"It's a hard knock life for us"-Annie
So, the last two seasons have seen the Cubs winning the National League Central only to get swept out in the first round of the playoffs.
Let's face it, that's been painful.
As was 2003 and the failure of 2004.
As was the embarrassment of 1989 and the near miss in 1984.
And with the exception of 1998 (when we were also swept out of the first round, but lets face it, we didn't really expect to be there that year) every other year has also been a huge disappointment.
So, why do I (and so many other loyal fans) continue to root for this franchise?
Simple answer, because we can't help it. There's just something about the Cubs that reaches into our souls and makes us believe. Something that connects us to this franchise in a way that is only comparable to the way some people feel about their Alma Mater (Go Frogs, by the way). We Cub fans are more connected to our franchise then the normal fan is connected to their franchise. I truly believe that to be the case.
I have no doubt that there are fans as hard core connected to their teams as the average Cub fan is to the Cubbies, but they are the exception, not the rule. With the average Cub fan, such idiotic connection is the rule.
And I recognize that for the majority of the time that I've been a Cub fan (since I was a wee little boy in Chicago back in the early 80s) it has been idiotic to maintain such a connection.
After all, for a majority of that time, the ownership of the Cubs knew that regardless of if they put any efforts into winning, and then if those efforts resulted in any winning, we the fans weren't going anywhere. We would still believe that NEXT YEAR would be the year. And if that failed there would always be a new NEXT YEAR.
Even recognizing that didn't keep us from returning and somehow hoping against hope.
Lately, of course, there is a slight difference. The Tribune Company is selling the Cubs, and recognizing that they can get more money for a winning franchise, the purse strings have been loosened and the Cubs have made a concerted effort towards winning these last couple of seasons that is literally unheard of in the history of the franchise.
This has resulted in something unprecedented since the last time the Cubs were a dynasty (you know, 100 or so years ago), the Cubs made the playoffs in consecutive years.
The other thing that this concerted effort to win has brought me is an understanding of why it is that I remain, year after heartbreaking year, a Cubs fan. That is the realization that some year at some point, it is going to happen. The Cubs are going to win a World Series again. It will happen some day, the odds are simply to large for it not to. The Arizona Cardinals are in the NFC Championship game for goodness sake; anything is possible. So when the Cubs do win, it is going to feel sweeter and mean more because of the heartbreak and frustration that we have become so used to.
And for that reward, sometime in the (hopefully) not to distant future, I remain faithful and loyal to the franchise that means so much to me.
After all, couldn't THIS YEAR finally be NEXT YEAR?