Merriam Webster defines “faith” as the strong belief or trust in someone or something.
Midway through the 2016 MLB season, examining the statistics of one of baseball’s best teams should conceivably give its fans faith.
This team has a .602 winning percentage (second-highest in the league) a +139 run differential (tops in the league) and a seven-game division lead (also tops in the league). Their pitchers have a 3.36 ERA and a .216 Batting average against, which are second and first in the league, respectively.
But while those are dominant stats, the team mentioned above is the one-and-only Chicago Cubs, and having faith in the Cubs feels weird.
The trauma of horrible teams, gutting losses
Let me give you a little history about how I became a Cubs fan.
While working the graveyard shift in the ’80s, my dad would wake up and around 2 p.m. and watch the Cubs. This was pre-1988, the year the Cubs got lights, so he would watch day games on WGN. He became initiated as a Cubs fan with the team’s collapse in the 1984 NLCS versus the San Diego Padres, and as I grew up watching the Cubs, I also became hooked (even after my father taught me about the 1984 loss and the curse of the billy goat).
Since becoming a Cubs fan, I have perennially suffered from either one of two things: horrible teams or gutting losses.
Between 1990 and 2002, the Cubs made the postseason exactly once. Then came a first-place division finish in 2003 and a berth in the NLCS. But that series loss — and especially the Bartman Ball in Game 6 — destroyed me. (That loss is still not Bartman’s fault, but lets not start a fight with the Bill Swerskis of the world.)
In 2007, the Cubs won their division and then got swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. That was horrible, but then in 2008, the same thing happened. In 2008, the Cubs had the best record in the NL and were swept in the NLDS by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then came six long seasons of rebuilding and losing.
It’s been enough to convince me that faith in the Chicago Cubs is never rewarded.
An analogy to local football
While pondering why it is so tough for me to have faith in the Chicago Cubs, I kept trying to think of a way to relate this to Oklahoma. It turns out the answer hits close to home.
The Chicago Cubs are the Oklahoma State Cowboys football team, or maybe vice versa. Either way, being a Cubs fan has prepared me for being an OSU fan, and the similarities are eerie.
The Cowboys have endured long stretches of being bad and a ton of heartbreaking losses. Even the Cowboys’ best season was depressing. The Cubs had a 2003 that ended horrifically, and OSU had 2011, when a missed field goal in Ames, Iowa, cost the Cowboys a chance at the BCS title game. While the Fiesta Bowl was great, there will always be a big “what if” tied to that season.
Being a fan of the Cubs and OSU makes having faith in any team a scary proposition for me.
I asked a question about faith in the Cubs Fans in Oklahoma group I am a part of on Facebook. A member named Joey Rodman was able to put the plight of being a Cubs fan into words perfectly.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m too scared to go all in,” she said.
Exactly. Whenever the team is good, I just sit back and wait for the other shoe to drop.
The Cubs being so good halfway through 2016 makes this season especially scary. Every day, I feel as if my faith in the team is being tested. When someone gets hurt or we lose a few games in a row, doubt and fear creep into the back of my head.
I don’t think this feeling will ever go away unless the Cubs can finally win the World Series that has eluded them for the past 107 years. While I don’t have faith that it will be this year, I have hope.
But if it’s not … well … there’s always next year.