A lot of the stuff I post on this blog tends to get ripped by a certain select few, so I'm fully expecting that to happen again while I post another "contrarian" viewpoint, but here goes anyways.
As everyone writes about their feelings about the actions and reactions of Zambrano yesterday I can't help but feel that something significant has changed since 2003 for Cubs fans.
Now I'm not that old (only 25) nor have I had the chance to grow up in Chicago for any portion of my life as a Cubs fan. I was born and raised in FLA by a father and grandfather who were from Chicago. They raised me to be a Cubs fan and they raised me to be the person I am today, largely influenced by what I've learned growing up from being a Cubs fan.
See the Cubs taught me about humility when the Bulls were running off championships. They've taught me about heart ache plenty of times, but most of all they've taught me about two specific things: 1) Loyalty and 2) Family.
I always thought the best thing about being a Cubs fan was that loyalty and heart ache were lessons learned and that no matter the struggles, fans would fall in love again with this team every Spring. It taught me about what it means to be loyal and it always made me feel like being a Cubs fan meant you were part of a family. A family that got together every spring and celebrated a new season and a new hope.
When I listen to older Cubs players I didnt get the chance to see live talk about their relationship with the fan base and their relationship with city, I always gushed at how much they fell in love with the fans. Whether it was Santo, Williams, Fergie, or Mr. Cub himself, they always talked about how we had the best fans in the world and the word LOYALTY always came up. Many times they'd talk about family and how they felt this city and this team had adopted them into that family.
And when I heard all those things before, it would create a warm feeling inside that let you know that being a Cubs fan was about just a little bit more than anything that happened on the field.
It was about what happened in the stands or in the homes of people watching nationwide to know yourself that no matter how frustrating the season was or how poorly things were going, there were millions of other people out there feeling those same things, and that one day... one fateful day when it DID happen, all those people would be their celebrating with you (whether in person, or from a far, or even in spirit).
But since 2003, I cant help but feel this has changed. Players have been "booed" out of town from Corey Patterson to LaTroy Hawkins to almost Jacque Jones and now Big Z??
Expectations have risen since we were so close in 2003 and the fans have gone into a win now mentality. As I read through this board I continuously see the calls for players to be benched or sent down or outright released after cold streaks. I think every pitcher this year has been told by fans that they should be skipped once or sent down. Every time someone goes through a cold stretch people are calling for them to be benched. We've gone from "absolutely MUST SIGN Z" to "we should trade him" to "thank god we signed him, it had to get done" to "booing him off the field" in a 6 month span the group opinions on Z have changed 4 times! The same things can be said of people's reactions on Jacque Jones and even Derrek Lee
When you listen to players give interviews about what its like to be a Cubs player today, you don't hear the same feelings of joy and admiration shared by Banks and Santo. Instead you hear about "expectations" and "they'll let you hear it", etc. Even after DLee's HR on Sunday, his comments about the fanbase were tempered a bit and cautious. Players today talk more about how its something they've come to expect and something they have to deal with. You don't hear the players gush about the fans like they used to, instead you hear players very aware of the expectations placed on them
Maybe its always been this way and I just haven't been exposed to it growing up so far away from Chicago, but I had always hoped fans were "better than this". I'd listen to Santo and Banks and Fergie and even Milt Pappas recently talk about Cubs fans in such a great light and when I turn on the games or log onto discussion boards I don't see what they're referencing. I see emotional, thoughtless, self-indulgent people looking to ridicule and be pessimistic at every turn. I see growing impatience with the organization and the players.
Maybe its a new era and its because of the rising salaries, ticket prices, etc but my vision of what is to be a Cubs fan never included this...
I never thought we were the best fans in the world, but I did think loyalty was one of our strong suits (given the history), unfortunately since 2003 with the White Sox, Red Sox, and Cardinals winning titles in succession its seemingly made the fan base a rabidly impatient group just dying to have their own needs fulfilled.
Their own need to stop worrying about this "curse" or the long history of losing. Their need to secure the "bragging rights" or whatever it is has that's intensified and become THE REASON they're fans. I always thought being a Cubs fan was about something different, I thought it was about being a part of a family. A family of Cubs fans that all shared the same high points and low points together as fans, and together with the team. Players became enshrined in fans hearts forever like Santo, Williams, Fergie, and of course Ernie, but now the fan base is acting as if anything less than a championship is a failed season.
While yesterday may have been a low point for fans because we lost an opportunity to gain a game on the Brewers and the Cardinals, yesterday was a low point for me, as a Cubs fan, because the dream I had of what it is to be a Cubs fan crumbled a bit
Let the name-calling and bashing ensue... For some of you I'm sure i'll be the type of fan that embraces losing and helps perpetuate the Cubs stereotype. For some of you I'll be supporting Zambrano's play or his behavior
but let me make sure to say right now those things arent the case. I hate losing as much as the rest of you and I want this team to win as badly as the rest of you, i really do. But I also want my kids to grow up listening to Cubs stars of this decade talk about the same things Ron and Ernie talk about.
I also don't condone Z's behavior in the press conference or his play on the field yesterday, but I don't see the need for booing. His struggles yesterday were not from a lack of effort, if anything they were from trying "too hard" to make things happen. Booing should only be reserved (in my opinion) for a lack of effort, and there wasn't a single time Big Z wasn't hustling out there. The results were poor and the response after the game was also poor, but the effort was not.