I don't like the Cubs.
This isn't hatred, or dislike, it's just the absence of like. I don't get into the 'root for Chicago' hubbub. They're another team, and it's taken a long time to get to this place of at least superficial indifference after being raised in a Cubs-hating household, and accumulating teenage bitterness from being a south sider who had to bus and train for an hour to the north side to where CPS hid the good high schools.
It's been long enough of a road that I thought there would still be enough malice, especially after months of getting to witness firsthand the inflated egos and lost perspective that the fanbase of every contender gets, to take some pleasure in their demise. That belief continued right on through the Mets taking the first two games and halfway through Game 3 of the NLCS.
But as the Cubs defense came unglued in the sixth inning Tuesday night, and started taking on water with crucial mistakes from the rookie studs that had powered their dream season, rather than chuckle or grin, I found it hard to watch; stomach-turning. That feeling was echoed the Wednesday night with the immediate and brutal assault by the Mets offense on a gimpy Jason Hammel to immediately suck the hope out of Game 4, and really the rest of the season on the north side. A good way, or an awful way, to find out you don't possess any actual hatred towards a team and a fanbase, is to watch them endure something uncompromisingly torturous and wretched, and realize it's just as awful as watching it happen to anyone else.
Perhaps it was worse. Just as proximity gave me too good of a look at the Cubs fans in full peacock mode, it amped up the impact of watching a fanbase ready to win, ready to embrace stage of a happy and joyful relationship with their team. We all want to be in this position with our own team, and can place ourselves in the mindset of being ready and open for all our baseball dreams to be fulfilled. Being ripped out of that--even for a few months before the Cubs' possible thousand-year rulership rights itself and continues unabated--is jarring and traumatic, and if I ever doubted it, the waves of screaming and moaning from friends, co-workers and Twitter follows drove it home.
Playoff fanhood is more vulnerable than the type of torture we sign up for every time we tune in for some late-August jaunt with the Twins; every scar is permanent, every bad mistake get seared into a collective memory, and it's not healed or comforted by assurances of next year and competitive windows. From a long view, Kyle Schwarber being bad in left field is a laughably temporary concern and a happy accident of him crushing the ball so much he was called up before there was a stable role for him. His bellyflops don't have any real tie to crucial Cubs defensive miscues of yesteryear, but it taps into the same reservoir of pain all the same, and that pain stays there until some actual playoff goodness comes to replace it. And despite all that's going good in Cubland right now, that's going to be a year from now, and that seems like a long time.
So for now, and for really not much longer, I sympathize with the sorrow devoted to the Cubs' end. A cool team that made a lot of people happy, until it came to a stop too sudden for anyone to brace for.
P.S. Please trade the White Sox one of your hitters.*
*We consider .700 OPS = a hitter.