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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 22, 2018

Can loveable losers turn into loveable winners?

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News | Feb 24, 2017

Last November now seems like a distant memory. That is, unless you are a Cubs’ fan.

Cub pitchers and catchers reported to spring training 10 days ago.

I don’t have to relive the 2016 Cub season. Everybody knows what happens and it will be ancient (although unforgettable) history by the time the first pitch is thrown before the 2017 season.

The primary reason I haven’t mentioned it is I don’t like to gloat. Teasing a rabid Cardinals’ fan is enjoyable, but when you become obnoxious and boastful, it generally comes back to bite you.

One takeaway I have from last season is how difficult it is to win a World Series. Coaches say that while skill is important, a little luck doesn’t hurt either. Those screaming line drives that are six inches fair instead of six inches foul and those long flyballs that make the seats rather than die on the warning track can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Another difference between regular season and postseason play is the increased pressure on every pitch and every at-bat. Watching the playoffs isn’t good tonic for the weak hearted.

Prior to the World Series win, I read several articles about what would actually happen if the Cubs did win, meaning the team would shed its tag of lovable losers. Along with the loss of the tag, some said that the huge Cub following would never be as large.

They pointed to the Boston Red Sox as an example. The Red Sox also had a long World Series championship drought, but then won two titles earlier this century. Red Sox Nation, the writers said, was never as fervent after the team finally ended the drought. Instead, the Red Sox just became another major league team.

Not being a Red Sox Nation resident, I’ll take their word for it.

So, have the Cubs become lovable winners?

That remains to be seen. I do, however, think the Cubs’ following will remain strong. Several times this winter, I have worn one of my Cubs’ jackets to neighboring communities and more often than not, someone would come up to me and compliment me on the coat or give me a thumbs up.

It can’t be argued that winning doesn’t bring with it a number of bandwagon fans. That being said, I believe that the vast majority of Cub fans have been fans for years.

To test the theory that winning a World Series will negatively impact Cubs’ nation, I discussed it with several Cub fans prior to last October. I should qualify this, the Cub fans I reached out to had been Cub fans for years.

The vast majority said they didn’t think going all the way would have a negligible effect at best.

I agree. It may have more of an effect on the passion of some Cub fans than the number. The Cubs have won. Those who were worried they wouldn’t see it in their lifetime, saw it.

One thing about the Cubs fans that is unlike most support for other major league teams is that the Cubs touch nearly every age group. My group remembers watching and listening to the Cubs growing up. We can thank WGN for that. The Cubs were the first and only team for many years to have their games broadcast through a large part of the United States. People remember listening to Jack Brickhouse and watching Harry Caray.

The last several decades Wrigley Field was one of the world’s larges party locations. During the years the Cubs were a bad baseball team, people still came, sat in the bleachers and drank plenty of their favorite beverage.

That is part of the reason why I think it took the Cubs so long to become a winning team. Owners were filling the ballpark and their pocketbooks, so why spend money to put a good team on the field?

Today, when I watch a Cubs’ game on television, I see a lot of younger people sporting Cubs shirts and caps. The Cubs, it seems, has become the team for the Yuppies.

So it is beginning, the defense of a title. Spring training will be longer than usual this year due to the World Baseball Classic. Spring training is too long even without the world tournament. Kyle Schwarber proved that last year.

Studies have shown that the previous year’s World Series champions win five less regular season games than the prior year. Two reasons are given as support for the study. First of all, a World Series champion tends to do very little regarding player acquisition during the off-season. The team won the Series last year, so how can you improve a world champion?

Secondly, a season that extends into November gives little time for rest and recuperation — just three months in the case of the Cubs and Indians. And October and the first few days of November were filled with mentally and physically draining games.

I’m not making any predictions this year. A key injury here or there (especially to the starting rotation in the Cubs’ case) could make a huge difference. I enjoyed October and the first few days of November 2016. This year I am going to enjoy April through whenever the Cubs’ season ends.

Play ball.

 

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