball. After 5 games in the 2018 season, so-called Chicago Cub fans have demanded Heyward, Schwarber, and Baez be dealt to other teams. Now think about that. Fans want one-third of their line up gone yet still want to pretend to be the longest and best Chicago Cub fan in the world. How can you dislike one-third of the team and still consider yourself a fan? Just because you watch the games and purchase the gear does not mean you are fully supporting your team. It actually shows you are working against everything you say as you are supporting, the financial part of the game, but not the game itself. Again, I encourage everyone to gain a basic understanding of economics and capitalism.
Maddon is an idiot, I could do better than him. He changes the lineup too much. He takes the pitchers out when they are still pitching well. It is his fault we lose so many games. Now if you profess to be a long time Cub fan and fail to see the intelligence of Joe Maddon, especially with a few managers the Cubs have had in the past, you are memory challenged or simply ignorant. You second guess a man, who is privy to past and current analytics, player health, and pages of scouting reports both current and from previous years and actually think you, the person sitting home in an unknown town in anywhere USA, are in a position to make a more intelligent choice? Again, if you don’t understand the game of baseball learn it or shut up.
This blog would not be complete without including this. Shut up and go make me a sandwich, you know nothing about baseball. Yikes, yes I have been told this and a few other comments were made regarding my lack of baseball IQ, I have doubt these things have been said to me because I am a female. I have seen males post the same things I said that invoked the nasty comments, without harassment. Needless to say, I failed to shut up and left fan groups on my own or with assistance. Folks it is 2018. Baseball is not a boys club, and I’m not sure it ever really was. I don’t proclaim to know everything about the game nor am I a big statistician, but I am more informed than the average fan and any opinion I have should carry the same weight as Joe Blow. If any individual feels it should not, the problem lies within that person.
I enjoy the team the Chicago Cubs put on the field today, more than any other group. I like to watch the defense of Javy Baez and Jason Heyward, I enjoy the double play combination of Javy Baez and Addison Russell. I like the anticipation when Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarber step in the batters box. Kyle Hendricks evokes memories of Greg Maddux and you cannot help but like the passion of Carl Edwards. I have the utmost respect for the players on this team that use their celebrity as a platform to help so many people, understanding the importance of giving back. The entire group act like they enjoy what they do and genuinely care about each other making them even more special. Since 2015 I have often thought what my dad would think of this group and their play and, I can say with certainty, he would applaud and enjoy watching them. I hope to see another world series win but being a contender year in and out is all any Cub fan ever really wants. I believe Joe Maddon to be one of greatest managers in baseball and makes informed decisions that are best for the team. Will I ever question those choices? Sure I will. Will I ever publicly speak negatively about him or the team? Not likely. Because tomorrow is another day and I will again put my faith and trust in the Chicago Cubs organization to bring me a victory. Saying you are a devout Cub fan yet continually bashing players and coaches is hypocritical, regardless of anyone’s argument stating it is the right of the fan to do so.
To close my vent, I would like to ask, how can you enjoy watching a baseball game when both during and after the game, you show so much disgust and share so much contempt? I wonder if a random person would wander into your workplace one day, and sit quietly watching you and upon that person leaving, gives a message to your boss advising your termination what your feeling might be. Would you do your job well the next day or would you show anger and frustration? Would you go to your supervisors with excuses saying one day is not a thorough evaluation time? Would you go to your manager saying that person has no idea the day in day out grind of the job and therefore not capable of judgment? I wonder.