"I hate the Chicago Cubs," goes the oft-uttered refrain these days.
For what, squandering a century?
"No, no, let me explain," goes the popular retort. "It's their fans that I hate."
For what, being miserable? For having their hopes, dreams and aspirations crumbled annually like plastic beer cups in the Wrigley Field bleachers?
For having no better excuse for their team's ineptitude than a black cat wandered in Ron Santo's path, or a goat owner cursed them, or a Notre Dame graduate wanted a souvenir?
For enduring '69, '84, '89, '03, '07, '08 or insert season since 1908?
On the surface, disliking Cubs fans makes little sense. Pity them, yes.
That is, unless you spend time with them of course.
I know, I'm one of them.
It's not by choice, really. The Cubs are a family curse.
Before I entered the business of professional sports writing, the job where's there's no cheering, no team or player allegiance and no healthy food, I was a card-carrying Die Hard Cubs fan.
I was that blue-clad, beer-chugging, 7th-inning stretch-singing Cubs fan, who strutted into your ballpark proclaiming himself a superior fan because his team sucked for 100 years and he still cheered for them, bought tickets, souvenirs and willingly lined the players' pockets and inflated the owners' coffers despite their chronic failings.
I was that guy.
Oh, and I drank a lot. A lot. How else can you explain the aforementioned behaviors?
To be honest, I've just described the new breed of Cubs fan.
Not my generation, I'm referring to the ones so naive (and I can only assume young) enough to believe that division titles occur at 1060 W. Addison as frequently as snow in January.
The old guard, a.k.a. Me, knows this isn't so.
Which is why for the first time in my baseball life I took some solace, just a wee bit, in the Cubs being swept out of the playoffs the past two seasons.
That's how it feels, my Cubs brethren.
In order to be a true Cubs fan, you have to feel the pain, the hurt, the emotional heartache.
Humility comes swift and sudden for us, or at least it should.
So, while you're guzzling your (insert quantity) beers this week at Great American Ball Park doing your best to annoy the Reds fans around you, please consider this:
It's OK to be proud. But, arrogance has no justifiable space in Cubdom.
Despite no World Series titles since '08, the Cubs do boast a tradition like no other, aside from the Yankees.
Cubs fans have Wrigley Field, a baseball experience like no other.
We've had Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, Hartnett, Wilson, Banks, Williams, Jenkins, Sandberg, Maddux, Sosa (yes, him) et al. (Notice I didn't mention Roy Smalley).
The Cubs have won a few World Series too, just none since the automobile took hold.
Humility has a number: 101. That's years, folks.
So, New Breed, as you rock GABP with your "Here we go Cubbies, Here we go ..." chorus, does the pain of the past 10 decades-plus eat at your very soul? It does mine.
See, the true Cubs fan doesn't look at the glass of water and judge it to be half-full or half-empty.
The true Cubs fan asks, "When's it going to spill?".