The Chicago Cubs are like a warm patchwork quilt that has been handed down from generation to generation. Even those whose allegiances lay with other teams can’t help but feel an affinity for the Cubbies. And even though St. Louis Cardinals fans might disagree, the Cubs have found a way into the hearts of baseball fans all over the country.
Of late the Cubs have been staying true to their historical form. They finished the first half with a dismal 2-13 run. For a moment the clouds had parted and the sun was shining down on the Boston ivy adorning the outfield walls of Wrigley Field. The Cubs looked like a contender and then they weren’t. And now here we are just past the All-Star break. The Cubs are eight games back and tied for third with the Cardinals. To the die-hard North sider, this is not great, but to the once or twice removed fan who now, say, supports the San Francisco Giants, this is exactly where they should be, cloaked in the perpetual struggle against mediocrity and outright failure.
An Outsider’s Affection for the Chicago Cubs
So what drives this warm feeling caused by a team that lives in the opposing dugout? A nation of baseball crazed fans have secretly held the enemy in their hearts. The appeal of the Chicago Cubs runs deep in our country, so bottomless is this allure that most don’t even know that it resides in them. So, unsuspecting devotee, clean off your glasses, blink the tired from your eyes, and get ready to realize why you’ve always loved the Chicago Cubs.
We’ll start with the most obvious, the magical land of Oz, also known as Wrigley Field. Wrigley is not just a place where baseball is played. It is an enchanted land that strips away the worries of the outside world. Sure baseball is the reason, but there is so much more. Wrigley is an oasis in an arid land.
Let’s start with ivy. Since a 1937 renovation, ivy (first English and now mostly Boston ivy) has been thriving on Wrigley’s brick outfield walls. The ivy not only defines a ballpark and a team but also a sport and a country. It is a living characteristic of Wrigley that creates a state of mind and represents the fertility of baseball. The green of the grass seems unable to control itself and is bursting forth from the walls, having morphed into the leafy vine.
And while the ivy tends to get the lion’s share of the attention, let’s not forget the hand-operated scoreboard, the beautiful red marquee greeting visitors at the main entrance, and the blustery winds from Lake Michigan. Combine these attributes with the rooftop seating (although much more limited now) behind the outfield walls and Wrigley Field wraps the quilt snuggly around the shoulders of the baseball fan.
First the home and now the inhabitants. The Cubs have a long history of not only great players but also a loyal and knowledgeable fanbase. Their fans span generations and evoke a certain about of envy in those that aren’t a part of the club. What does it mean to be a Chicago Cubs fan? It means perseverance, faith, and a steadfast community that gathers in the central location of Wrigleyville, the neighborhood in which Wrigley Field is located. To be a Cubs fan is to be a part of a larger family and community that fondly remembers its great ballplayers.
From Tinker to Evers to Chance all the way down the line to Anthony Rizzo the Cubs have had some amazing talent. And one of the most appealing things about beloved Chicago Cubs alum is that they aren’t necessarily household names. Of course, there’s Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, possibly one of the biggest names in baseball history. But past Banks the names can become a bit obscure unless one is a part of the exclusive club (or a big baseball fan). The Cub greats like Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins, and Andre Dawson had storied careers playing for the faithful, but do not have the same lasting fame power as Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, or Hank Aaron. The decreased notoriety of players lends itself to an intimacy that can’t be had with big-name stars. Cubs stars are seemingly reachable to the average person.
Chicago Cubs and a Nation
Do you love the Cubs? Your initial answer may be a resounding no, but if you really think about it you don’t just love them you are them. You don’t know why you care but you do. Even through the heartache of seasons past the allure of Wrigley and Banks and Santo, and Harry Caray capture the baseball fan like no other. Who will sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”? Will the “W” flag be raised? There is so much history and love and warmth that the Cub quilt stretches across our country and wraps us in a familiar tradition, making the Chicago Cubs our team, even though we may not even know it.
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