BRAD GOLDBACH: In terms of fan bases in suffering, not many can compete with the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, but when looking at an all-sports landscape, those fan bases aren’t even in the same league of pain.
Cleveland seems to be in permanent sports purgatory, while Chicago, Cubs aside, has done pretty well for itself over the years.
In the NFL, Cleveland fans had to deal with the pain of Art Modell taking their beloved Browns away and watching the Ravens bring home the coveted championship that should have been theirs. The league “rewarded” them with the reincarnation of the Browns that…well is a true Cleveland team. Not much to be said other than pain and disappointment. And, that’s not even talking about the solid Browns squads of old that not only came up short but managed to punch their fans in the gut time and time again. Meanwhile, the Bears at least made a Super Bowl a few years ago, and their championship in 1985 would seem like yesterday to Cleveland fans.
In the NHL, the Blackhawks just took home the Stanley Cup. Cleveland doesn’t even have a team, but that might not be a bad thing for their tormented fans.
And of course, you have the NBA, where dreams came true in Chicago and were crushed in Cleveland, all at the hands of a guy they called Mike. Even the fans who can’t remember the days of Jordan can’t escape the pain. LeBron James made sure of that this summer by becoming Public Enemy No. 1 and the epitome of Cleveland’s pain.
Just to complete the cycle, even the crosstown rival White Sox managed to bring home a title to Chicago. It may not do much for Cubs fans, but Cleveland fans couldn’t tell you the last time they saw a major championship trophy near their city limits.
So, as far as fan bases go, I’d say the people of Cleveland have endured quite a bit more sports suffering over the years. It may not make Indians fans more deserving than Cubs fans, but the people of Cleveland probably deserve a little sports luck in the near future.
SHANNON MCCARTHY: Cubs fans should be proud to wave their flags of interminable suffering, especially now that Boston fans no longer reside with them in the Land of the Cursed and Perpetual Losers. Remember when Red Sox fans used to fight with the Cubbie faithful over whose curse was worse, who had endured the most suffering, who deserved a title the most? Ah, those were the days.
Remember how you could count on the Cubs to flub up their playoff hopes as much as you could bet on the Sox having a Buckner moment? Wasn’t that so much fun? (Remember when Bill Simmons wasn’t completely insufferable because his team never won? Sigh.) Whether or not you believed in the Curse of the Bambino or the Curse of the Billy Goat, it was always entertaining to envision the next way one of these lovable losers would invoke the name of Babe – or Bartman. And yet there was always that recurring refrain from some parts of Major League Baseball fandom: “Oh, just let the Cubs or Sox win for once.”
Personally, I like to forget anything ever happened past Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, or at least black out everything after the 8th inning or so of Game 4. (Somehow I must have forgotten the ticker-tape parade in New York…) Unless you’re a Boston fan, don’t you kind of wish they hadn’t won too? Think about it. Haven’t Sox fans become almost as insufferable as Yankees fans? Admit it, you liked ‘em a lot more when they perennially fell short.
I don’t want that to happen to Chicago fans. The Cubs drought is an integral part of the fabric of baseball. Who would we at once mock and empathize with, what curse would we invoke if they were to go and do the unthinkable? The Curse of the Really Crappy Sports City doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. (Sorry, Cleveland, it’s all I can come up with.) Besides, Chicago is nothing if not about tradition – Wrigley and the ivy, losing, it all goes hand in hand. The Cubs’ seasonal exercise in futility is comfortable and reassuring. It’s something you can count on. Even when they try to make it interesting, eventually they fall back into that same old routine.
Sox fans used to be proud of that distinction, back before The Year That Will Not Be Named. They clung to it, found comfort and community in their myriad lifetimes of collective disappointment. If they couldn’t be good at winning, at least they were good at not winning. And if you weren’t a Sox fan, well, you could always cheer yourself up just reflecting on the knowledge that your team was not doomed to an eternity of losing.
Cubs fans should embrace that label, too. At least with the so-called curse, there’s always an interesting storyline surrounding the team. Once they theoretically are finally able to “reverse the curse,” no one will care anymore. On the contrary, the Wrigley Field contingent’s inexperience with success may eventually lead to their fellow fans growing sick of their newfound jerkiness. (See: Sox, Red.)
The way I see it, a Cubs title would completely disrupt equilibrium in the MLB. No longer would we have a famous winning drought, and that just won’t do. Thus, it’s a win-win-win, for Cubs fans, for the rest of baseball fandom, and for Major League Baseball itself. Let the curse live on.