An Open Letter to Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers Fans

***Disclaimer: In the following I use the word “you” in addressing the Cubs and Brewers fan base, but this does not mean that I’m directing the thoughts below toward the entire fan base.  Your mileage may vary based on your personal experience.

***Disclaimer: In the following I use the word “you” in addressing the Cubs and Brewers fan base, but this does not mean that I’m directing the thoughts below toward the entire fan base.  Your mileage may vary based on your personal experience.

Dear Chicago Cubs Fans,

First and foremost, congrats on the huge win that many of you have waited decades to see. You are being bombarded by images and articles of all shapes and sizes, so I understand if this only reaches a few of you.  Cubs fans certainly put up with a lot of crap on social media, and I hope that diminishes in the days and weeks ahead.

I once was one of you. Growing up in southern Wisconsin during the 1970’s-80’s gave me a unique opportunity to simultaneously root for the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.  The lights at Wrigley had not yet been installed, so in the summer I could listen to the Cubs in the day and the Brew Crew at night.  The Brewers were always my favorite team, but I was still devastated after the 1984 playoff blow-up.  I was reciting Cubs players from that roster to my wife the other night and she looked at me like I was from outer space.

Anyway, I know where you’re coming from and all the storied team history because for 20 years I lived it with you. I finally got to Wrigley field with my Dad in 1992 and we returned the following summer one more time.  I think baseball fans often hear about how the game is so wonderful because there isn’t a clock like in other sports.  Yet we mark the passage of time or dates in our past based on games we attended with loved ones – or in your case, a World Series victory.

The character that James Earl Jones plays in Field of Dreams talks about the passage of time in a monologue many baseball fans remember quite well:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again.  But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.  Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray.  People will most definitely come.”

Many of you did come to Wrigley Field in your youth and couldn’t get it out of your system. So you stuck around, and America rolled by while you marked the time with baseball.  You’ve finally been rewarded for sticking around.  In 40 or 50 years you’ll be able to tell younger generations about the night that broke 108 seasons without a World Series title – where you were, who you watched the game with, and that crazy mix of emotions that flooded your senses.

Speaking of emotions, it probably hasn’t sunk in yet, but this World Series title means your identity will change. Your lifetimes as Cubs fans have been centered around phrases such as “loveable losers” and “wait until next year” and “if only.”  For many these phrases ran parallel with billy goat curses, black cats, and Steve Bartman.  But you’re also about ivy covered walls, bleacher bums, and sunny day games.  It’s very easy for sports fans to adopt the attitude or theme built around their team.  Case in point – The Brewers conjures up ideas of drinking alcohol – and it doesn’t help the games are played in Miller Park.  We sure aren’t brewing up root beer!

But I digress. I’m sure many of you will adjust to being fans of the #1 team in baseball.  But for those of you who have trouble with success, I hope you are eventually able to not think the bottom is going to drop out.  The team looks to be built for years of contention, so enjoy the ride.  You have probably heard countless times by now that you’ve suffered enough over the years.  On that note, I’m sorry you had to listen to Joe Buck for the last seven nights.  Green Bay Packers fans feel your pain.  To wrap up, I’d just like to wish all the best to your fan base and team during this highly emotional time.

Dear Milwaukee Brewers Fans,

I’m going to skip analyzing what the Brewers should do/need to do if they want to become a contender again. If you’ve been following the team closely then I’m going to take it for granted you understand what “rebuilding” means.  You’ve probably heard the term “small market” enough to have a pretty good idea what the team can and cannot do in terms of payroll.  If you want to read a great take on how a Cubs World Series victory means both hope and discouragement for fans, I urge you to check out Kyle Lesniewski’s article over on Brew Crew Ball. He does a wonderful job of showing how the Cubs mixed high priced players with young and cheaper talent to put a bigger payroll team together than the Brewers ever could afford.

So part of our identity is based around being a small market with a shorter window to build a team with young, cheap players and a handful of moderately priced veterans. Add brats, tailgating, Bernie Brewer, and racing sausages to the list of things we associate with our team.  We’ve been known to field scruffy looking guys like Gorman Thomas, Pete Vuckovich, and Robin Yount.  These guys all looked and felt Midwestern (and like they may have escaped from a nearby penitentiary), even if they grew up elsewhere.

And now with the Cubs victory in the WS, our favorite franchise moves up on the “longest without a World Series title” list. We’re getting close to 50 years with just one appearance in the Fall Classic, and we all know how that worked out.  But I personally don’t think the five decades of futility is our identity.  Most Brewers fans latch on to items I listed above, or something else entirely.  If nothing else, we’re the True Blue Brew Crew.

Speaking of identities, some of you crossed over and rooted for the Cubs this past week. That’s certainly your prerogative to do so.  Far be it from me to tell you who to cheer for.  I decided to go the route of not really rooting for anyone and had the hope of seeing a good series, and for the most part I thought it was well-played and managed.  I must point out that I saw a lot of loose justification on social media from some friends who crossed over to the Cubs side.  My least favorite line was “The Brewers pretty much sucked this year, so I may as well root for the Cubs.”

I’ve talked to a couple Cubs fans that I know, and they said they could tell when a friend/family member/co-worker Brewers fan had crossed a bit too far over the line, almost into kiss-assery, (is that a word? It should be!) if you will.  I think they’ve gotten used to some of our fan base lighting them up on social media and complaining about their fans coming to Miller Park.  Can’t say that I blame them for thinking a fan from another team is offering false platitudes: “Yay Rizzo!  Fly the W!”

But it works both ways. Reverse the situation and imagine the Brewers are in the World Series.  How many Cubs fans are going to really cheer for the team that plays in “Wrigley Field North” and really mean it?  I’m of the opinion that it was OK to not root for the Cubs in the World Series. At the same time, I’m happy for their team and fans such as my wife’s 90-year-old grandfather who has been waiting his whole life to see this.  But all out root for them?  No, I didn’t.

But again, I didn’t exactly root for Cleveland either, even though the Brewers have many historical links to the Indians. The main examples of course are the movie Major League, the relocated Snow Series, and manager Terry Francona playing for the Brewers at the end of his career.  I wouldn’t blame any of you for following the Tribe throughout the playoffs.  I’ve written about the Indians/Brewers links and celebrated those moments in baseball history.  You can read my past articles about the Snow Series here and Terry Francona here.

Despite some of your efforts to post “Go Cubs” on my various social media accounts to prove your temporary allegiance to the Cubs, I didn’t take your bait and respond. My Cubbie fandom went out the window the minute Bud Selig announced the Brewers were moving to the NL Central in 1998.  I cheer against them during the regular season, so why would I start during the playoffs?

I’m pretty much locked in forever with the Brew Crew as my team. I hope to celebrate a World Series victory with all of you one day.  Hopefully it doesn’t take 108 years since I’m one year older than the team, and will probably not be around to see it.  For those of you on the same course as me, you’re a lot of the reason I do what I do – writing about our beloved Brewers and waiting for next year, just like the Cubs fans did for the last century.  I think the team is finally back on the right path and next year will be here soon.  Cheers and I’ll see you at Miller Park next season!

Chris

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cubs-vs-braves-1993

A game with Dad from my Cubbie fan days

20140913_174524

I put my heart out on my sleeve…

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