Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Watching the Cubs game, or not


I'm impressed by people who will be able to watch tonight's Cubs game. I can't do it; the Cubs are just too much an emotional drain for me. Back in the 1980s I witnessed my then-boyfriend reacting to a Cubs' loss from his campus in Michigan: he said he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. While he had a physical reaction to the disappointment of not winning, I remember staring at him blankly. What did I know? I wasn't interested in sports and John's response was my first experience with a Cubs fan.

Twenty years later being married to a man I sometimes called "Mr. Chicago" taught me a bit more about sports fans. I'd watch my then-husband get all worked up about how a Cubs game was going and I would marvel that he could watch it at all. Cubs fans talk about having their hearts broken season after season, which seems both sad and insane to me. Why do that to yourself? Why not just turn it off? But marriage taught me how much sports fans feel compelled to watch, no matter how much it might end up hurting. I realize that not watching an important game can feel like letting down the team. Fans truly believe that their attention influences action on the field. For instance, a fan might notice that every time they're out of town, their team wins, so then they feel obligated to go out of town for each game thereafter. I once assembled Ikea furniture with my then-husband while we listened to the Cubs win. Sure enough, Bob suggested that we always assemble furniture while the Cubs played. Sure, it's a joke and fans 99% don't really believe it. But that 1% is always there. 

Sports fans feel like they are a part of the synergy that determines how a game turns out, so how could they turn their backs on a team just because things might go badly? They can't. And that's how a lot of Cubs fans will feel tonight. They'll be biting their nails and wringing their hands, but they can't turn away. For someone like me, watching would feel like following the most heart-wrenching, suspense-filled, true drama. I can't do it. But for true fans, watching the game is lending their spirit, their energy and the emotional support that just might put the Cubs over the top and on to the next game.

So: go, Cubs.