The time has come to say good-bye to the current iteration of the Chicago Cubs. While, this is essentially a good thing since they have been collectively disappointing us since Milton Bradley got tossed after his first Cubs plate appearance, it also means saying good-bye to the summer family for a few months.
It's an annual ritual that always comes a bit too soon for our tastes in Aisle 424. We call it the Merry Christmas Game because, for the most part, we probably won't see each other again until at least after Christmas. Now that we have Facebook and iPhones and Blackberries and Twitter, it is easier to stay in touch during the offseason, but it's still the Merry Christmas Game to us.
This year, we had the opportunity to plan for it in advance because we knew for sure when it would occur. Advancing to the playoffs the last couple of years made it harder to predict. Last year, we attended Game 2 of the NLDS with the hopes that Zambrano would put the Dodgers in their place and position the Cubs to either force a fifth game at Wrigley, or win the series and we'd get at least two more games in the NLCS. Of course, by the end of the game, we knew that probably wasn't going to happen (more like the second inning) and we all wished each other a Merry Christmas after the final out.
This year, we've known for quite some time this game would be it, so we're more ready for it, but its still not an occasion you look forward to. We'll sit and watch Dempster try to end the season on a positive note, talk about how screwed the Cubs are with the contracts, debate whether Hendry should or shouldn't return, when the Ricketts will feel comfortable enough to send out the letters informing us of the new PSL policy, and whether they will still have the hubris to raise ticket prices again.
We'll mock Aaron Miles if he comes in the game. We'll reminisce about all the things that went wrong, and how if any one or two of those things had gone right, how we might be instead anticipating a third straight post-season appearance. The What-Ifs and If-Onlys fly pretty heavily at the Merry Christmas Game.
Then the game will end and we'll all shake hands and head off towards our off-season, counting the days until we will be back in Aisle 424 with our summer family and a renewed sense of hope.