There are certain things you learn when you move to the Midwest. For instance, there doesn't have to be a technical reason (like, say, construction or an accident) for a long traffic jam. No matter how hot it may get -- and a Heartland July can melt Volkswagens -- people will still wonder if it's hot enough for you. Slow-moving tractors are always looking for a spot in front of you on two-lane highways.
And lots of people hate the Chicago Cubs.
Having lived in the Northeast and South for all my life, this came as an utter shock to me. I had assumed everyone loved the Cubs, at least a little bit. In fact, that was their name, right? The Lovable Cubbies. The Cubs meant shirtless beer guts in the sun. The Cubs meant 15-13 games when the wind was blowing out. The Cubs meant "Let's Play Two." The Cubs meant delightful
Seriously, how could you not love the Chicago Cubs?
Well, as it turns out, there are a lot of ways. You could grow up on the Southside of Chicago, where Cubs fans are viewed as a whole tribe of spoiled Ferris Buellers. You could be a St. Louis Cardinals fan raised to believe the Cubs are only cute and cuddly to the people who see them from afar. You could be from the greater Milwaukee area, only two hours north of Chicago, where maybe you have had the whole lovable Cubs thing rammed down your throat all your life to the point of bursting.
The shocking thing isn't that these people don't love the Cubs -- it is that their hatred can border on pathological. I have in completely random ways met three people -- THREE -- who still feel frightening hostility toward
This is all relevant right now because something unusual is happening in baseball. There's a chance that for the first time since
Yes, after all these years of having Yankees and Red Sox interrupt our regularly scheduled programming and jam our car radios and stock our bookstores and overwhelm our Octobers with talk of the guts of
Put it this way: For the middle game of their final Yankee Stadium series, New York sends out longtime pinstripe favorite
That means this postseason should be all about the Chicago Cubs. Oh, sure, if the Rays make it to the playoffs, everyone will be curious, at least for a little while. There could be some moderate interest in trying to figure out the magic card trick the California Angels* keep pulling off -- they can't hit, and they keep winning. The Milwaukee Brewers have a 260-pound slugger and a 250-pound pitching ace (or at least that's how
But, no, the baseball postseason needs a center, a soul, someone to root for, someone to root against, or else the whole thing just descends into one of those boring and never ending mini-series that lead inevitably to champagne pouring over Florida Marlins.
The team at the heart of this thing probably will be the Chicago Cubs. They have won nine regular-season series in a row for the first time since 1907, which you probably noticed is one year before 1908. They've got the ferocious manager
This looks to be their postseason, for good or bad, for joy or for curses. If they win, after exactly 100 years of comedy and errors, there will be a celebration, not only in Chicago but, you have to figure, on both coasts and throughout the South and in all those places where the Lovable Cubbies have penetrated people's hearts.
But that's not everywhere. I asked one friend, a lifelong Cardinals fan, a lifelong Cubs hater, a sensitive soul who admits bawling like a baby during