In January of 2004, Matt Hasselbeck did something that pissed off the sports gods and should have served as strong warning to every other athlete in the world. After winning the coin toss at the end of regulation in the NFC wild-card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, Hasselbeck announced, “We want the ball, and we’re going to score.”
The sports gods looked down on this type of unwarranted cockiness and sent Hasselbeck’s pass straight into the arms of the Packers’ Al Harris, who ran it back 52 yards for a Pick 6 and the win. The sports gods rubbed their hands together and smiled. Matt Hasselbeck got what he deserved.
During this 2008 baseball season, the Chicago Cubs and their band of ignorant fans pulled a Matt Hasselbeck, and in this past week, they too reaped the benefits of hubris. In the form of true poetic justice, a season full of unwarranted arrogance, cries of destiny, and preposterous guarantees ended without a fight and essentially without a sound, save for a quiet whimper and an embarrassing flail of the legs.
Ryan Dempster started off the season the way any reasonable human being would – by guaranteeing a World Series victory. Buoyed by some recent regular season success – and amazingly undeterred by the dearth of recent playoff wins – the Cubs and their gaggle of drunken adherents adopted this idiotic line of thought and espoused it loudly. They yelled about fate and pointed out brilliant reasons for believing that what they portended would be true. We haven’t won for 100 years! This is our destiny, dude!!
Still others might just sit back with a smirk and wait for that big Al Harris interception.
The interception came in the form of three of the most pathetic post-season games ever played. The interception was a quick, embarrassing sweep. The interception was a slap in the face for a team that, in its desperate rush to finally win the World Series, forgot to win a game.
Destiny, I’d like you to meet strong pitching, solid defense, and clutch hitting. Three of you will be instrumental to a team’s post-season success. One of you will send the Cubs home from Los Angeles as the laughingstock of the entire country.
Because laughing, we are. Not only was comeuppance served like a 3 star Michelin meal, but Cubs fans, sometimes erroneously lauded as the “best in baseball,” stunned an unsuspecting nation last Thursday night when they booed their beloved Cubbies off the field at Wrigley after a dismal, error-ridden 10-3 loss to the Dodgers. Booing your own team, with images of the dubious affair gracing the front page of newspapers and sports sections across the country? Booing your own team, the team that boasted 97 wins and snagged a division championship? The Cubs fans once again managed to out-awesome themselves as they walked straight into the hole they had been digging all season with their bellicose guarantees and their overblown expectations. They exposed themselves as the fickle, petty, and childish fans that they are, rather than the good-natured, fun-loving, endlessly loyal fans that they’ve tried to package themselves to be. After all, these are the same fans who raucously welcomed Kosuke Fukudome from Japan at the beginning of the season and showed their support by mass-producing a racist t-shirt and wearing it proudly even after Fukudome expressed his displeasure over the, you know, racism. What’s a little booing to a racist?
The Chicago Cubs and their fans felt that they deserved a World Series victory. They felt that 99 years of not winning the World Series gave one the right a victory, kind of like a reverse “frequent diner” punch card at a sandwich shop. The Cubs had punched in their 99 losses and expected the 100th to be a win. They downright demanded it.
Instead, a season that was meant to be the brightest of all ended on Saturday night. It was a fairly unspectacular failure, but it wasn’t a matter of the Cubs and their fans not getting what they deserved. A team that walked seven men in game one and committed four errors in game two got what it deserved. A team that produced no offense and exhibited shoddy defense got what it deserved. And the fans who gave up in the middle of game two and decided that they had the right to go from a pumped-up, loyal, enthusiastic crowd to a pissed-off, pouty mass of booing… those fans got what they deserved.
On Saturday night, in a bar less than half a mile from Wrigley Field, the so-called faithful fans watched Alfonso Soriano’s last strikeout of the season with mild disbelief, but most of them had stopped watching the game the minute the Dodgers put two runs on the board. There were no cries of disappointment. There was no foul-mouthed belligerence. No, in Wrigleyville, it was a just another Saturday night, and there was still more drinking to be done, Cubs or no Cubs. The die-hard fan at the table next to mine epitomized it best as she tossed her hair aside, pulled a jacket over the big blue “W” on her T-shirt, and said, “Oh well. Go Bears!”
How quickly the faithful fall.