I first started following Chicago Cubs baseball not long after my parents moved us into the Quad City region. I was at the age where a young boy still thinks girls are icky and life revolves around touring around the small hamlet of Hillsdale Illinois on a banana-seated bicycle looking cool and searching for fun activities. Those first lifetime memories of Cubs’ baseball always revolved around finding an available idle radio – which was not always an option at our house. As I grew older sandlot baseball games became a regular pastime and televised Cubs baseball became an available option, if I could negotiate a time slot with the rest of my family. Local station WQAD had the rights to broadcast 25(?) Cub games a year and I negotiated very hard with my family in order to watch every game they transmitted. I would spend a few weeks a year with my grandparents near Chicago where I could watch the Cubs (and Garfield Goose) on WGN almost every night. (There was no need to negotiate with my grandparents – they rarely watched television and let me pick and choose.) I bled Cubby Blue as a kid. I watched with hope that never faded year after year. I went into each season with high expectations even after I was old enough that logic told me the fielded team would probably lose more games than it won. Some years tested that fascination with professional baseball more than others. As I grew into adulthood I invested in cable television so I could watch the Cubs as often as time allowed. I invested in a VCR so that if the Cubs played while my timeline was obligated to other life events – I could watch the game when it was convenient. On the plus side I could always fast-forward through the commercials -despite that reality that some commercials were more entertaining than the game I recorded.
It has been decades since I tooled around Hillsdale in any form; especially on a bicycle. I no longer find girls icky and instead, I happily find they are usually involved in most aspects of my life. Though the older I get they continue to be the only thing that confuses me more, than my bewilderment of the Chicago Cubs inability to field a World Series bound team. My life and devotion to Cubs baseball has kept on chugging through history; despite the heartbreak that accompanies being a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. No need to go into the dreary historical evidence that suggests being a Cubs fan also requires one to be resigned to a lifetime of gut-wrenching pain and humiliation. Yet, perhaps the free-agency era and the Bud Selig led ownership era of MLB has finally lifted that burden from my shoulders.
The first chink in my Chicago Cubs and MLB infatuation started with the free-agency era. First, one allure to any baseball team is that the players become familiar to the fan. In baseball familiarity with players breeds contentment among fans. Player-Team relationships were like marriages were meant to be, usually for life. Lovable players used to be something difficult to part with. When they retire or are traded it was/is a sorrowful event. In Cubs World they are often brought back to sing the 7’th inning stretch at Wrigley Field home games. Still it is hard to attach oneself to modern players as they move around from team-to-team considerably. The team-to-player relationships are less like marriages and more like streetwalker mongers renting hookers. Part of that problem is there is too much money in the game.
I have no problem with players or owners making money. I hope they make lots of money. But face it, like all other professional sports -BOTH- players and owners make ridiculous sums of money. At the expense of the fans. And neither side is ever satisfied with the money they accumulate at our expense. Every time I read or hear about owner/player contract negotiations or owner lockouts/player strikes it becomes easier and easier to find distractions other than Cubs baseball or any other Professional Sports. Big Money is ruining the charm of professional, collegiate and even high school sports. Click, remotes are a wondrous thing.
Another huge chink in my baseball enchantment came with the arrival of the Bud Selig pressured WBC (World Baseball Classic) tournament. Okay I love baseball and I love the fact that other countries around the world love baseball also. That doesn’t signify I have any desire to watch them compete in some professional baseball form of the Olympics. In fact I find it disconcerting that MLB players that are earning obscene amounts of money are risking their health, thus significance towards building a World Series Team with whatever team they play. I have refused to watch a WBC game since it inception.
And the most recent reason I have started to click off Chicago Cubs games is the decision to expand inter-league play between the National League and the American league. I have no desire to keep track of adding American League team competition to the regular MLB season. Heck it is difficult enough to stir up my viewing interest when the Cubs play west-coast teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres or the San Francisco Giants. I am no more interested in watching the Cubs play an American League Team than I am watching the WBC. Watching the Chicago Cubs play the Chicago White Sox, I can tolerate simply because of the intercity rivalry. But I have absolutely no interest watching the Cubs play the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners or any other American League Teams. If for no other reason than I despise the designated-hitter rule that is part of the American league style. Playing American league teams is what the World Series is designed for. I have simply decided to boycott watching any interleague games except the Cubs/White Sox as I already do the WBC. I suppose I should thank advertisers, Bud Selig, MLB owners and players for freeing up time I usually spend watching/listening baseball on television and radio. But I won’t, since I also feel a loss of kinsmanship with the game. I suppose what I am experiencing is like what is known as a trial marriage-separation. With every boycotted game I am finding out that I -CAN- live without the game. Though I am not sure whether that is good or bad. I guess the next decision would be bittersweet hookups or total divorce.