Cub fans are an eternally hopeful lot. We stick with our team through bad times better than any other fan base in sports, at least in my opinion. With that said, I think that has also made us a little bit cynical. The fact is, most years, we don't expect to win. Even when we make the playoffs, we don't expect to win the World Series. We're glad to be there! This is our defense mechanism. After 100 years with no Championship, it is easier to be laissez-faire than to really open up our hopes and risk being hurt. To be fair, we've been right on this point for a while now.
2003 changed that for me a little bit. For the first time, I was actually and realistically hopeful that we could close the deal in the NLCS and at least make the World Series. But the truth is, that hope caught me by surprise. I was surprised when the Cubs beat the Braves in the NLDS that year, and it was only after taking a lead in the Marlins series that I really, truly opened up my emotions to the prospect of winning. And then, just as the Cubs Fatalists could have told you, a disaster happened, and everything fell apart. After that, the defense mechanism returned.
Last year, the Cubs started the season off slow, but made a nice charge at the end which, along with a Milwaukee collapse, allowed the Cubs to back-door their way into the playoffs. Sure, I was excited and hopeful, but I didn't honestly believe that team was truly good enough to win the World Series. I mean, they got swept by a mediocre Arizona Diamondbacks team. Yes, that loss stung, a lot, but it stung more because I had tickets to a non-existent game 4 than because they lost.
I got over it quickly and began to set my hopes on this season. If you are a reader of this blog, you will know that I started writing about this season some time last year. I could barely wait for baseball season to start. Somehow, and who knows why, I had it set in my heart that this year finally was the year. But that means the defense mechanism is gone. I am totally hopeful, totally engrossed, totally invested, and totally vulnerable. I am open to be teased, open to be taunted, open to lose all hope, and open to be hurt. But more importantly, I am open to be happy, open to cheer with my loudest voice, open to dance around, open to hug people I don't even know, and open to celebrate like I've never celebrated before.
My name is Dan Erickson, and for the first time, I am NOT a cycnical Cubs fan.