Before you freak out, it’s not that we aren’t Cubs fans anymore, because we are. You can’t just give up something like that; you’re born with it.
It’s just complicated… Here. Allow me to explain from the beginning:
When you grow up in Chicago or the surrounding region, you are raised to be a baseball fan from birth. Before you’re old enough to drool, your little baby closet is filled with Cubs or Sox onesies, t-shirts, bibs, pacifiers and tiny baseball mitts. Occasionally a few Cardinals fans will sneak in there (grr), but generally you are either a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan, and that’s just how it goes. It’s in your blood.
The Hubbster and I were both raised to be Cubs fans, aka to live lives filled with disappointment and heartache, all the while maintaining our “next year” optimism. Whether you believe in the curse of the goat or not, it is an undeniable fact that the Cubs haven’t won a world series since 1908. That’s 104 years. That means there are 100-year-old great great grandmothers living in that city who have never seen the Cubs win a World Series, and there’s a good chance they’ll die the same way. Depressing, right?
But we Cubs fans are resilient. Wrigley Field is always packed, and we somehow do manage to keep telling ourselves that next year is a new year. A fresh start. A clean slate. An opportunity to not royally eff it all up like 2003 (Sidenote: if you like sports, you should watch “Catching Hell” on Netflix. It’s about the Bartman interference and torture that was 2003. Really well done).
When we moved to DC, we took our Cubdom with us. It wasn’t a question really. We were born Cubs fans, and we will always be Cubs fans. And thanks to WGN America and an MLB package, the Hubbster could still watch every Cubs game. We went to see them play the Nationals on the 4th of July last year, clad in Cubs gear and cursing the baseball gods when they lost to the Nats.
Though to be honest, by that point a major shift had already occurred.
The Hubbster had adopted the Nationals as his–for lack of a better term–pitiful step brother. They weren’t very good, but he loves all sports, so he watched them. It helped that we started going to a lot of Nats games. I love live baseball, and Nationals Park is a beautiful place to see a game, so he doesn’t have to ever twist my arm to get me to go. They have great food and beer (among the plethora of alcohol options available), it’s easy to get to the stadium from the metro, and tickets are widely available and pretty cheap. We can get great seats for $20 that would cost us $80 at Wrigley (Now that I think about it, I think I’ve been to more games at Nationals Park than Wrigley Field. That’s a little embarrassing).
This season the Nats started off surprisingly strong. Then they called up Bryce Harper, the 19-year-old wunderkind who was drafted to the Nats minor league team when he was 17. Kid’s got a big bat, an arm like a rocket, and plays every inning like it’s the 7th game of World Series. After he was called up, he was wandering the Mall (a day or two before his first game), and joined in an intramural softball game that was going on. Just to play. Just for fun. I swear, every guy in this city has a giant man crush on him–including the Hubbster, who had the biggest smile on his face when he bought his Harper t-shirt.
Back in May, we had tickets to a game that was rained out. So instead of going to the make up game (because they were playing a double header, and we already had tickets to that second game. Yeah, right?) we decided to exchange our tickets for when the Cubs were in town. That game was yesterday. And that was the day we cheated on the Cubs.
We told ourselves that we’d be happy whatever the outcome. One of our teams was going to win at the end of that game. But as we left the house sporting curly W’s on our shirts, we had to be honest with ourselves: we were cheering for the Nationals. The big realization came in the top of the 9th inning. It had been a great defensive game for both teams, but especially the Nats. They were stopping everything in the infield, and came into the 9th up 2-0. Then the Cubs almost rallied. When the Nats were able to end the game, we stood up and cheered. We whooped, we hollered, we clapped. Then we looked at each other very shamefully.
It’s not that we wanted the Cubs to lose. It’s just that they have no chance of making it to the post-season, and the Nats do. The Hubbster has complete faith in Theo Epstein (seriously, it borders on worship. He freaked out when the Cubs hired him, I thought he was going to cry). But it’s going to be a few years before Theo can make the Cubs competitive. And until then, I’m sorry. But we’re rooting for the Nationals.