This is always a difficult question for me to answer because my answer will usually involve much more detail and reasoning than the person who asked really cares to hear. Remember the scene in the movie, "Groundhog Day" where Bill Murray responds with a meteorological analysis when asked about the weather:
That is me when asked about the Cubs. I do my best to temper any answer I give. I know the asker could care less about bullpen usage, defensive ratings, or Bill James' Win Share formulas. I also know that when they ask, they just want to hear: 1) Hell yeah it's going to be their year! or 2) Oh god no. They suck this year."We may catch a break and have that blizzard blow by us. All this moisture coming up out of the south... will probably push on east of us. At high altitudes it will crystallize and give us what we call snow. Probably will be some accumulation... but here in Punxsutawney our high will be about 30 today, teens tonight. Chance of precipitation about 20 percent today and tomorrow.... Did you want to talk about the weather or were you just making chitchat?"
They don't care about Milton Bradley's injuries. They don't care that Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez may be overrated as middle-of-the-order threats. They just wanted to convey to me that they know I am a Cub fan and are politely showing interest in something I care about.
But, I get spoiled by my discussions with my summer family who actually do like to discuss baseball down to the micro level and I will forget myself, causing my girlfriend to look for a rock to either hide under or throw at me.
Come up to Aisle 424 sometime and ask us who was most at fault for blowing Game 6 in 2003. But don't do it if you don't really want to hear the answer because you'll be there for the rest of the game and possibly dragged along to a Wrigleyville bar afterwards to continue the argument.
I need to remember that 99.999% of people I meet and talk with are not deranged season ticket holders when posed with The Question.
That in and of itself is hard enough, but now that I am on a quest to be more optimistic, it is even more difficult.
Those who know me know that my default position in life has been cynical pessimism. It was not born entirely out of being a Cub fan, but that sure didn't help dissuade me from seeing the glass as half empty.
I have been optimistic about the Cubs exactly twice in my life. Once in 1984 after attending The Sandberg Game (I'm sure I will post more about this day as we approach the 25th anniversary, which also happened to be my 12th birthday) that lasted until the 9th inning of Game 5 of the NLCS. It was during that inning that I realized no comeback would be forthcoming and I had trouble seeing the television through the tears. I also lost a five dollar bet made with a friend of mine who placed the bet after the Cubs were up 2-0 in the series. I have not bet on the Cubs since.
The second time was 2003. The Cubs were about to play game 5 of the NLCS against Josh Beckett, but even if they lost in Florida, they were coming home to start Mark Prior, and if necessary, Kerry Wood. I thought to myself: "By this time next week, I will be attending a World Series game being played in Wrigley Field." I remember exactly where I was when I thought it (the parking lot of Charcoal Delights as I walked back to my apartment across the street). I will remember until I die, like people who can tell you the exact moment they heard Kennedy was shot.
That optimism lasted only a few days. It disappeared right around the time Prior walked Castillo after the Bartman incident. That night, I did not cry, but I was shattered. I sat in my seat for about 40 minutes after the game and just stared at the field. Other members of my summer family were also coping in their own way, ranging from anger to depression to feigned optimism about Game 7. I am still prone to depression after discussing it (I'm fighting the blues as I write this).
The feelings associated with such close calls are debilitating, so I have done my best to guard myself from them as much as possible. I never thought they had a chance in 1989, 1998, or even the last two years. There were too many flaws to ignore, so I wouldn't allow myself to believe while others around me drank the Cubbie Kool-Aid.
This year, armed with a new sense of hope fostered by a Presidential election that I did not think was possible, coupled with a defiant anger towards all things curse related, I want to be positive. I want to feel confident enough to go and put down $50 on the Cubs to win the World Series. I want to tell anyone who asks me if the Cubs will win it this year, "You bet your sweet bippy they will."
But then I think about Carlos "Head Case" Marmol as closer, Milton "Human Volcano" Bradley as the dependable left-handed bat, and Derek Lee and the rest of the Double Play Gang and can't help but think its not enough. I feel the need to qualify my answer and I'm right back where I started with a glass that is half empty.
At least I know I have a problem. I understand that is the first step towards recovery.