The emotions of a fan are often thought to be a continuum, ranging anywhere from happy to sad to angry. Fans have varying degrees of these emotions when it comes to the outcomes their teams see. In reality, though, their emotions are far more discrete. The team wins, or the team loses. Those outcomes are met with sadness or joy. The sadness, it’s practically unbearable. We somehow come to care so much about such a small thing that when it’s ripped away from us, the heartache is practically unbearable. The joy, though, that’s what makes it all worth it.
Cubs fans experienced that visceral joy for the duration of the 2016 season. They were the favorites on day one, day 100, and the final day of the season. Every step of the way it just felt like it was their year. And while such emotions can be misleading or wrong from time to time, it was validated in this case by the 2016 Cubs bringing the World Series trophy back to Chicago.
As the Cubs trounced their competition on their way to a championship, it was easy to get caught up in the joy. Cubs fans likely didn’t give a second thought to the fans of the other teams. Why get bogged down in the sadness when the team keeps making you feel tremendous? So Cubs fans didn’t think about the misery that Giants fans went through as they watched their run of even year dominance come to an end. They didn’t notice that the Dodgers had a team that felt just as good but came up just short. It was not even a thought in the back of the mind that Cleveland baseball fans watched their team get about as close to a championship as one can get before it was all ripped away.
Those forgotten emotions from other fan bases a year ago are now a reality for Cubs fans. They’re no longer the team that had it all going on. Rather, they were the team that found themselves swallowed by the sorrow of coming up just short. It was they who sat in the dugouts watching as the other team shared warm embraces. It was their fans who sat in the bleachers as Kershaw and Maeda and Morrow and Jansen pitched the Dodgers to a nearly flawless victory.
Those fans have now been confronted with the fact that not every season will be theirs. The Cubs built a tremendous team with young talent that could compete for many years. But some of those years simply won’t be as good as the others. This year has always been the Dodgers year. It was they who won over 100 games, who sailed through the postseason, who found themselves in the World Series. And while they still must finish the deal against the Astros, it has always felt like it is their year. And that’s okay.
This year was not the Cubs’ year. Struggles appeared around every corner for a team that could never really pick up steam the way they did a year ago. The good news, however, is that the same problems are unlikely to pop up with the same frequency and magnitude. The core is still in place, slight adjustments can be made, and the team might be well on its way to yet another one of “their years.” For now, though, the sadness persists. The anger resonates. The dread and wonder about what could have been remain as the Dodgers start their World Series journey, and the Cubs sit at home.
The Dodgers were the better team throughout the season and in the series. The Cubs, and their fans, can tip their cap to them for such strong performances. They can have this year. The Cubs are happy to take the next one and the one after. The Cubs were down this year. It wasn’t their year. But they won’t be down for long.
Lead photo courtesy Jim Young—USA Today Sports