Tag Archives: fan

Worth the wait: Cubs’ Bryant call smart

Cubs fans know waiting. That’s what we’ve been doing for over 100 years, some of us longer than others.

That is why any Cubs fan with half a brain doesn’t give a rat’s butt that Kris Bryant will spend 12 days in the minors before making his MLB debut. There’s just too much upside to the decision, despite all the bitching from Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, and the players union.

See, when Bryant is in his prime in 2020 and presumably the Cubs have built a consistent winner, one of Chicago’s best players will forgo free agency for a year.

This could save the team some number of dollars we can’t even imagine now. What would a Pujols in his prime type of guy earn as a free agent in 2020, $40 million per year? Who knows? It will be ridiculous, though. For those who argue that the Cubs are putting money over winning, that savings in 2020 will mean a hell of a lot more then than 12 days now.

Couldn’t $40 million buy some combination of a great No. 2 starter, a solid veteran bat or a whole bunch of bullpen help? That money could very well mean the difference between a marginal playoff team and a legit World Series contender. Having cheap super talents under team control is a cornerstone of building a winner.

Those 12 days are not going to mean the difference between the Cubs making the playoffs or not this year either. This team has so many question marks, one of which is whether Mike Olt can play. So give him a few weeks to show what he has. When Bryant is called up, Olt either becomes a valuable bench piece or shares time at third base with Bryant, who can also play a little left field.

Hey, Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton were pretty important to the 2003 Cubs, right? They weren’t on the team at the beginning of the season. Neither was Rick Sutcliffe in 1984, and he was the face of that team.

If Bryant comes up and lights it up, nobody is going to remember 12 days.

So step back Boras. The Cubs didn’t make up these service rules, but they are idiots if they don’t take advantage of them. Sure, your job is to make as much money for your clients and yourself as possible. We get that. But accusing a team of not wanting to win is ridiculous. Long-term winning requires cost control of young players. You know that. You’re just frustrated. Go buy yourself a Porsche. You’ll feel better.

What Cubs fans are concerned about is Javier Baez being sent to the minors. The alarming lack of contact that plagued him in his callup last season continued this spring. At what point does this stop being a case of adjusting slowly and become a permanent flaw? We’re not there yet by a long shot. But still …

We know Bryant’s star will rise. We just have to wait a couple of weeks. It’s not as clear if all of Baez’s talents will come together, though.

We just have to wait. As usual.

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

Goodbye paper All-Star ballots

So MLB is eliminating paper All-Star ballots at stadiums in favor of online voting. Now what? Is someone going to tell me I have to get rid of my cassette tapes and parachute pants? C’mon.

All right, I’m not really an old curmudgeon, so I understand that this makes sense. Bloomberg reported that 80 percent of ballots cast last season were online and that 16 million paper ballots went unused. Trees everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief.

But generations of fans are feeling pangs of nostalgia. Filling out your All-Star ballot(s) was a rite of summer. And we all had our different techniques.

I took a two-prong approach. I filled out homer ballots until my hand couldn’t hold a pencil. That meant Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus, Manny Trillo, Dave Kingman, even Steve Ontiveros. Yes, in 1978 I voted for Ontiveros over Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose and Ron Cey. On A LOT of ballots.

I can still picture clearly scanning the ballot for Cubs and wondering how a city the size of Chicago couldn’t get all our players into the game.

After a million homer ballots, though, I’d start to feel a little guilty. I knew some, many, most of the Cubs I was voting for didn’t really deserve to play in the Midsummer classic. So I’d sigh and I’d fill out one or maybe two ballots based on who I really felt deserved to be an All-Star that year. Hey, I didn’t want to make a mockery of the process. I must admit, however, that I skipped over some very deserving Cardinals over the years.

Worried about stuffing the ballot, I’d walk around the concourse spreading out my ballots in different collection boxes. But I was convinced that my votes would make the difference in DeJesus finally getting the recognition he deserved. He never did. But I tried. I was a real Cubs fan who exercised my right to vote. And when you’re a kid, you don’t get that many chances in life to have your voice heard.

And now it’s over. No more paper ballot, no more feel of that heavy card stock. No more stuffing an actual ballot box.

But it’s not a bad thing. Truth be told, I’ve already been voting online for years. I’ve even wondered out loud why they still printed all those ballots in an age when someone can sit in their seat with an iPhone and vote to their hearts content.

Yet I still mourn, and we all know why. It’s the same reason my dad talked wistfully of his 1956 Chevy that only started half the time. He ended up with more reliable cars, but the loss of that car meant another sliver of his youth had been carved away.

Yesterday, I overheard my wife trying to describe vinyl records, cassettes and even CDs to my 5-year-old son. You could tell the talk meant more to her, and to me eavesdropping, than it did to him. Yes, it’s way easier to download music, to get in the car and have your tunes magically crank up through Bluetooth. Sure, it’s a better process to vote for All-Stars digitally.

But vinyl albums, Pac-Man, Thriller, muscle cars and even paper All-Star ballots were the things that made us us back then. I want to make clear that I did not have parachute pants.

But hey, we had to grow up, and before we knew it, we defined our lives in different ways. Jobs, kids, houses …

But some things remain the same. We still get to vote for All-Stars. We can still stuff the digital ballot box with Cubs. It’s time to get clicking.

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

Taking stock of my fan portfolio

Every once in a while I like to take a look at my fan portfolio. What’s that, you say? It’s the teams that I’m invested in, and their stock goes up and down just like the market.

The big difference between my fan portfolio and my meager investments in the stock market is that I won’t sell my allegiance to my teams. Once I bought in I was stuck with them — for mostly good, but sometimes bad.

So let’s take stock of my teams and how I’m handling my investment:

Cubs: Bull market. Everyone is buying on the Cubs after they signed Jon Lester. The Cubs are obviously my single greatest emotional investment as a fan, and I’d love to agree with some publications that pick the Cubbies to go to the World Series, but I’m afraid that too many people are overvaluing their stock at this point.

I’m taking a cautiously optimistic approach. To be honest, my portfolio lives and dies with my gigantic investment in the Cubs, but I’m not going to max out my contribution at this point. I want to see how the kids play, how the rotation comes together before I start recommending the Cubbies to everyone and anyone.

Bulls: Bear market. What is going on with the Bulls? A team that has lived in the top 3 in defense during the Tom Thibodeau years is now around 19th. What? I was so fired up early in the season when the offense appeared to be worthy of their defensive prowess. I bought in big time that the Bulls could cruise to the Finals out of the East.

Now I’m not so sure. The sample size of defensive struggle is now significant. Derrick Rose looks like the D-Rose in stretches and then settles for 3 after missed 3.

This season has really become disappointing. So I’ve been quietly redistributing my emotional assets, hedging a little on the Bulls’ success this season.

Blackhawks: Bull market. Where has a chunk of my Bulls investment gone? To Kane-Toews and Co. Now, they aren’t exactly the Apple of fan investments right now. A 6-8 stretch doesn’t scream “all in,” but I feel like confident in upping my investment while they’re stock is down because I think they have a better chance of paying dividends later than the Bulls do.

The Blackhawks this season look like a veteran team doing just enough in the regular season to secure a good playoff position. Then they’ll turn it up a gear in the playoffs — a San Antonio Spurs model.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but if my fan portfolio is going to flourish I’ve got to look for deals. I think the stumbling Blackhawks are a good buy right now.

Bears: Not just a Bear market, but a 10-foot ferocious grizzly Bear market. The Bears’ stock has fallen so far that a change of management was necessary.

Heading into last season the parts appeared to be there — especially on offense — that most Bears fans upped their investment significantly. The Bears might have some issues on defense, but they could outscore anyone. They would be entertaining and successful. It felt like investing in the new Star Wars movie.

And we all took a bath. Last season’s Bears were the 1929 stock market crash for fan portfolios. The collapse came out of nowhere and hit very, very hard.

Like all my teams, I’ll always hold a significant stake in the Bears, but I’m not buying right now — not until I see if John Fox is the man to turn around the once blue-chip investment.

In summary, my portfolio is looking pretty good. The Cubs could blow up into something really big, and the Blackhawks can pay off big every year. The Bulls are down, but that doesn’t mean they’re out. And the Bears are at least taking significant steps to right the ship.

It’s a good time to be emotionally invested in the Chicago sports scene.

You can reach me at Patrick@CubsFanTherapy.com.

How Do I Make Sure My Son Is Cubs Fan?

My 4-year-old son has a very team friendly contract. Although the rules aren’t completely clear, I’m pretty sure that I can keep him under my team control for at least two more years. Although he’d love to have it, we do not have a collective bargaining agreement in our house.

That means he’s a Cubs fan. For now.

I know parents around the world deal with this issue as sure as they change diapers and reluctantly give up the keys to the car. How do you ensure that your child will root for your team?* There’s some guy in England right now freaking out after a few pints imagining that his 2-year-old son will somehow grow up to root for Manchester City instead of his beloved Manchester United.

In Chicago, that translates to some mom in Evanston feeling a pang in her gut when she realizes that her adorable infant in that Cubs onesie could come home as a teenager in a White Sox cap.

This idea really popped into my head when I took Jack to see the Cubs play the Mets at Citi Field and he decided it ditch his Cubs hat for a few innings in favor of the Mets giveaway cap. Ugh.

jacktraitor

You see our situation is a bit complicated because we live in Connecticut. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and don’t even remember how or why I became a Cubs fan. I just was. My grandfather, aunts and uncles, friends, they all rooted for the Cubs. Cubs shirts and hats showed up at our house as if delivered in the night by little blue elves (wait, would that be smurfs?). Anyway, that’s a lot of positive reinforcement, and it was all fairly passive. Nobody had to force me to wear a Cubs cap, but I don’t remember much exposure to other options.

In Connecticut, the only thing we have is options. My son is only 4, but he already hangs out with little Yankees and Red Sox fans. So far, he wants to do what dad does, and that means we put on our Cubs caps and watch the Cubbies. But in this melting pot of allegiance, how long before my influence wanes and he wants to follow the team of his best friend? I give it two years, but that might be optimistic.

So I need some help. During this window in which I have the greatest influence over my little man’s rooting choices, I need the Cubs to win. Not just a little. The whole enchilada. I figure that is my best chance to create an indelible memory, to make a permanent emotional connection, in short, to brand his soul with a capital C.

I think that might have happened with the Blackhawks, but I guess we’ll find out.

I also need the Cubs to win because parents always want their children to have a better life than they did. I have no scientific evidence, but I’m pretty sure that I would have become President of the United States if the Cubs would have won a World Series in my formative years. From lovable losers to world champions? The boost to my self-esteem would have been astronomical. All right, maybe I wouldn’t have been leader of the free world, but I bet you I could have been president of the Ryne Sandberg fan club. I bet ya.

We can talk about character building, but does any Cubs fan who has not been twisted into an emotionally bitter pretzel by the losing really want his or her children to grow up with the disappointment that we did? Of course not. I bet there’s even a contingent of Cubs fans who don’t want their kids to follow in their very heavy, dragging, so-tired, why us footsteps. But not most of us. We want to continue the next generation of Cubs fans — only better!

So c’mon Cubbies. There’s not much riding on a championship in the next few years: just the emotional bond between fathers and sons in families like mine and the future greatness of our offspring. No pressure. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be fine watching the Cubs alone, in the cold basement, while my adult son heads off to a friend’s house to watch the Yankees after he gets off work as a widget stacker.

* Note — I don’t include my 3-year-old daughter in this conversation because at this point the Cubs would have to wear ball gowns and sing “Let It Go” while dancing around the infield to maintain her interest in baseball. I didn’t make her that way, I swear. She just likes what she likes, and that’s awesome. She wears her Cubs hat proudly while she paints beautiful watercolor rainbows. But if my son defects, I’m putting on the full-court press with her … or the baby. One of them will stay with me, right?

Share the story of your kids becoming Cubs fans — or not — in the comments or send it to me at Cubs Fan Therapy. Would love to hear it.

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Why I’m A Cubs Fan

Tell us why or how you became a Cubs fan and we’ll post some good ones. Cubs Fan Therapy

By Patrick Hanrahan

I can’t remember. Just like I can’t remember why I’m a Bears, Bulls or Blackhawks fan.

Growing up in the western suburbs might have something to do with choosing the Cubs over the White Sox. I remember having photos of Cubs players – Rick Monday, Jose Cardenal – that I got from the grocery store. But I still don’t remember choosing, and my family can’t help me either. My dad wasn’t much of a baseball fan. My mom didn’t care. And I’m the oldest, so I have no siblings to ask.

This lack of choice is what’s so troubling and yet so comforting about being a Cubs fan. I feel like if I could have chosen, then after 40-plus years of crushed hopes and dreams I could choose to not follow the team. But being a Cubs fan is for me like my Irish heritage. It’s part of who I am and I can’t do much about it.

Working in sports, this conversation comes up quite often. Someone from Wisconsin will say they are a Red Sox fan, and I’ll ask how the heck that happened.

“Well, I was 14 in 1986 and really loved that team, even though they lost,” the person will say.

“What about before that?” I’ll ask.

“Oh I don’t know, maybe the Brewers.”

“What about other teams in other sports?”

“Red Sox in baseball, Cowboys in football, I guess the Bucks, and I don’t really follow hockey.”

I never know what to say. My gut wants to tell them that they’re not real fans. They haven’t inherited — like blue eyes or black hair — this part of themselves that inspires tremendous frustration and anger but that also fosters a lot of joy and belonging.

I also pity those folks for their lack of history and perseverance, for the shallowness of their attachment.

But I’m also shockingly jealous. Sometimes my eyes get wide and I feel a shaky, childlike voice making its way up from the pit of my stomach.

“What does it feel like to be able to choose to follow a team?” I want to ask. But I don’t. It’s too weird. It’s like asking my wife why she got blonde highlights.

“Because it looks good and because I can,” she’d say with a “you’re a dummy sometimes, no, much of the time” glare.

I’ve said for years that I can see only one way that I wouldn’t be a Cubs fan. 1984 didn’t get me to kick the habit. Not even 2003 stopped the madness. To really do it, I’d have to be walking down the street wondering why Renteria used Rondon in a non-save situation when a black van would screech to a halt next to me. Five guys dressed like Ninjas would grab me and throw me face first into the open side door and we’d screech away. I’d be blindfolded, gagged and have my ears plugged. Blind, deaf, and dumb I’d be shuttled out of the van and into what feels like an airplane. Then another van etc. Finally to a chair. It feels hot out.

The blindfold would come off. I’d squint and see a glimmering swimming pool with gorgeous brown and orange mountains seemingly rising out of it’s cool blue shimmer. A man dressed as a Buddhist monk would walk up and put one hand on my shoulder and with the other hand put a Yankees cap on my head.

“It’s all right, my son,” he’d say. “You’re a winner. You’re a winner. We’re going to help you. You say it, ‘I’m a winner.’”

I quietly clear my throat.

“I’m a winner?” I offer meekly.

He sighs. “So Cub-like, so defeated.” And then he lets out a hearty laugh. “We’re going to help you.”

They wouldn’t say the word deprogramming, but that’s what they’d be doing. I actually think they’re might be some money to be made in deprogramming Cubs fans. We’ve all wanted out at one time or another. But deprogramming assumes it’s a cult, as in this dictionary definition: “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.”

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I’m the wrong person to ask because I’m in too deep. What, I’m going to stop waiting for next year this year? C’mon. I don’t know anything different than being a fan like this. And good, bad or ugly, I don’t care to know.

Now, where did I set down my Kool-Aid?