Alex Podlogar

Thinking outside the pressbox

A Cubs fan going crazy

Published in The Sanford Herald on July 27, 2008

By ALEX PODLOGAR

Sports Column

They’re never on time. Never. How does this happen? How? How come you never get called back to see the doctor at the time of your appointment? If you have the first appointment of the day, do you get called back late then?

Come to think of it, I’ve never had the first appointment of the day in anything that requires an appointment. Not a doctor, not a dentist, not even a mechanic. Do “first appointments” even exist?

These are some of the questions that go through your head as you sit here, leafing through months-old Sports Illustrateds.

Oh look, there’s the one with Kosuke Fukudome on the cover. That was early May.

Ah, May. The Chicago Cubs were in first place, despite Alfonso Soriano getting off to a horrendous start. Then he caught fire, and the Cubs held on to first place. Then he got hurt. Then the All-Star break came and went. Then the Milwaukee Brewers stopped losing. The St. Louis Cardinals kept winning. Then the 5-game lead disappeared. Then the panic. The kicking things. The sleepness nights. Then the wife’s phone call to the pyschol…

“Mr. … um, Poad-logger? Uh, Alex? Hi. Did I get that right?”

“Close enough.”

“The doctor will see you now.”

“OK.”

Leather couch? Check. Legal pad? Check. Tweed sweater? Check.

Just like in the movies.

May as well hit the couch. I’d be more comfortable in the chair, but there’s a couch, and well, aren’t you supposed to be on the couch?

Waiting.

Waiting.

Wringing hands.

Sheets and Sabathia. Sabathia and Sheets. Braun. Pujols. Hart. Ludwick, Hardy, Wainright…

OK, calm down. Nobody plays until 8 tonight.

Deep breath.

Door opening. Wire-rim reading glasses? Check.

“So, Mr. … um, Poad-loj-er. Uh, Alex. Hi there. How’d I do?”

“Pod-lo-gar. Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, I’m Dr. Kendall. Your wife called to set up the appointment. Glad you could make it.”

“Kendall, huh? Like the catcher.”

“Excuse me?”

“The Brewers’ catcher, Jason Kendall.”

“Um, yes. OK. Well, that’s kind of why we’re here, isn’t it?”

“Because Jason Kendall bats ninth, behind the pitcher? Or because the Cardinals do the same thing? You want to break that down?”

“Do you?”

“Already have. Several times.”

“How does that make you feel?”

“Like the sample size isn’t large enough to determine whether it’s really a good idea or not yet.”

“Well, uh, OK. So, have you always liked baseball?”

“Love it.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s the best of all sports. At least it is to me. I like the nuances.”

“Tell me about that.”

“Well, you know, the simple stuff. There’s no clock. The defense possesses the ball. Why 2-1 is a good count to hit-and-run. When to bunt. When not to bunt. The hanging slider. Everything.”

“And why the Cubs?”

“WGN. Harry Caray. My family got cable when I was 8. I’d come home from school, and there they were, on TV already. Or in the summer, all the day games. They started at 2. The Cubs were always on, and I loved baseball. Harry was funny even to an 8-year-old. They had Ryne Sandberg. And they were good. Won the division that year and could’ve been in the World Series. Until Leon Durham happened.”

“They’re good now too, right?”

“Well, they’ve been good for the first two-thirds of the season. Now they seem like they’re falling apart. All of a sudden they can’t hit. Ramirez and Fukudome look lost. D-Lee can’t hit on the road. Soto may have hit the rookie wall. They’re pitching fine, but Woody’s got a lingering blister. Soriano just came back, and when he’s hot, he’s great. But he can strike out four times a night, too. And center field has been something of a mess. And don’t get me started on Bob Howry.”

“But they are still in first place.”

“For now.”

“What makes you think they won’t hold on?”

“Are you kidding?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, have you heard of the Chicago Cubs? Does Steve Bartman ring a bell? Although Bartman gets a raw deal. Why Alex Gonzalez doesn’t get more heat for blowing a double-play ball right after that, I’ll never know. But there’s more. How about Will Clark hitting about .680 against us in the 1989 NLCS? The billy goat? The black cat? 1969? 1908? They haven’t won a World Series in 100 freaking years!

“And you think that has something to do with the 2008 team?”

“You know what? I don’t. I really don’t. Curses are stupid. But this team is flawed. Especially when Jason Marquis takes the hill.”

“You think the season’s going to end badly?”

“In a word, yes.”

“I don’t understand. Why?”

“Because it always does. I can’t explain it, but it always does. And usually in the most crushing fashion imaginable. Like last year, when we got swept in the first round. I mean, it’s been 100 years.”

“So why bother?”

“Huh?”

“Why bother following the Cubs? Why not choose another team, like the Red Sox?”

“Choose another team? Choose another team?! Doc, I think this session is over.”

“We have 15 more minutes. Hang on.”

“Hang on? No offense sir, but you can’t just go around picking teams here and there because they happen to be good.”

“Wouldn’t that make you happier?”

“To be a bandwagon-jumper? No thanks, Doc. There’s nothing worse.”

“Maybe you don’t want to be happy.”

“What are getting at?”

“Aren’t the Cubs known as the ‘Lovable Losers’? And you, like so many others, have stuck with them through thick and thin. Mostly thin, right?”

“Gee, thanks, Doc.”

“Listen to me. If the Cubs were to win a championship, how would you feel?”

“Like buying everything that had ‘Cubs’ and ‘World Champions’ on it.”

“Would you? Or would you lose something? Something like your identity as a fan. Maybe Cubs fans revel in their collective misery. It’s your trademark. It defines you as a fan. You feel like you’re sports’ — all of sports’ — best fans because you never turn away from your team, no matter how many times they break your heart.”

“Um, Doc, I think you and I need to trade places. Maybe you should lie down here for a while.”

“Think about it Mr. … uh, Alex.”

“You really think I’d feel like I lost something, other than my access to the credit card, if the Cubs won it all? That I’d feel worse if the Cubs won the World Series?”

“You wouldn’t have anything left to complain about.”

“And that’s a bad thing? Really, I’m paying for this?”

“Food for thought, Alex.”

“I think my time is up. Thanks, Doc, this really helped. I’ll make sure not to schedule another appointment on my way out.”

“Think about it.”

“OK, answer me one question, Doc. When things are going badly for the Cubs, would a fan who desperately wants them to win turn away from the game on TV? Turn off the online gamecast? Be so angry that he wants to kick something? Fail to sleep at night knowing another game was lost in the standings? Thinks changing his watch might break the losing streak?”

“That was five questions, Alex. And I think we have a lot to discuss. I’ll see you next week.”

“Would Thursday work? I have my first anger-management seminar on Wednesday. My boss thinks I need that for some reason. He should talk. He’s a Pirates fan.”

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February 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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