Up until now, this series has been about certain instances, or specific seasons which would make sports fans cringe in horror and pain. This installment expands on that to take a hard look at the long-suffering fans of franchises who have tortured their supporters for decades.
In other words, today’s Tale of Depression and Sorrow is an interview given to us here at Sports Blog Movement by Andy, one of the founding members of the best Chicago Cubs fan site out there, Ivy Envy. Andy lives in Rock Island, Illinois, and just so happens to be the brother-in-law of SBM contributor Ryan Meehan, which is probably why he was willing to take time from creating a good blog to bother with this one.
J-Dub: Andy, How long have you been a fan of the Cubs?
Andy: Since the mid-1980s.
J-Dub: What made you become a fan of the Cubs?
Andy: Initially it was because they were the choice of my friends in my neighborhood growing up. I think getting into collecting baseball cards was also a factor. Seeing this card of Jay Johnstone sealed the deal.
J-Dub: That is awesome, and probably explaims why they picked Johnstone to be in “The “Naked Gun.” So, who is your all-time favorite Chicago Cub?
Andy: Ryne Sandberg.
J-Dub: I remember watching a lot of the Cubs on WGN in the 80’s. Early, they had likeable players like Leon Durham, Gary “Sarge” Matthews, Keith Moreland, and Jody Davis. Later, they had guys like Shawon Dunston, Mark Grace, and Andre Dawson. I am a lifelong Dodger hater, and I forgave Ron Cey for all the sins of the past when he took his talents to Wrigley. I live in greater Cub-land, and I know a couple who named their son “Ryne.” What made you pick Sandberg?
Andy: I liked most of those guys, too. Dawson would probably be my 2nd favorite. I tend to like players who work hard and exhibit maximum effort, and Sandberg was a player like that. When you add how good a player he was all-around, it made sense for me to gravitate toward him. He could play defense, steal a base, hit for average, and hit for power, all while appearing to be fairly humble. I remember trying to emulate his batting stance.
J-Dub: Who is your “brother-in-law” player (meaning guy you hated, but you tolerated him because he was on your team) and why did you pick him?
Andy: Sammy Sosa, especially post-corked bat and PED revelation. His demeanor was a confounding mix of exuberance and cockiness to me. An honorable mention goes to Carlos Zambrano, and a guy I could not tolerate was John Grabow 2010–opposing batters hit .321 against him, and he had a 7.36 ERA. The Cubs have had a raft-full of irritating left-hand “specialists” (Grabow, Eyre, Cotts, etc.).
J-Dub: It is funny you say that. In conversations like this I’ve had with other Cubs fans, relief pitchers always come up as the “hated” guy. I’ve heard names like Antonio Alfonseca and Mel Rojas. Amongst the currrent crop, Jeff Russell isn’t very well liked. Amongst the position players now, Alfonso Soriano seems to get a lot of the venom. But they almost never mention Sosa. Why do you think that is?
Andy: I think people have a lot of fond memories wrapped up with Sosa. I wouldn’t say I necessarily “hated” him at the time; it is more of a hate in retrospect. Remember when he left Wrigley after the first inning of a game and got fined a day’s salary for it?
J-Dub: Yes, I do remember that.
Andy: Relief pitchers naturally become the targets of fans’ ire since they appear in the last part of the game. Fans tend to forget the bad play of their team that ends up putting a reliever in a situation that has the potential for failure. I guess it comes with the territory for them though.
J-Dub: Who is your “bad, but hot girlfriend” player (meaning guy who you loved but you knew was bad for your team) and why did you pick him?
Andy: For some reason, I liked Jason Kendall. I think it was because he was such a team player. He is 5th overall in career hit-by-pitches. He was gritty, and I always willed him to be a better offensive and defensive weapon. I’ve always loved Ted Lilly, but he was good for the team when he was in Chicago.
J-Dub: I spent a long time having Ted Lilly as the fifth starter on my fantasy baseball team, but that could be a Tale of Depression and Sorrow on its own. What is your personal highlight moment for being a fan of the Cubs?
Andy: The Cubs making it to the NLCS in 2003.
J-Dub: What is your personal lowlight moment for being a fan of the Cubs?
The Cubs inexplicably losing the NLCS in 2003.
J-Dub: What makes the 2003 NLCS both your highlight and lowlight?
Andy: Well, the Cubs were up 3-1 in the NLCS, and so the excitement came from thinking they would be going to their first World Series since the 1940s. Games Six and Seven had Prior and Wood starting. They were within 5 outs of winning in Game Six, so it looked like a lock. So it makes sense that the collapse of Games Six and Seven would be the lowlight as our hopes were dashed.
J-Dub: Are you one of those Cub fans that still blames Steve Bartman? Why or Why not?
Andy: I don’t blame Bartman. Most fans would’ve probably done the same thing as him, whether they would admit it or not. The Cubs easily could’ve won Games One and Seven. It’s hard to pin the whole thing on just one moment. A lot of people point to Alex Gonzalez’s failure to initiate a potential inning-ending double play in the eighth as a more important moment than Bartman’s.
J-Dub: I’ve always pointed to that blown double play whenever I’ve found myself mired in the “Bartman” conversation. I also like to point out that happened in Game Six, and like you said, the Cubs had every shot to win Game Seven. Not to mention, one can make an argument that Moises Alou wasn’t going to catch that ball anyway.
But that’s an argument for another time. Having said that, was there ever a moment when you considered changing teams? If so what caused that moment? If not, why?
Andy: I never have. I have my foibles, but fickleness is not one of them.
J-Dub: If your team re-located to another city, would you remain a fan? Why or why not?
Andy: No. The location of the franchise is an important part of its identity and my affinity.
J-Dub: Does that pertain only to Chicago? What would you have done if Tom Ricketts moved out of Wrigley to the suburbs?
Andy: If they would’ve moved to the suburbs, I would still be a fan. I was thinking more along the lines of Montreal’s move to Washington.
J-Dub: If there was one personnel decision you think could have changed your team’s fortunes, what was it and what would you have done differently?
Andy: Change the length/terms of the Soriano contract which has been a millstone around the club’s neck for the past few seasons. Who knows if the Cubs could’ve still signed him had they offered a shorter deal or eradicated some of the no-trade stuff? Still, I can’t deny his importance to the team in the 2007-2008 seasons.
J-Dub: What was your toughest off-field moment being a fan of the Cubs?
Andy: It’s just hard to be a Cubs fan sometimes. We haven’t had many legitimate reasons/occasions to revel in the excellence in our team. Fans often have to cling to pretty tiny victories (sweeping the White Sox this season comes to mind) that are fairly meaningless in the end. Rival teams’ fans can be fairly insufferable as a result of the Cubs’ futility, too.
J-Dub: Which rival fans team’s fans annoy you the most and why?
Andy: I tend to run into vociferous [St. Louis] Cardinals fans the most, so I think that is my answer. Some of them seem to like to think of themselves as the best fans in baseball and also frequently refer to Busch as “baseball heaven.” I went to a Cubs-Cards game there a few weeks ago, and it was a pretty insipid baseball experience in my opinion. The fans were doing the wave late in the game. Maybe it’s hard to stay engaged when your team is dominant all the time. I’m sure if I lived in Chicago, my answer might be the Sox or even the Brewers, but I don’t have too much interaction with their fans.
J-Dub: Let me tell you a quick story. I’ve been in a lot of ballparks; it actually might be easier to name the ones I haven’t been in. But since we didn’t get married until late in life, my wife has never been to a major league baseball game. So, later this year for her birthday, I’m taking her to a game at Wrigley. From where we live, there were a bunch of options for a day trip to a ball-game, and St. Louis was one of those choices. but I’ve been to Busch Stadium, both the new and the old, fake-turf, cookie-cutter monstrosity. I was completely underwhelmed by the experience in both ballparks. It may come off a bit hypocritical for me to say this because I’m record as saying Wrigley Field is one of the 20 Worst Sports Venues in America, but I thought my wife’s first MLB pretty much had to be in the “friendly confines.” Our fellow SBM contributor Patrick Young nailed why I came to that decision…like it or not, Wrigley is important to both the Cubs and baseball. But I digress; the point here is that while I don’t have any skin in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, there’s nothing special about St. Louis, and I agree that their fans can tend to be on the insufferable side. Now that I’ve had that rant, if you could wave a “magic wand,” what is one thing about your team/franchise that you would change?
Andy: A few years ago, I would’ve waved the wand and asked for a shrewd and intelligent front office, but now we have that, I think.
J-Dub: If I were a Cubs fan, I think I would have this big “what if” scenario in my mind about what could have been if the Cubs could have kept Kerry Wood and Mark Prior together and healthy for ten years. Tell me about any “what if” thoughts that have crossed your mind?
Andy: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think the 2003 playoff run is a great indication of what the Cubs could have done for a number of years had those guys remained healthy. I guess I sometimes wonder how the team would have been different had they not hitched their cart to certain players like Soriano, Zambrano, Bradley, et cetera. Overall, I don’t tend to think about that kind of stuff.
J-Dub: Thanks for sharing your Tale of Depression and Sorrow with us, Andy.
If you are a sports fan, you surely have a Tale of Depression and Sorrow you would like to share. If you have one you’d like to share, send us an email at SportsBlogMovement@gmail.com.