When I was a young lad, around the age of six or seven and eager to devour every little bit of baseball I could find, I was a bit of a bandwagon jumper. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but I’m pretty sure there’s home video of me somewhere declaring myself a Blue Jays fan shortly after Joe Carter’s walk-off home run ended the 1993 World Series.
In ’94, I somehow convinced my dad to buy me an Atlanta Braves hat. I loved baseball and just found myself rooting for whoever was the best team at the time. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I grew up watching Michael Jordan and realized how fun it was to root for winners, or maybe I was just a dumb kid who did dumb things. But regardless, that’s how I rolled.
My love for baseball was brought on because of my dad. To this day it seems at times that’s the only sport he cares about. When I got older and introduced him to fantasy baseball, it became an addiction for him like it was for me and we’ve been playing in a league together for more than a decade now.
Unlike me, however, my dad is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Because of this, he of course wanted me to also be a Cardinals fan, and I know there’s a picture of me in a family album somewhere decked out in Cardinals gear during the ’87 Cardinals-Twins World Series while still less than one year old.
As the beginning of this story proves, it wasn’t easy for my dad to sway my allegiance. And probably because of all my seesawing back and forth from team to team, it’s difficult for me to pinpoint when, exactly, I decided I was a White Sox fan. While I have memories of Joe Carter’s home run, I don’t have a single memory of that year’s White Sox team, which, of course, lost to those Blue Jays in the ALCS. The first year I remember being a full-on supporter isn’t until ’95.
But sometime between my ’93 Blue Jay fandom and ’95, when I was all of eight-years-old, my dad seemingly gave up on his quest to make me a Cardinals fan. But I was still a young kid growing up in Northern Illinois with a desire to watch baseball. Living less than two hours from Chicago meant my baseball-watching could consist of two teams: the White Sox and the Cubs. So when baseball watching time came, my dad always turned on the White Sox.
His reason? As he told me later, he had to make sure I wouldn’t become a Cubs fan. My dad cared more about me not being a Cubs fan than me being a Cardinals fan.
That’s because I’ve never met anyone who hates the Cubs as much as my dad.
That sports hatred was passed down to me, and we formed a bond over our hatred of the Cubs. I rooted for the Cardinals in the National League, he rooted for the White Sox in the American League, and we both rooted against the Cubs.
As years went by, that hatred turned me into one of those obnoxious fans you know all too well. I remember working at a sporting goods store in ’03 and putting on a Florida Marlins cap at work during the Cubs’ playoff run and taunting anyone who dare root for the Cubs (Employee of the Month material right there). I also remember being filled with joy after that Game 7 and my dad telling me “to take it easy on Cubs fans” (the first and only time I’ve ever heard him have pity for the Cubs or their fans).
If social media were a thing when I was in high school, I probably would have gotten into countless arguments where I called the Cubs mean things while someone else called the White Sox most things. Oh yeah, I was THAT guy. The type of fan I hate most today.
My hatred was rooted deep, which is why it’s been so difficult for me to come to grips with the fact that today, in 2015 as the 97-win Cubs get set to play my dad’s Cardinals in the NLDS…
…I don’t hate the Cubs anymore.
There’s a joke in there somewhere about the bandwagon jumping of my youth coming back to me as a 28-year-old, but the truth is that my hatred for the Cubs dissolved some time ago. Like my White Sox fandom, it’s tough for me to pinpoint exactly when, but as I grew up and started fancying myself more of a baseball analyst who attempted to stay impartial than fan, I stopped hating teams quite as much, particularly teams that aren’t in direct competition with the White Sox for a playoff berth.
This line of thinking, of course, falls in stark contrast to The Catbird Seat’s mission statement, but it’s not as if I don’t root for or against teams anymore, I have just learned that my enjoyment of the game far outweighs any personal feelings I have toward specific teams (again, White Sox’s direct competitors notwithstanding).
This year’s Cubs team is fun as hell. And dammit if I don’t want to be able to appreciate the good baseball they've been playing instead of holding this silly sports hatred I had no reason to hold in the first place over the enjoyment of their success. Root against the Cubs if you want, Sox fans. But count me out of that party.
Go Cubs? That’s still a little difficult for me to say. (Completely ridding yourself of two decades worth of hate takes time, alright?) But win or lose, I’m going to enjoy and appreciate the show they've been putting on.
Because I don’t hate the Cubs anymore.