Cubs fans: Go crazy, you’ve waited more than long enough. But while this World Series is a welcome end to your suffering, let us not pretend that the Cubs franchise has ever been half as downtrodden as it portrays itself. Losing does not automatically bestow charm; underachievement does not make an underdog.
For as long as anybody now reading this has been alive—and probably far longer, depending on how many great-grandparents read Deadspin—one of the wealthiest franchises in baseball has gotten away with flogging a lovable loser routine from the heart of one of the game’s largest and most powerful markets. No more, dammit!
For decades, fiction and screen writers have been using Cubs fandom as shorthand for hard-luck moxie, or endearing lost causes, or scrappy optimism, or hopeless romanticism, or childlike innocence. The kid in Rookie of the Year is a Cubs fan; of course he is. The sensitive lonely protagonist of The Sandlot is a Cubs fan; of course he is. The harmless goofball escaped convict in Taking Care of Business is a Cubs fan; of course he is. In the novel The Martian, on which the Matt Damon movie is based, astronaut Mark Watney, who persists in the face of hopelessly long odds while stranded on Mars, is a Cubs fan; of course he is. Ferris Bueller is a Cubs fan; Uncle Buck is a Cubs fan; the Blues Brothers were Cubs fans. And so on.* All loyally rooting for the lovable losers, you see, and therefore relatable: If they were Yankees fans or Dallas Cowboys fans or Los Angeles Lakers fans, you’d hate their guts, because those teams are the big bullies, and their fans are perennially gratified frontrunners. Whereas to be a Cubs fan is—or was, or so we have been told—to invest oneself in something sweet and pure but doomed, by nature or fate or ecology, never to pay off. To hope against hope. To root for the little guy.
*I have a theory that the sick kid in the modern-day portions of the film version of The Princess Bride, who wears a Chicago Bears jersey and has Bears paraphernalia in his bedroom, and who is playing a baseball video game the first time we see him, but who does not have any visible signs of Cubs fandom, is not shown to be a Cubs fan precisely because it would seem to cut against the brattiness and entitlement we see from him at various points in the film. Good theory, IMO.
Except: this is baloney! The Cubs aren’t, and never have been, the little guy. Not in Major League Baseball, and not even in their own town. They’re a big, strong, abundantly advantaged organization, blessed with avenues to success that genuinely burdened organizations like the friggin’ Tampa Bay Rays will never have. The Cubs print money, then sell a hardscrabble image with no basis in reality. (Just as a near-term example, they were able to sink monster money into Jason Heyward, have him turn out to be completely dreadful, and still won’t have to sweat it even when all their talented kids start getting paid what they deserve.)
The reason the Cubs are not the Yankees of the National League is not that they can’t be or have been too honorable or sweet-natured for it; it’s that they’ve sucked at trying. They’re the Yankees, minus competence. If their myriad squanderings of all that comes with being one of America’s most profitable and popular sports franchises make them the scrappy little guy, then Billy friggin’ Bush, who likewise has done nothing much with vast undeserved advantages, is a scrappy little guy. Rooting for the Cubs to win the World Series isn’t—has never been—rooting for Charlie Brown to finally kick the football; it’s rooting for the Death Star to finally blow up the Rebel base. Congratulations! The Rebellion is in ashes now. You did it!
The sun has not shined on a dog’s ass. The sun has shined on an extremely rich ballclub that spent a century pretending to be a dog’s ass to excuse the smell.
I promise that this is not a sour, spiteful attempt to besmirch an extremely cool and good sports moment. Rejoice, Cubs fans! On the whole, being the rich and powerful champion widely despised for its success is a much better and more rewarding role than the rich and powerful loser humping imaginary curses to congratulate itself for perennial embarrassment. Embrace it! Sneer down your nose at the puny Pirates and their pathetic checkbook! Loudly anticipate what the Reds’ most exciting prospects will look like in blue! Pat the sweet li’l Diamondbacks on the head and congratulate them for their admirable efforts at contention. One of the coolest perks of rooting for a frontrunning big-market behemoth is yours, at last.
Hooray for baseball! It has shed one of its most annoying phony narratives and one of its most cloying personae, hopefully forever. The deep-pocketed and powerful Chicago Cubs are World Series champions, and we can all hate their fucking guts openly. It’s great for Cubs fans, and for us.