Cautious Optimism; Or: Preparing Kids For Almost Certain Disappointment

MLB Standings May 16 2016

Much of my writing has been about cars – it’s what I know. But there is indeed much more to life than the automobile.

Like baseball. Cubs baseball, that is.

For those who haven’t been following along, the Cubs are finally good. By most measures so far this young season, they are the best team in baseball. See the above National League standings from today, May 16th, courtesy

Consequently, my daughters, 10 and 7, have started following along with the Cubs, and my eldest is a rabid fan. She plays softball, as well, and requested a jersey number #44 to match her hero, Cubs 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo.

As my kids have only started following the game in the last couple years, they don’t know a world that I grew up in – a world where, save a few glorious teases, the Cubs were utter shit. How do I teach my girls about the real life of a Cubs fan?

Most importantly, how do I tell them gently to prepare for heartbreak?

My History With the Chicago Cubs

How did I become a Cubs fan? I live in Columbus, Ohio, after all. I live within three hours’ drive from three storied franchises (Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh – though I consider the designated hitter crap they use up by the lake to be something short of real baseball) so why didn’t I become a fan of one of the closer teams?

I blame my dad, Harry Caray, and a C-Band satellite dish.

My dad was a Cubs fan, as was his dad. When I’d spend my summers in northern Wisconsin, Grandpa would tune to WGN on the TV and the radio, muting the TV so he could listen to the radio call. Nearly every afternoon that was our ritual.

When my parents built a new house – a mile from my current home – in 1983, dad insisted on installing a C-band satellite dish (the big 16-foot-diameter dish) in the backyard, so we could pull in WGN. This neatly coincided with the 1984 baseball season, when Ron Cey, Rick Sutcliffe, Leon Durham, and my hero Ryne Sandberg lit up the North Side with great baseball until October 4th.

I was hooked. But decades of disappointment followed, especially when there were teams that seemed to have potential: 1989, 1998, 2003.

I’ve only been to that shrine of baseball, Wrigley Field, twice – once, in ’87 or ’88. I recall it rained midway through the game against the Dodgers, and that the Cubs lost by double digits.

My second visit was with my wife, in 2004 I believe? Hoping to get the girls there this summer – softball schedules will dictate whether we can go or not.

My Kids

My kids haven’t experienced the supreme disappointment of a miserable season. Last year wasn’t so bad, as the team wasn’t expected to be as great as they were. But this year..I don’t know. This year is one of high expectations, and so far the team is exceeding them.

Even The Onion is riffing on the Cubs:

Onion Screenshot

I’m not certain how to handle this. There are two potential outcomes that I’m really not equipped to explain to my impressionable girls:

  • The Cubs collapse in September. Shea Stadium is gone, and I’m sure that black cat is dead, but these things happen all the time.
  • The Cubs actually get to the series.

Where do I go from here?

Certainly this is a #firstworldproblem. There are plenty of things that require attention, but I’m not equipped to solve the Zika virus, Flint water, or a Trump presidency. Trivial shit is what I do best.






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