Well, last Wednesday night, the thing I’ve been dreading for months finally happened – the end of baseball season. Well, that is, the end of the only baseball season that matters: Cubs season. I was dreading it no matter what, but I thought (and hoped) that I’d have a couple weeks left to enjoy the powerhouse, 97-win 2015 season of my all-time favorite sports team. And, I felt a very real hope that when the season did end, it would be on a note of elated, victorious triumph as the North Side’s 107 year championship draught finally came to an end. I truly believed that this was going to be the year. I know that’s what every Cubs fan says every year, but this year, there was a heavy dose of realism to temper the blind optimism. Joe Maddon is the manager we’ve been waiting for. Kris Bryant is a shoe-in for the NL ROTY. If Jake Arrieta doesn’t win the Cy Young award, then I don’t know what to think. Anthony Rizzo batted cleanup like nobody’s business and looked damn sexy doing it. The fielding was good, the hitting was insane. The team was full of youth and promise – they came out not thinking about losing, not thinking about the odds against them, just thinking about playing and playing to win.
And something did feel special. Their shutout victory in the NL Wild Card game against the Pirates was quickly followed by a historic, quick, and home run-heavy 3-1 NLDS victory over their longtime rivals, the Cardinals.
And then the NLCS. The hardest four games of baseball I’ve maybe ever watched. In four crushing, landslide losses, the Cubs fell in the NLCS in a clean sweep by the Mets. And suddenly, I remembered what it usually feels like to be a Cubs fan. The hope, the choke, the disappointment. In the last game, with a 7-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth, KB hit a 2-run homer…and it was the most joyless thing I’ve ever seen. As I saw the deadness in his sparkling blue eyes as he rounded third, I realized, it’s really over.
And just like that, once more, “This is the year” turned back into “There’s always next year.”
I will say this – that’s one of the things I love about being a Cubs fan. They’re the Lovable Losers for a reason. No matter how abysmally they do, their fans still love them. I can’t think of a single other team that could do so bad for so long and still have so many devoted, die-hard fans (and by the way, people who say that a World Series win would “ruin the franchise” can suck it. Yeah, maybe that happened to the Red Sox, but that’s because they’re the Boston Red Sox. No one outside of Boston gives a shit. So just let that sink in). It’s that quintessential American idea that “tomorrow is the thing.” It’s the line that Fitzgerald wrote that made The Great Gatsby the Great American Novel. “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther… And one fine morning –“
Also, it is worth mentioning that that book was a hella long way from being written the last time the Commissioner’s Trophy made its way to Wrigley Field.
That’s what it is to be a Cubs fan. It’s the constant, true belief that next year is this year. And when it turns out not to be, it’s definitely next year.
And right now, that’s not just something I want for my Cubbies. It’s something I want for me. So this year…yeah, I took the loss pretty hard. I know it sounds crazy, but sports (especially baseball) are notoriously superstitious, so I think this can fly. I thought if maybe, next year was finally this year for the Cubs, then it’s possible it would be for me too.
In high school, I loved this song called “Weightless” by All Time Low. The chorus goes: “Maybe it’s not my weekend, but it’s gonna be my year.” And even though I need everyone to know I don’t love All Time Low anymore, I still listen to that song pretty often in times of transition. Or just whenever I feel like I’m at a, well, all time low. I just want that to finally be true – this is my year. I always feel like something is missing, or even if it’s all there, things just don’t work out. I feel like my life has never felt like it’s taking off.
I don’t really think it’s my circumstances that stick me in a rut, it’s really me and my outlook. Despite being pretty optimistic and ambitious, I’m a chaser. I’ve somehow never found a way to be happy where I am because I’m so constantly thinking that it’s not quite right; I’d be better off somewhere else.
And let me tell you, that’s tricky. I don’t want to be constantly chasing, but I also don’t want to settle. It’s really tough to tell if I’m doing something good or something bad. I don’t want to be constantly too busy looking for the next best thing to enjoy where I’m at, but I also want to be brave enough to be able to drop everything and change my life if something’s not working. I’d rather be chasing than waiting around. But, what I really want is to find whatever it is I’m looking for. I definitely wouldn’t say I’m happy with my life right now, but I feel like the pieces might be there. And, while I’m still feeling that itch to do something totally different next year and see how that shakes out, I mostly feel like I want to make these pieces work. I want this to be the year where I say I’m here! I did it! But if it’s not, I want it to at least be the year where I just kind of said screw it and did something brave and unordinary and saw my life take an unexpected turn.
Here’s the catch though – I’m not that brave. I did do something brave by moving by myself to a whole new city, starting a whole new job, and leaving everything familiar behind. But even so, it feels like such a safe bravery. Because put another way, what I did was move to a safe Midwest city not far from my parents, take a stable job I’m not passionate about, and dive headfirst into a new life of quiet, sterile, lonely space. Nonetheless, it’s braver than I’m used to. So not seeing the “this is it” payoff kind of sucks.
And I thought if the Cubs won, that might be sign that this is the year. If I could watch this team win a World Series, with four rookies in the starting lineup, with the Curse of the Billy Goat, with the longest championship draught in North American sports history, with a true-blue tradition of losing…then anything could be possible. Maybe, just maybe, a big victory could be on the horizon for me too. Maybe the unexpected could really happen. Maybe my unlikely pieces would come together for something amazing.
But, there’s always next year. And that, most definitely, will be the year.