No, this is not going to be some blue-sky, new-age ramble about human beings' purpose on Earth; though I've got my thoughts on that too, I think I'll keep them to myself.
The question is, why are we sports fans, and more specifically, why are we Cubs fans? Why do we keep coming back, year after year, when championships have eluded us forever -- far beyond the lifetime of nearly everyone who reads this blog (don't know about anyone else, but my dad was around, though serving in the Navy in World War II, when the Cubs won the NL pennant in 1945).
What sports does for us, in an uncertain world where we may not know the outcomes of what we do in our daily lives, work, school, whatever, is provide some certainty. Whether or not we like the result of any particular game or season, the point is that there is a result. There is a finality -- each team wins or loses, or in the case of a season, wins a championship or goes home and waits to try to redeem itself in the next season. It allows us, by identifying with a particular team, to "live and die" with that team during its ups and downs. I know you've all experienced these emotions and I don't have to elaborate further.
I've just started reading a book curiously titled Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, by a NY Times writer named Warren St. John, who grew up in Alabama rooting for the Crimson Tide football team. Years later, living in New York, he found about a subculture of 'Bama fans who follow the team around in their RV's.
Those of you who know me or who have followed this blog or my old site know that I'm pretty, well, nuts about the Cubs. But these RV people make me look like a dilettante. I haven't finished the book, but it is so far a good read.
Which brings me to the point of what must seem so far like a rather pointless essay on a baseball-less day.
I know I'm older than the vast majority of you. I don't say that to put on any superior airs, only to say that I've probably witnessed more losing and heartbreak than most of you. When I first started following the Cubs, through the magic of being able to come home from school and watch them on TV every afternoon, one of the first things they did was lose 103 games.
That was in 1966. The previous fall, after the Cubs had finished eighth in a ten-team league (Damn! Al's old. He remembers times before divisional play!), when Leo Durocher was named manager and the first thing he said at his press conference was, "This isn't an eighth-place team." He was right. They finished tenth.
If you're in your 20s, you've only read about the 1969 Cubs. I lived that disappointment as a seventh-grader. I lived through the hope and the crushing of the 1977, 1978 and 1979 teams, and through the sucking clubs of the early '80s, before the triumph of 1984.
The vast majority of us here have experienced together the 1989 NL East title, and the 1998 wild card, and the five-outs-short season of 2003, all of which ended in disappointment. And together, only last fall, we looked on like the kids with their noses pressed to the window glass while our big brothers in Boston scratched their 86-year itch.
And we wonder: would it change the nature of what it is to be a Cub fan, to win it all? When the Cubs last won a World Series, my paternal grandmother was not quite eight years old and my paternal grandfather was a teenager living in London, England. Generations of Cub fans have lived -- and died -- without experiencing the feeling of being the last ones standing at the end of a baseball season.
Would it change us? It might. It just might.
Damn, all I want is to find out how that feels.
Onward. It begins again tomorrow.