I know it’s cruel, but I don’t exactly want the Chicago Cubs to win.Why? Certainly not because I hate the Cubs. Who actually hates the Cubs? It’s not because I dislike Chicago. I really like Chicago. It’s not because I hate Cubs fans — I like Cubs fans. I visited Wrigley once — it was the Friday afternoon game in 2005 when Mark Prior was hit with a liner but they beat the Rockies anyway, 10-3 — and how can you not love that stadium and all the baseball hoopla and devotion surrounding it? Bill Murray, Harry Caray, John Cusack. Yup, love them all.
Even my wife, who doesn’t follow baseball, understands the story of the sad Cubs enough to assume that most people should be rooting for them.
‘How could you not want the Cubs to win?’ she asked the other night as I confessed that, uh, yeah, actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Indians win.
So why do I not exactly want the Cubs to win?
Tonight’s Game 7 is why. It’s the drama. Will the Cubs do it? Can they break the curse? Or will they, again, wait till next year?
Will they take a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, only to have a grounder to short take a bad hop, followed by an infield single that finds the perfect patch of grass between third and home, followed by a perfectly timed swing on a 102-mile-an-hour Chapman fastball that didn’t rise quite high enough and ended up in the left-center field bleachers for a three-run, World Series-winning homer for the Indians?
Or — now this would be amazing — will a foul ball toward the bleachers along third be within reach of Kris Bryant, who snares it briefly in the first row before it’s knocked out of his glove by an astute, dedicated Indians fan? Or — oh my God, even better! — by a temporarily insane, the-moment-was-too-much-for-him Cubs fan? Followed by that bad hop, infield single and that well-timed swing on a Chapman fastball and a World Series-winning homer for the Indians?
Do you get it now? I say it again: It’s the drama. I know it’s cold. I know it’s selfish. But as an Orioles and not a Cubs fan, other than seeing the Orioles win it all, drama is what I crave more than anything else in the World Series. With the Cubs, a dramatic storyline is available every year. Will they break the curse or won’t they? Unless the Cubs are playing a team I hate — and probably only the Yankees and Red Sox qualify — I can’t bring myself to truly cheer for anything more enthusiastically than that drama, and the existence of that drama year after year.
You could call it schadenfreude. But you’d be wrong. I don’t get pleasure from the misery of Cubs fans. It’s just that I get a lot of pleasure from the drama of the recurring Cubs storyline year after year.
If the Cubs win the World Series, that drama ends. If they win, there will never be another World Series — another Game 7 — in which we can watch, transfixed, wondering: Will they do it for the first time since 1908?
It’s not that I could actually sit there and cheer against them, mind you. It’s hard to cheer against a team you actually like. How can you not like Rizzo, Fowler, Arrieta’s story of salvaging his career?
It’s just that, if the Cubs take an early lead, then build on it in the fifth, I’ll feel that drama slip, slip, slipping away.
If they win, will I smile as the Cubs jump on each other in the infield? As Joe Maddon gets more emotional than we’ve ever seen him? As their fans go bananas? Yes. Will I feel good for the great city of Chicago? Yes. Will I feel good for my Cubs fan friends? Yes.
But by the way, I also have friends who are Indians fans.
I just won’t be able to help it. Most of all, I’ll miss that drama that will be gone from baseball forever.