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.
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.