On Being A Cubs Fan

David Banks

Ever wonder why I go to all the Wrigley Field games? Gather 'round and I'll tell you a story.

Some of you -- at times, most of you -- have wondered why I keep going to every home Cubs game, and continue to keep my season tickets.

Part of why I do that, of course, is to cover the games for this site.

But there's quite a bit more, and I'm not sure I've ever told the whole story here, and I thought this might be a good time to tell it.

I graduated college in 1978, coming back to Chicago to live full-time. Through the 1978 season, I had, by an odd coincidence, attended an exact round number of games at Wrigley Field -- 100 of them. (Yes, I keep count, as you know from my post at the 50th anniversary of my first game, last July.) Most of those were in the bleachers, some not; I generally just sat anywhere I felt like, not choosing any particular location, though in those days I chose mostly right field. Why? Don't remember, really; it just felt like the right place to be.

In the winter of 1978-79 I met and began sitting with a group of fans in the right-field bleachers that was the heir of a group that had been coming to Wrigley literally since it opened. Among those men (and in those days, it was virtually all men; women didn't begin to come to the bleachers in large numbers until the mid-1980s) was a retired working man we called "Papa Carl"; he would tell us tales of seeing Babe Ruth bat there in the 1932 World Series. Oddly enough, Carl was born in 1908.

By the late 1970s Carl had a glass eye -- the scar from being hit by a baseball -- but still came early to the ballpark, every day, to save seats for his group. Carl died in 1985, but we have carried on his legacy in spirit. If you're familiar with what the bleachers looked like before the 2005-06 renovation, the lower level was reserved for employees and there was a set of stairs going down to that area, on the right-field side, directly above the "368" sign on the wall. Next to those stairs were two short benches, five seats each; that's where we sat, for game after game, year after year, from 1979 through 2005, when the renovation opened up the lower level for concessions. Our little benches no longer existed after the reconstruction.

That's when our group decided to move to the left-field corner perch we now occupy. Of that group I met in 1979, about four of us have been there every year since. Others have come in and out of the group; the current group includes a number of people who joined us in the late 1990s, so much of the current "core" of us has been together for at least 15 years. Those of you who have sat with me in the left-field corner have met most if not all of these people; some come nearly every day, some less often, but they are all part of our Wrigley family.

And that's really my point; while it's certainly been about baseball and witnessing baseball history and some winning and a lot of losing, it's also been about making lifelong friends. About having it feel like family -- in addition to making close friends in my own group, there is a much larger number of longtime regulars, most of them also season-ticket holders, who I have become friends with over the years. We attend weddings and funerals and share life milestones with each other.

All of this was captured in a book called "Wrigley Regulars", which I reviewed here three years ago. It was written by Holly Swyers, who is an associate professor of anthropology at Lake Forest College. Beyond that, Holly is one of us -- she has been a personal friend of mine for 15 years. The book was written in part to be used as a college classroom text -- Holly often brings her students on field trips to the bleachers (nice way to mix business and pleasure, right?) -- but it's also written in a way that is easily accessible to the non-academic reader.

Go buy Holly's book (Amazon link -- and no, she did not put me up to this). Read it. After you do, you'll understand much better why I feel the way I do about going to Wrigley Field, and why I go every single day.

Holly and I were both interviewed for this 2007 article in Psychology Today. This quote from her in the article sums up the way I feel -- and maybe you do too, regarding the hope that someday, the Cubs will win it all:

"Each year, we all come together and share that hope. And when our hope is lost, as it frequently is, those same people buoy us up. The more you suffer at the hands of the Cubs, the deeper the ties you feel to the people who've suffered with you."

I hope this helps you understand better where I come from as a Cubs fan. You all have your own stories; many of you have posted them here before. Feel free to share more of those stories in the comments.

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