Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hope, powerlessness and being a fan

I watched the Cubs host the Yankees in Wrigley Field on TV on Saturday. As you know, these two franchises are the North Pole and the South Pole of major league baseball.

The Yankees have won more championships than anybody in history. Fans expect titles every year and get obnoxious if they aren't produced. The Yankees' perennial success has spawned generation upon generation of entitled brats.

Someone who agrees with me:

"Over the years, many of their followers have come to watch them with the smugness and arrogance of holders of large blocks of blue-chip stocks. These fans expect no less than perfection. They coolly accept the late-inning rally, the winning homer, as only their due. They are apt to take defeat with ill grace, and they treat their stars as though they were executives hired to protect their interests. During a slump or a losing streak, these capitalists are quick and shrill with their complaints: "They ought to dam well do better than THIS, considering what they're being paid!"

You might think that was written maybe around 2000 when the Yankees had won their fourth title in five years. But it wasn't. It was written in 1962, by my favorite writer of all-time, Roger Angell (and no, he's not my favorite writer because he wrote stuff like that about the Yankees. I mean the guy likes the Giants. Guh!)

But juxtapose that attitude with that of Cubs fans. They haven't seen a title in 102 years. Yet they still pack the ballpark. Sure, there is anger and disgust with the team, but it isn't even close to what fans of other teams feel, and nowhere near what you'd hear out of some Yankees fans. The majority of what you hear out of Cubs fans is resignation. "We suck again. Oh ha, ha. Yes, I'm upset. Sort of. It's been 100 years of this you know. Give me a beer and I'll be fine."

Can you imagine Yankee fans filling the ballpark every day after 100 years without a title? I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be a stadium to fill.

So there were the Yankees -- flesh-and-blood examples of success and excess -- in a house of losers. A stadium identified with losers (the team, not the fans, don't get feisty).

I sat for nine innings and waited for Wrigley Field to melt. How it could it handle all that success?

Of course, the Yankees won and the Cubs lost. The play that clinched the victory was Brett Gardner throwing out Carlos Pena at the plate. Russell Martin held on to the ball and Pena try to knock it out of his grasp.

And this is where the Dodger fan in me groaned.

Martin, of course, is an ex-Dodger. He's trying very hard to make himself known as a Yankee. But a Dodger fan can spot that .238 batting average through the N.Y. hype.

The pitcher that threw the ball to Geovany Soto -- who lined it for a single to Gardner, who then threw out Pena at the plate -- was Cory Wade, another ex-Dodger. I didn't even know that Wade was a Yankee. In fact, he was just signed as a free agent by the Yankees a week ago.

So, on the key play of the game, we have two ex-Dodgers celebrating. As Yankees.


I know that shouldn't bother me in the modern world of players forever changing teams, but it does. I don't like seeing players that I rooted for vigorously as they toiled for my favorite team now using their gifts for evil  on the dark side.

I expected big things for Cory Wade when he was a Dodger. Like Martin, he was a guy that I genuinely liked. So seeing him on the Yankees was an "oh, no!" moment.

Of course, I still collect Wade's Dodger cards. The card above was sent to me by -- you guessed it -- a Yankee fan. How about that for tying everything together?

Recent graduate, longlivethewho, of For Card's Sake sent me that card. (I wonder if he wants it back now that Wade's a Yankee?).

He also deemed me an Andy LaRoche supercollector:

(Yes, I really must remove LaRoche from his clear, plastic tomb).

LaRoche is playing for Oakland right now. His cards are a lot more available than they were back in 2005-08, which is why I don't think I'll ever become an Andy LaRoche supercollector, unless every prospector in the world dumps all his cards on me.

Is this an entire set of players looking off in the distance? I'm too lazy to check to see if I have any other '03 Playoff Prestige. I wrote a post on stupid card brand names and Prestige was definitely mentioned. Now that there are a lot fewer card brands than before, I suppose my dream of a card set named "Delicious" or "Tasty" is dead. But for awhile there, we were really headed in that direction.

I don't pay attention to uniform changes like I should. Please tell me that my team is not, nor ever will be, wearing that uniform jersey ever again.

Shininess for the sake of showing shininess.

Chuck Dressen receives my forever admiration for famously saying (he actually sang it, I believe) "the Giants is dead."

Sure, it backfired in his face because this was 1951 and you know what happened there. But to actually go on record as stating that "the Giants is dead," well, that must be applauded.

Dressen would later manage other teams, the Braves, the Senators and the Tigers. But he never managed the Giants (he played for them briefly in 1933), which would be an "oh, no!" moment vastly more pained than seeing Cory Wade as a Yankee.

I wish Wade nothing but misery and an inexplicable loss of control while on the field with the Yankees. That's probably not likely given how Bartolo Colon has magically transported himself back to the middle of the last decade.

But this is all I have as a fan. Hope. I hope "this team" does well. I hope "that team" does poorly. Even Yankees and Cubs fans know this. They are powerless to affect the way their teams play or which players their team acquires.

The best that they can hope for is that their team wins 27 championships in less than a century.

The worst that they can hope for is one championship every century.

Every other team and its fans is experiencing a whole lot of failure in between.

There must be some other reason we follow this game.


  1. But will the Cubs ever be the same if they start winning? A lot of people considered Boston and Chicago to both be "lovable losers" for many years...now most say the Red Sox are almost (or just) as smug and arrogant as the Yankees... For the record, as an NL Central fan, I hope the Cubs never ever make the playoffs again.

  2. Imagine how I feel watching Andruw Jones running around in a Damn Yankee uniform. It's despicable, I say. Despicable and just plain wrong.

    Oh... Oh. Um.


  3. A. The Cubs were smug and arrogant as winners in 1880's and in the 1900's. I think long stretches of winning make you and your fans smug and arrogant no matter where you are. Many mid-70's Reds fans were insufferable. I know, I lived among them as a kid!

    2. Andruw Jones doesn't run anymore. He lazily lopes, and not like Davey Lopes.

    iii. LaRoche was DFA'd by the A's. He's now a proud Sacramento River Cat. Collect away!

  4. You'll see an arrogance pop up again with the Cubs if they ever become playoff contenders again (like WS and NLCS appearances year after year). Tell me how many Yankees fans you heard bragging about their team in the early 90s?

    Baseball is a game of cycles.

  5. Yes, the point being the cycle for the Yankees is every 5-10 years, while the cycle for the Cubs is every 100 years (or more). Different cycles create different fans.

    But since I wasn't around when the Cubs were perennial winners, I'm not willing to determine what kind of fans they'll have if/when they are again.