In recent days, two people who post here who I have great respect for -- drewishdrewid and Shanghai Badger -- have made these two posts describing the nature of being a fan, how and why they became Cubs fans, and offered some of their thoughts on why the discussion here at BCB occasionally becomes contentious and tempers flare.
The latter is to some extent understandable. As was noted in those posts, "fan" is short for "fanatic". That's how most of us feel, I think, about the baseball team that brings us together on this website.
So I thought this morning I would post a few (OK, many) words on how I became a fan of the Chicago Cubs; many of you have been around here for a while and have a pretty good idea of who I am and the nature of my "fanaticism" about the Cubs. But if you are new here, this will give you a better idea of just who this guy is who runs Bleed Cubbie Blue.
I'm 52 years old. In sports blogging terms, that's ... well, let's just say that I'm the oldest blogger among the now more than 200 SB Nation sites. I like to think that being around all the twenty and thirty somethings who make up the bulk of the SBN bloggers helps keep me feeling young and plugged in to what's going on in the modern sports world. But I also believe that my age and the length of time I've been a fan helps give me some perspective on the Cubs and their long history... of failure, which will make the ultimate success, winning a World Series, that much sweeter when it happens.
I saw my first game at Wrigley Field on July 6, 1963; I was not quite seven years old. My dad took me, as do so many fathers with their young sons (and daughters, too). Perhaps preparing me for a lifetime of Cubs failure, they got shut out that day on two hits. But upon finding out that I could come home from school and watch the Cubs every afternoon on TV, I was hooked. WGN-TV created at least two generations of Cubs fans with daytime TV and Jack Brickhouse, and then another one with Harry Caray on national cable in the 1980's. And the Cubs were just beginning to become a good team after two decades of being awful. The late 60's baseball heroes my generation had -- Banks, Williams, Santo, Jenkins et. al. were supposed to be the ones to bring the Cubs back to victory. (Shameless plug: if you haven't purchased the 2009 Maple Street Cubs Annual, I've got a long article about the 1969 Cubs that will give you a good feeling of what it was like to be a fan that year, if you are too young to have experienced it yourself.)
The epic fail of 1969 only brought my friends and I who were Cubs fans closer together. In my college years, as happens to many, I set the Cubs in the background (good thing, too: the 1974-76 Cubs were awful) only to return in 1977 when that team raced out to a 47-22 start; that team finished at .500.
And so the story goes, familiar to all of you: tantalizing teases of potential triumphs in 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008, all ending in disasters of varying types.
And yet we persevere. Why? Perhaps it is in part because of the years, decades, of losing -- it brings us together to support each other; we all know how every other Cubs fan feels, how generations have lived and died without knowing the taste of a title. My dad, now nearly 88, isn't as big a Cubs fan as I am, yet I know he reads this blog and follows the team so we can discuss them from time to time; many of you have family connections with the Cubs going back two or three generations. Wrigley Field connects families in that way, too; I know there are varying opinions on what should be done with Wrigley in the future (check out another article in the Maple Street annual for my take on it), but there is no doubt that the ballpark is part of the attachment to the team for many, myself included -- and for me, for the people I have met there and attend games with. They, too, are like family. When the Cubs do win, I'll get to celebrate in the bleachers with so many of my close friends.
Though I do understand statistical analysis and advanced metrics, I don't do a lot of such analysis, leaving that to others who know the numbers better. What I do believe is that there is more to winning baseball than numbers on a spreadsheet; it is played by human beings on a field, not on a computer, and that play can be only forecast by numbers. It can also be affected by a myriad of other factors, including personal troubles; we need only look at the recent revelation of the heartbreaking trouble that Ryan Dempster's young daughter has suffered to understand that such a thing could easily affect Dempster's on-field performance. In any work endeavor, each of us tries hard not to bring personal problems to the workplace. That's not always easy.
And that brings me to the discussion of "can't we all just get along". I have had numerous back-and-forths with statistically oriented posters who disagree with me on the effects of non-statistical factors in baseball. Most of those discussions are civil; some haven't been. All I ask of people on this site when you are disagreeing with someone else is to be nice -- stay clear of profanity and don't namecall. This shouldn't be that difficult. When you sign up for this site, you agree to the following (boldface added for emphasis):
When posting at this blog, please follow this one simple rule: Before hitting "post" to post your remarks, ask yourself: "Would I be embarrassed to say this in front of strangers who were physically present in the room with me and could respond to my face?" If the answer is "yes," then don't post. BCB encourages and welcomes all opinions, no matter how strong; however, personal attacks, vulgarity, and other uncivilized forms of expression are not welcome.
I don't think it should be that difficult to do that. Though some may disagree, I think I have been extremely tolerant here of people who haven't always kept that rule. If you break it, expect to be asked to leave. If your purpose here is to disrupt the site, make it about me rather than the Cubs, or to troll, expect to not be allowed here. Otherwise, this site is open for discussion, though I have asked and will continue to ask that religion and politics be left out of it. Those are polarizing topics and there are plenty of places on the interwebs to talk about them. We can get polarized enough just about our baseball team; let's leave those even more contentious things out of it.
So let's go on and focus on our ideas and thoughts on improving the status of this Cubs team, which despite its injuries, bad construction and other foibles, is only 3.5 games out of first place. Perhaps out of all this turmoil will come the ultimate victory this fall. Go Cubs.