I had meant to write about this topic sooner, but I am glad I waited. With the Cubs on their current losing streak, my point will be made even clearer for me by those around us. Bandwagon Cubs fans are in hiding now with the losing streak, but they will emerge as the playoffs near. Bandwagon Cubs fans are the people that give the true Cubs fans a bad name. Bandwagon Cubs fans are the people that talk about curses, jinxes, lovably losing, and statistics with no knowledge of their actual meaning. Now that the Cubs are likely on their way to the playoffs (9 up on a spot with just 22 games to go despite recent woes), these people are going to make themselves more visible all around us.
The way this season has been moving overall, it makes me think back to a bittersweet time known as October, 2003. We all know that the Cubs were on a dream track to the World Series until a fateful inning in Game 6 of the NLCS. Building up to that point, all around me people were buying and wearing more and more Cubs apparel. I heard the inane conversation from people trying to talk as if they knew anything about the team that year up until that point. Then, the NLCS ended. Almost all of the Cubs clothing disappeared. The talk died. I kept on wearing my Cubs things. I was bitter and disappointed, but I was still a huge fan. The majority of these people haven't worn Cubs clothing since with a slight exception made for the Septembers of 2004 and 2007, and briefly last October.
My college roommate of 2003 is perhaps the greatest example of it. Admittedly, he wasn't much of a Cubs fan. He knew very little about baseball. He was from a Chicago suburb, and his parents were White Sox fans. Therefore, he said he did lean a bit towards the South Side. But then the Cubs magical October came, and suddenly he was a Cubs fan mostly to "tick [his] dad off". He watched the games, but didn't get into them too much. But after a Cubs win, he talked it up to everybody about how great it was. When the Cubs came crashing down, he didn't mention them again. The magicalness was over. The bandwagon had lost a wheel. It was no longer cool to be a Cubs fan.
This year, I feel it coming again. We're getting close. It would take the worst collapse in history for the Cubs to miss the wild card spot in this year's playoffs. When the Cubs do get a playoff spot, it will all start again. These people won't know about the horrible collapse to sour their hopes. They'll only hear about how great the Cubs had been most of the year, the 100 years, and how it's going to happen. They'll start talking up the jinxes and curses, feeding the media on those topics even more (but that's a rant for another time). And then if, God forbid, the Cubs get eliminated, they will all be gone again.
To be a true Cubs fan, you don't need to know every statistic or watch every game. But half of the people on this campus will not know our star player names or what some of the most common statistics mean. What's good or bad for them. They'll be sitting there watching the playoff games asking questions with every pitch. The simplest questions. It's fine to watch the games, cheer on the Cubs. But to be sitting there trying to sell themselves as lifelong Cubs fans while annoying everybody around them with their idiot-banter is ridiculous. They'll be the ones blaming the 'curse' with every loss, error, or other misfortune that will befall the Cubs along the way. They'll be the ones saying "wait until next year" with the Cubs' (again, God forbit) elimination. A die-hard Cubs fan is going to take it a little harder then that.
We won't blame Bartman, black cats, or billy goats for the loss. We'll blame something that actually has to do with baseball. While these bandwagoners were blaming Bartman and the billy goat for the 2003 downfall, the true Cubs fans placed the blame where it belonged. And that game 6 had more than 1 person to blame. There was Dusty Baker for not calming down his pitcher and the rest of the team after the Bartman play. There were Mark Prior and Kyle Farnsworth who fell flat on the mound following that play. And, my personal choice, there was Alex Gonzalez who failed to even get a fielder's choice on a routine double play which allowed both Prior and Farnsworth to fall. Altogether that inning, charge Baker with a DA, and Gonzalez with an error and 2 DA's on the same damn play. But I digress......
Real Cubs fans and bandwagoners alike will be out on the streets rioting and celebrating a Cubs World Series victory, but not all will be sitting down with a few cocktails trying to drown their sorrows if the Cubs don't make it. Only the truest of Cubs fans will be sitting on that barstool with me thinking about what could have been. But again, God forbid. My stomach can't handle that much sorrow drowning any more.
Beyond that, I almost want to extend this bandwagon Cubs fan definition further. Last night, fans at Wrigley were again booing this team. This team that is still 4.5 games up on the best record in the National League. This team which became the next to last team to reach a 5 game losing streak this season in the NL. That's right, only 1 NL team still hasn't reached that point (Florida). Certainly, September is not the time we want to see it happen. Cubs fans have seen too many collapses, but the skids happen. Cheer the team through this before they become past Cubs teams that play better on the road because they can't take the pressures put on by the terrible fans cheering them at home. We're looking to get home field this October, so let's actually make it an advantage. Let the real Cubs fans step forward and cheer this team through this funk and get back to the top of their game as we push towards a World Series victory.