Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inblogguration Address

My fellow Cub fans:

I sit here before you on a couch in cyberspace, grateful for your stumbling upon this site while looking for nude photos of Jessica Alba.

Innumerable fans have taken the task of blogging about the Cubs before me. The words have been written during rising tides of prosperity and really crappy years that involve Doug Dascenzo coming in to pitch because the Cubs are losing by fifteen. At these moments, the Cubs have carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in the general manager's office, but because we the fans have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our dementia.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Cub fans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our team is at war, against a far-reaching network of hateful baseball gods. Our lineup is badly weakened, a consequence of a bad leadoff hitter and no dependable left-handed power. Playoff games have been lost; phenoms traded; Dodger drain pipes shattered. Our tickets are too costly; the concession stand lines are too slow; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use Alfonso Soriano strengthen our adversaries and threaten our team.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics found by nerds on the internet. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our stadium — a nagging fear that the Cubs' decline is inevitable, and that the next generation of fans must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, Cub fans— they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and bitching about Fukudome.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the poor fundamentals and false promises of "five-tool players" in our farm system, the injuries and worn out towel-drills, that for far too long have strangled our team.

We remain a young fan base, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things like the "We Got Wood" and "Horry Cow" t-shirts. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that no matter the score, some random minor celebrity will lead us in song during the 7th inning stretch.

In reaffirming the greatness of our team in the regular season, we understand that greatness is never a given in the playoffs. It must be earned. It is not a path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer drinking beer in the bleachers, or seek only the pleasures of drunk co-eds in ripped pink Cub t-shirts.

Rather, it has been the season-ticket holders, the Die-Hards, the people who time and again pay four times face value on StubHub — some celebrated, like Vince Vaughn or Ronnie Woo, but more often men and women obscure in their fandom, who have picked up the tab for the numerous losing teams that have come before.

For the Cubs, they fought their way to their seats through crowds busy reading the ornamental bricks or having their pictures taken by the Harry statue. For the Cubs, they endured raised ticket price after raised ticket price with the same results every year. For the Cubs, they stood in long lines in freezing cold weather to buy what remaining single-game tickets they could get their hands on.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that they might get a seat without a big post in front of them, or closer to the beer vendors. They saw the Cubs as bigger than the sum of the individual mediocre players.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful team on the North Side of Chicago.

Everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the bullpen calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new nicknames for Kevin Gregg, but to argue constantly whether he should close or set up Marmol. We will build support back for Fukudome as a starting centerfielder. We will restore our faith in Aramis Ramirez to hit in the clutch. We will harness the power of the W flag to further fuel future victories. And we will transform our beliefs that Milton Bradley will be hurt before the All-Star break. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that the weight of the curse may be too powerful to overcome. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this team has already done back in the late 1800s and early 1900s; what the Cubs can achieve when there are only about four other teams and no such thing as free agency.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale curses about goats that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our players' salaries are too big or too small, but whether the team works — whether they can score a runner from third with less than two out, or have the relievers strand inherited runners while protecting a lead. Where the answer is yes, we intend to cheer wildly. Where the answer is no, blind support will end. Those who manage to boot routine ground balls or repeatedly get picked off second base will be held to account — to run the bases wisely, reform bad habits, and hit the ball to the right side — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a team and its fans.

Nor is the question before us whether Lou Piniella is a force for good or ill. His power to generate wins and playoff appearances for the Cubs is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, his strategies can spin out of control — and that a team cannot prosper long when it pulls an ace during the 6th inning of a tied playoff game, or gives a Game 1 start to a #3 pitcher.

Recall that earlier fans faced down White Sox and Cardinal fans not just with thrown beer and hot dogs, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our chanting of "right field sucks" alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to run on the field to attack coaches, umpires, or players. Instead, they knew that our power grows through the prudent use of mocking opposing outfielders; from the justness of throwing back opposing homerun balls, and never ever, under any circumstances, starting "The Wave."

We are the keepers of this legacy. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by showing up in our ballpark in opposing teams' uniforms and yelling "You suck," at the tops of their lungs, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you by pelting you with peanuts, and telling you that you are the ones who suck.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a fan base of men and women, retirees and children — and tourists. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of WGN's broadcast range.

To the White Sox, we seek a new way forward, based on you not winning the World Series again before the Cubs do. To those managers on the South Side who seek to sow conflict, or blame their team's ills on the media bias — know that your fans will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

For as much as the players can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the Cub fans upon which this team relies.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of 1983, in the coldest of Aprils, a bad team was 5-14. Strategies were abandoned. The losses were mounting. The scorecards were littered with errors and strikeouts. At a moment when the success of the team was most in doubt, the manager uttered these words to the people:
"F--- those f---in' fans who come out here and say they're Cub fans that are supposed to be behind you rippin' every f---in' thing you do. I'll tell you one f---in' thing, I hope we get f---in' hotter than sh--, just to stuff it up them 3,000 f---in' people that show up every f---in' day, because if they're the real Chicago f---in' fans, they can kiss my f---in' a-- right downtown and PRINT IT."

Cubs fans, in the face of back-to-back failed playoff performances and 100 years of futility, in this April 1983 of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us f---in' stuff it up the f---in' gods' a--es, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not become White Sox fans nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and Harry's grace upon us, we carried forth and finally celebrated a World Series title.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the Chicago Cubs.


Anonymous said...

As I was reading this, I could hear the President's voice in my head, giving the speech... except for the April, 1983 part. I can't read that without hearing Lee Elia. -- Seat 106

water_bearer said...


Mike Rodbard said...

that was great, tim. thanks for getting me to your site, and thanks for commenting on mine. i'm looking forward to the way it all plays out, of course. after all, how could i really not?

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