I'm only 25 years old, so I've only been around for about a quarter of the Chicago Cubs' dreadfully long World Series drought. I've only been aware of the drought for about half of those 25 years. Despite only having that awareness for give or take 15 years, I've seen the Cubs make the playoffs four times (1998, 2003, 2007, 2008), yet I've seen the St. Louis Cardinals head to the playoffs nine times (including their trip this season), and win two World Series. Seriously, of all the teams the Cubs could have picked as "arch-rivals," they had to pick the team that has astounding success. It's one of those mysteries of life. As a Cubs fan, it's not exactly a delightful mystery, but a mystery no less.
As the Cardinals celebrate their new-found playoff berth --thanks to a late-night Los Angeles Dodgers' loss-- the Cubs are wallowing in their now 100-loss season. Believe it or not, it is only the franchise's third 100-loss season. For a team that has basically written the book on choke artistry and general "losing", it's surprising that they've only hit the unflattering 100-loss mark a few times.
There was a time in my more irreverent youth days where I despised the St. Louis Cardinals. I dreaded the times they cracked the playoff ranks lest the unthinkable happen --they win the World Series. Once I realized that wasting your time and energy "despising" anything --much less a professional sports team-- was just stupid, I ended up accepting that the Cardinals were probably going to be good most years, and would probably win a few World Series rings before it was all said and done. I stepped back and watched a tightly run organization be successful. While I can't say I find myself hoping the Cardinals find success, I like them for the same reasons I like the New England Patriots --they play the game I love at a high level year in and year out.
I like the direction the Cubs are headed. The direction --currently mapped out by Captain Theo--isn't a guarantee of any sorts, but it's the way the Cubs have to go to have a chance at World Series glory. The Cubs aren't just building from the ground up --that would actually be easier than the reality. The Cubs had about a 10-story building prior to Epstein's arrival. The Cubs had/have to spend time demolishing the old building before they can make room for the bigger building. When you're in the position, I think a 100-loss season is likely to show up once or twice. It's not fun to watch it happen, but there is some dark irony to feeling comfort when the team is performing where they "should" --even if that means poorly. The Cubs will get there eventually. For now, I'll just have to watch the Cardinals play their one-game playoff with the Atlanta Braves and enjoy well-run organizations battle it out.
After that, I'l just hope for the day when the Cubs are in the position to do the same.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed Major League Baseball throughout.
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