|Cubs win. Let's celebrate with chilled champagne! Or just . . . chill.|
But now that we've established the Cubs won't go 0-162, it's time to complete the cycle of emotional futility. It goes like this:
Stage 1: Despondency of Defeat. After another year of not winning the World Series, Cub fans spend the tail end of the season longing for football season to start or (if we're lucky enough to postpone the demise of our hopes and dreams into October) we spend the end of the postseason pondering the perennial pain that is Cubbie failure. This is not a happy time.
Stage 2: The Winter of Our Discontent. Baseball is over, the hot stove isn't all that hot, and we long for the baseball season to help us recover from the dismal outcomes of the gridiron. Pain turns to numbness, regret turns to restlessness. And then talk turns to improving the team.
Stage 3: Hot Stove Cooking. This is the warmup time for our hoping mechanism. Maybe the Cubs will sign Albert Pujols. Maybe they'll trade John Grabow for Albert Pujols. Maybe we'll have a fire sale that results in the Cubs rebuilding with an entire team of Albert Pujols clones. There's plenty of time for griping about the deals that are made and bemoaning the rumors that never materialize, but it's the place where positivity gets its first major foothold of the offseason.
Stage 4: Groundhog Day. We know it's not spring yet, but Jim Hendry moseys out of his hole at Cubs Convention and tells everyone how much more suffering we'll have to endure. There might be more snowstorms and there might be more deals, but we're not all that hopeful or fearful of too many of either. We start premature imaginations of spring even thought it's 12 degrees outside. We buy game tickets and start looking at lawn furniture. Then we wait.
Stage 5: Spring Training Twitterpation. Spring training baseball is here! Hooray! There is baseball! The snow is melted, the trade rumors are dead (except for those filthy piles of plowed snow and Heath Bell theories), and the soggy brown grass of last year's hopes begins to green with the promise of next year becoming now. Ultimate joy!
Stage 6: Spring Training Thaw & Corresponding High Pollen Count. Uh, yeah, after that first spring training game we all realize that practice baseball is really pretty tedious. A week or so in we're almost allergic to it. We swear it's a good idea to open our windows and go for long walks to breathe in the fresh baseball, but it aggravates our sinuses every single time. We need real baseball.
Stage 7: Opening Day. Baseball is back. Spring break is broken. We're all on Sao Padre Island, and none of us get sunburns. There is drinking and merriment and music galore. Maybe Steven Tyler and James Taylor show up somewhere, but it gets a little weird, and then we realize that maybe it would be nice to just sleep in our own beds with no strange people along for the ride.
Stage 8: Overwrought Optimism/Dread. Depending on the results of the first game or two (or 14), this is either the honeymoon or the hangover. The Cubs win their first game, it's the year. 162-0 until we finally lose one, prove me wrong. World Series. OR. The Cubs lose their first game(s). The season's over. Worst. Team. Ever. Jim Hendry is the reincarnated Billy Goat come to curse us forever, so help me De Rosa.
Stage 9: Back to Life, Back to Reality. Here we are now. The Cubs have lost. The Cubs have won. No game is the end of the world. No game is the solution to all our problems. There are just a lot of games, and they are enjoyable in their slow, loping pace. The breakneck race through baseball infatuation enters the "oh, yeah, I love you in a Lockhorns kind of way even though your meatloaf sucks" phase really quickly. I love it for what it is, and now I'm ready to take baseball for granted again.
Stage 10: Well, you know, it's just a long, circuitous orbit back to Stage 1.
Hey, I'm just glad we're in Stage 9 again. It really is my favorite stage. The losses still stink, but there's "plenty of baseball left" for several months. And the wins are still pretty fantastic. Not "break out the champagne" fantastic, but still a lot of fun.