It’s no news that the 162-game baseball regular season is too long by any reasonable standard. It’s also no news that it never will get shorter, no matter how many new layers of playoffs are added. That’s because the schedule is guided by the dictates of commerce, not competition, and reducing it would violate the first rule of business, which is that you can’t make any money if the store isn’t open.
For the followers of some teams, though, the schedule can be too short. One of those usually is my Chicago Cubs, who again this season are out of it even though the campaign is only about half completed. Yogi said (or is said to have said; Joe Garagiola invented many of the so-called Yogiisms) “It’s never over ‘til it’s over,” but he was mistaken.
Fact is, the Cubs have been OOI from the outset this year, and I could have written this piece any time since opening day. I’ve attended their spring training games in Mesa, Arizona, for, maybe, 25 years now, and I’ve never seen Cubdom as dispirited as it was this March, or for better reason. No amount of the innate optimism that is a requisite for being a Cubs’ fan could survive the sloppy play and dead-ass decorum the team displayed during its vernal exercises. To think that would change with the start of serious hostilities would have been delusional.
Expectations were low to begin with coming off last year’s 75-87 won-lost record, and weren’t helped by the team’s naming Mike Quade to succeed Lou Piniella as manager. With an inflated and unproductive payroll leaving little room for roster maneuver, a new manager with some pizzazz might have helped rouse the faithful, but Quade had gathered so little celebrity in his 35-plus years in the game that many couldn’t pronounce his name (it’s kwa-dee). At the rate he’s going he’ll be gone before they can.
General Manager Jim Hendry’s bad personnel decisions brought about the current mess. Alas, they didn’t end with the Major League club. That was apparent as soon as the team needed to fill early-season openings created by the sort of injuries every team has. The best Hendry could do to fill a starting-pitching hole was to dredge up the veteran punching bag Doug Davis, and his first outfield call-up was Luis Montanez, a 29-year-old minor-league lifer whose upside was negligible. If Montanez is the best the farm system can offer, our epic title drought only will continue.
I’m sure that by now you’re thinking “enough, already.” Cubs’ fans’ laments are old stuff and I can’t pretend that mine adds much to the genre. This time, however, I offer a solution as well as a complaint. It comes by way of Eddie Cohen, a pal from our long-ago days at Roosevelt High School.
As those who know him can attest, Eddie is a Cubs’ fan without peer. He is venerable, with his allegiance dating from the 1940s. He is knowledgeable, able to call your Ransom Jackson and raise you a Peter LaCock. His good nature and cheerfulness are legendary, despite the blows regularly delivered by the objects of his baseball affections.
But along the way Eddie also acquired some wisdom, and put it to use. His epiphany came in 1997 when the Cubbies, despite a lineup that included Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa and Mark Grace, opened the season with a 14-game losing streak that killed hope aborning. “I was miserable,” Eddie recalls. “I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat.”
He adds” OK, I ate, but I didn’t enjoy it much.”
From this depth of despair Eddie founded Cubs Anonymous, a 12-step program to cure Cubs addiction. He opened a website and, for a relative pittance, offered t-shirts, membership cards and bumper stickers to those in need. He even convened a meeting in which CA members confessed their failures and professed their determination to overcome them, although an excess of laughter discouraged repeats of such sessions.
Eddie laughed along because—of course—CA was meant to be fun, but he says the venture helped put his misery into perspective and allowed him to better roll with the punches. You, too, can share his improvement by going to cubsanonymous.com and clicking on “join.” There you can peruse and contemplate the 12 steps and learn how following them will improve your life.
The website often is balky, so if you can’t make it work you can send $14 to Eddie at Apparel Resources, 1125 Lake Cook Rd. #208, Northbrook, Ill., 60062, and he’ll mail you a handsome CA t-shirt.
It’ll turn heads when you wear it at Wrigley Field.