Being a Cubs fan is tough, and this year is not any different. With their record currently sitting at 13-21, the Chicago Cubs occupy last place in the National League Central. The last time the Cubs won a World Series? 1908. The last time the Cubs went to the World Series? 1945.
Nevertheless, Cubs fans remain intensely loyal to their team, a quality that I cannot help but admire from afar. But why? Why root for a team that has not brought home a championship in over 100 years?
Some argue that it is a result of the aesthetics of Wrigley Field that keep fans coming back. I can understand this, for sure. On a spring break trip to Chicago one year, I was able to view Wrigley from the Sears Tower, and even from there, I was excited by the opportunity. It is a ballpark full of history, being home to the Cubs since 1916. Prior to that, it was known as Weeghman Park, built in 1914 on grounds once occupied by a seminary. For those first two years, the ballpark served as the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Wrigley is famous even today for its ivy-covered walls in the outfield and its old school scoreboard.
It could be that fans are drawn to the history of the team itself. Established in 1876, the Cubs are considered to be the oldest team in the Major League Baseball, having existed in the same city for the entire history of the franchise. The club has boasted of players such as Albert Spalding, Sammy Sosa, Greg Maddux, Cap Anson, and Ernie Banks (a wholly incomplete list, but you understand the brevity).
Some folks have pointed out that it could be the other forms of entertainment in Wrigleyville that keeps fans coming back. Surrounded by residential area and a lively bar scene, Wrigley Field is located within walking distance of a game day party for Chicagoans. After all, baseball and beer have a long history together as well. It kind of takes away from the romanticism of the die-hard Cubs fan, but it could very well be a contributing factor.
Or it could just be that Chicago is a town full of loyal baseball fans. The city does, after all, play host to two MLB teams, and has done so for a good chunk of its history. Even the White Sox experienced a World Series drought of its own from 1917 to 2005. But even if one is drawn to the notion of rooting for the underdog, why would one choose the Cubs over the White Sox?
Perhaps the answer lies in the sense of community that comes with being a Cubs fan. Their fan base arguably is far more outreaching than that of the White Sox. Somehow, the feeling of kinship between Cubs fans is stronger than it is with perhaps any other team in baseball. When one thinks of the Cubs, one does not merely think of the baseball team itself. The words “Chicago Cubs” also evoke thoughts of Wrigley Field, Harry Caray and the seventh-inning stretch, the curse of the Billy Goat, pinstripes, and the view of the Chicago skyline beyond the scoreboard. It helps that team’s games are often broadcast on WGN, thus allowing them to reach a larger audience and develop its fan base. The fact that many articles have been written about the loyalty of Cubs fans is a testament to the strength of this sense of community.
It is a sense of loyalty so strong, that even rock stars can’t help but express themselves about it.
Chroust, Kevin. “Bracketology: Best Players in Chicago Cubs History Determined By the Madness.” Yahoo! Contributor Network. Yahoo! Inc., 21 March 2013. Web. Accessed 10 May 2013. http://sports.yahoo.com/news/bracketology-best-players-chicago-cubs-history-determined-madness-202500198–mlb.html
“Cubs History.” The Official Site of the Chicago Cubs. MLB Advanced Media, LP, 2001-2013. Web. Accessed 10 May 2013. http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=history
Savage, Bill. “The Cubs Fan Paradox: Why Would Anyone Root for Losers?” Society for American Baseball Research. SABR, 2013. Web. Accessed 10 May 2013. http://sabr.org/research/cubs-fan-paradox-why-would-anyone-root-losers
3 thoughts on “Lovable Losers: The inexplicable loyalty of the Cubs fan”
I grew up in Chicago and was raised a Cubs fan. It’s a religion that you can’t quite shake. There’s something about the team, about Wrigley, that just isn’t replicated anywhere else.
Fascinating… It kind of sounds like Packers football in Green Bay (except that the Packers have some recent championships under their belt). Thanks for the input. It’s nice to get a native’s perspective!