Yesterday I suggested that pressure from Cubs fans is having a detrimental effect on the players' ability to perform. Today I'm here to tell you that I was 100% out of my gourd. That's not the problem with Cubs fans. For the past few years we've played the part of a fan base with great expectations, but let's be real: all the "this is the year" talk was just our dreams talking. Deep down we all knew the Cubs have no intentions of winning, but we don't let that dissuade us from cheering for the team. This song is our motto: I will always love you.
What's causing the Cubs downfall this year and every year is the genuine and firmly entrenched belief in the hearts and minds of all Cub players and coaches: We don't have to win. We'll still get paid. We'll still have each other. The fans will still love us.
The Cubs don't have to win. They don't even have to put a good team on the field. All the organization has to do to keep the turnstiles spinning is toss us a few Dora giveaways, a beanie baby here and there, and trot Denise Richards into the press booth for a rousing rendition of "Pay No Attention To My Voice, Please." Win and we'll buy everything you're selling. Lose, and we'll complain. But our numbers won't ever decrease, not really.
Organizationally, the front office merely has to create the illusion of trying. As long as there's at least one player who can hit 40 or so homers or one pitcher who can strike out a dozen guys (or draw Chuck-Norris style worship of him manliness) the club's cult following will remain intact. And if you don't touch the ivy or the scoreboard, the house of worship that is Wrigley Field will never lack parishioners.
Psychologically, the players know perfectly well that if they give their 75% best, the fans will cheer as though they're seeing Babe Ruth outperform his prime. If Derrek Lee can play like Bill Buckner, we'll applaud him like he's Lou Gehrig. Every now and then we'll boo to preserve the illusion, but come on . . . we love these guys through thick and thin. Not that we can remember what thick is like.
What incentive does any player or team have to succeed in Chicago? The best ever celebration if they do win it all? Big deal! Why go the extra mile of winning a World Series when they're lauded like kings if they win the Pirates series?
If we really want the Cubs to win it all, we've got to stop going to games altogether. Stop watching games. Don't even check the box scores until the division is clinched.
And when we do go, boo them mercilessly unless they win. By seven runs. Even then, mild applause is sufficient. We've got to stop being the Generation X parent who praises the simplest accomplishment. Do you really want the Cubs to carry around that sense of entitlement and inflated esteem? No! We've got to become the old-school parents of baby boomers who reward Nobel-worthy feats with brief respites from corporeal punishment.
Grand slam, Theriot? Congratulations. No belt to the back of the legs until tomorrow. You made it to the World Series? Okay, I'll disallow comments on my "Embalm Lou Piniella" post until you lose again.
The cheering, the love, the loyalty? It's ruining this team.