Sure, the World Series just ended, but it’s never too early to think about next season for die-hard fans of any sports team.
I am a Chicago Cubs fan, and I can’t help but be happy when I see an ESPN blogger put the Cubbies atop of his “way-too-early 2016 power rankings.” While it’s about 144 days until Opening Day 2016, some Las Vegas odds-makers already have the Cubs favored for the (next) World Series.
But being a Cubs fans is more than just watching games on TV or going to Wrigley Field. It is a community that makes you feel like family. I have been to tons of Cubs games at Wrigley and on the road, and no matter where I am it feels like I am around friends.
As a result, one Cubs fan in Oklahoma felt the same and decided to find a way to have that feeling when not at a game.
One night, Wes Jameson went to an Iowa Cubs vs OKC Redhawks minor league game. He noticed while watching the game that loads of Cubs fans were in attendance in OKC. When he left, he said to himself something like, “Man, I wish I knew all these Cubs fans. We could talk Cubs and watch games together.”
It gave him the idea to start the Facebook group Cubs Fans in Oklahoma.
Since the group started, it has grown to have more than 1,000 members. I have been a member for one season now, and I am amazed how much press this group has gotten in the past year. CFIO has been featured in The Oklahoman, the Cubs official magazine (The Vine Line), and by the No. 1 Cubs podcast on iTunes, Ivy Envy.
Though the group is filled with Cubs fans, it still has some interesting subsets. From my time in the group, the main split seems to be between people who look at the Cubs like they can do no wrong and people who realize this team is not where it needs to be right now.
Basically, it’s the same split that is in real baseball — old-school baseball versus analytics. The old-school fans say the Cubs won 97 games and made it to the NLCS in 2015, so very little needs to change. The analytic fans say our batters’ strikeout percentage was too high (9.37 strikeouts per game to “lead” the league) and our batting average was too low (.244 to finish third to last). Accordingly, they say those things do need to change.
This has led to some heated arguments in the group, especially during the Mets’ dismantling of the Cubs in the NLCS. As can happen to any good sports fan, I became involved one of these arguments about what direction the team should go in the off season. Personally, I feel like the Cubs-can-do-no-wrong folks usually overrun the group’s realistic baseball fans, but the group’s large membership can always offer someone who will back you up and understand the point you are making.
I spoke to Mr. Jameson before writing this commentary, and he said being the group’s administrator can be challenging. Cursing and personal attacks are not allowed, so trying to monitor all the frustrating posts during the Mets series was a big chore. Basically, he said he focuses on “trying to keep everyone happy” so people can enjoy the group, be they young, old or anywhere in between.
Another part of policing the group is approving everyone that wants to join. Toward the end of this season, the group was getting multiple requests a day. For Wes, that meant going through Facebook profiles and trying to distinguish true Cubs fans from Internet trolls. During the NLDS against the Cardinals, many people were denied group access because they were Cardinals fans trying to join the group and start trouble.
Yes, that’s sports fandom for you. But it’s not all stressful for Mr. Jameson.
“I met my best friend through this group,” he said.
One of the many friendships he said he has made is with Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins. Wes says they talk once a week, as Jenkins still retains many Oklahoma relationships after owning a Guthrie ranch for many years.
In all, the CFIO Facebook group really promotes a strong sense of togetherness and friendship. Even when there are disagreements, everyone is still on the same page and wants the Cubs to win.
I have been to one of the events the group held at Savastanos, a Chicago-style pizza restaurant, and I was shocked by the atmosphere. It felt like I was watching the game a block away from Wrigley Field.
If you’re a Cubs fan and want to be a part of this group, I highly recommend joining and interacting. I have made new friends, and it has made being a Cubs fan that much more fun.
Now if I can just wait 144 more days … .