Why DO Cubs fans exist??

For those not familiar with baseball, and more than that with the Chicago baseball scene, I need to give you a very honest assessment of what it is about.

Chicago has had two Major League teams since 1901. The Cubs had been here since 1876 … an original member of the National League. The White Sox were the upstart punks …. moving in to the city from Minnesota as a part of the new American League.

For the first two decades of the twentieth century, the White Sox had the best winning percentage of any American League team ……. though the Cubs were better. They had each won two World Series, though the Sox had won one of theirs over the Cubs.

After that, all heck started breaking loose. First, the Sox dropped off the face of the Earth for thirty years. Didn’t see a resurgence until the 1950s. The Cubs stayed pretty darn good for the next 25 years or so, but despite a number of National League Championships, the Cubs did not win a World Series.

The Sox did great in the 1950s. Even made it back to the Series … losing to Los Angeles in ’59. They stayed good for a short time, but then settled into mediocrity until the early 1980s. The Cubs suffered immensely in the 60s and 70s. They too came back in the 80s. The Sox were awesome in the 1990s (fourth best winning percentage in the majors). The Cubs stumbled along. 2005 saw the Sox win the World Series, followed by the Cardinals in ’06. After the Cubs choked hard in ’04, it had to be the lowest time in Cubs history …. just when their long suffering seemed over, they not only blew it, but saw the worst two possible teams win the Series in consecutive years.

So it got me wondering: why do the Cubs command such media presence? You turn on ESPN, and the coverage for baseball is: Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, ….. ehhh …. Angels ….. some other teams …. It drives Sox fans crazy ….. what have the Cubs done to earn this respect to be treated side by side with the Yankees and Red Sox ….???

Let us examine:

The Cubs have a losing record since 1960. The White Sox have a winning record over that time. You could argue that the Cubs face tougher opposition, and maybe in the 60s and 70s that was true, but not over the last 25 years. The AL is clearly the stronger league (check the All-Star Game, World Series, head-to-head in interleague games). The White Sox still managed to win more than they lose, and the Cubs didn’t against seemingly weaker opposition. Yet, the Cubs are king.

The White Sox have had post-season success. True, not by much, but the 2005 World Series was amazing. The Sox tied the Yankees for the single biggest butt whomping in post season history since the post season went to three rounds. The biggest thing the Cubs did was defeating the Braves in a time after they stopped having post season success.

Both teams have had ownership do some weird things. The Sox ownership did get us to a World Series, but there have been some other oddities: I love Hawk Harrelson in the booth, but as a GM? ehhh…. Firing Tony LaRussa … ehhhhh. Bringing in David Wells ….. uh boy. However the Cubs have had their share of bad moves ….. like elevating Sammy Sosa to god-like status when everyone else saw there was a problem ……… like elevating Mark Prior to cult-like status when he barely had started his career. More poor manager hires than you can shake a stick at …… allowing Greg Maddux to get away was criminal …. and Dennis Eckersley ……. I’ll call this a draw.

Fan friendliness ….. The White Sox are second to none! Lots of on site parking (more secure and cheaper than parking near that other park), there are many promotions for fans, reduced ticket pricing, lots to do before a game, family friendly areas, a healthy respect for the past (the Cubs got tons of publicity for erecting a statue of Ernie Banks this week ….. the White Sox already have nearly half-a-dozen of their greats in bronze). The bathrooms are plentiful and clean ….. there’s even stalls! At the other park, the bathrooms are prime locations for knifings. Having dined at such places as Fenway Park, I can say with full honesty, the food at U.S. Cellular is the very best. Now I know that the other park has that old feel, but the jackanapes in the bleachers throw back home run balls. This is one of the greatest affronts to baseball tradition that there is. Fans throwing back balls at the Cell are booed, and then ejected; the way it should be! I can’t believe a manual scoreboard and half-browned ivy makes that park all that much better.

Under ownership woes, the Cubs are getting ready to once again block the view of local rooftops. I could understand if the unemployed, tourists, and yuppies who show up weren’t selling the park out that this would be an issue, but the Cubs are so desperate to keep a tight control on things, that they cannot stand when someone might be seeing things for free. That’s not very fan friendly!

Yet, despite jacking up prices through the roof, a lack of fan friendly facilities, and an on-field product that has not seen overall improvement in 40 + years, the Cubs have some weird cult-like following. Why?

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10 Responses to Why DO Cubs fans exist??

  1. Tom N. says:

    In town, I presume the cult following is a local thing, just like ANY local team has its local fans.

    For national coverage, is it because of their story? Not that they’ve played well, but because of the history, the ‘underdog’ aspect, etc.?

  2. teganx7 says:

    No, its pretty much a national cult …. because it was molded into “the thing” … kind of like swatches were “the thing” and mohawks were “the thing” … the problem is that this “thing” won’t go away after its run its course.

    The national coverage is mostly due to the fact that the northside is larger than the south, and many Cubs fans are transplanted nationwide. Its purely business and popularity vs. which team is actually better. It also helped their cause that in the 1980s that WGN became a national cable station allowing people nationwide to watch the Cubs …. the Sox tried a local cable carrier which wasn’t fully hooked up into Chicago, and lost some fan base for a while.

    If it was “their story”, they would be constantly put down for their constant losing, last minute choking, and always finding the weirdest way to lose. Instead the negatives are minimized, and the positives blown tremendously out of proportion.

    When Kerry Wood struck out 20 batters in a game as a rookie, they were picking out drapes for his wing in the Hall-of-Fame. Many injuries and poor seasons later, he is relegated to relief pitching. The White Sox had a pitcher throw a no-hitter in his second career game, and it was forgotten soon after,

  3. RDallas says:

    If you take a second and step out of being a Sox fan for a minute it will become very clear. The Cubs are a far more sexier team and sex sells. They have big name players, the best ballpark in baseball in the best neighborhood of the best city in the country. True Baseball fans around the country talk about “one day I have to see a game at Wrigley.” Trust me I have lived in New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas and everyone wants to go to Wrigley. They dont say the same about US Cellular b/c they have to worry about whether they will make it in the stadium without being mugged first. Wrigley field is a Sports Treasure and the Cubs will continue to be as well.

    • teganx7 says:

      I couldn’t agree more. It confirms my argument: no one actually goes to Wrigley expecting to see consistently good baseball from year to year (OK, there are, but they are die hard fans who must be the types who enjoy going to Hades to watch Sisyphus). Rather, most go for the nostalgia and status of being there (the “sexiness” as you well put it). U.S. Cellular, even with its vast improvements, lacks the nostalgia of the smelly, cramped Wrigley Field, but over the last 40 years has more consistently put a better team on the field.

  4. Chav says:

    I’m sorry to say this tegan but the White Sox are a small market club.
    Don’t argue that they play in Chicago etc, they’re from the south side and that puts them on par with the Brewers or the Mariners.

    Also the neighborhood around the Sox park is a war zone and decidedly not friendly, plus there’s no where to go and throw in the chance of being hit over the head by a guy wielding a table leg and that’s why the Sox are a distant second in Chicago.

    • teganx7 says:

      I also agree ….. In Chicago’s given population, Cubs fans may outnumber Sox fans by as much as 2:1, and that gives the White Sox something of the small market disadvantage that you speak of; Not to mention that many old time Sox fans now live further and further from the park (something I call “The South Side diaspora”). It makes it more of an effort to get to games.

      You note the neighborhood around the Cell as being something of a war zone. That’s a bit of a generalization. The neighborhood (especially north and west) have gotten much better in recent years. The area south and west remains the old Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport, and while it doesn’t have as many of the old taverns as it used to, I have driven through it and consider it as safe as any suburb.

      On the contrary, I have felt a lot more scared after Cubs games. I think a larger percentage of the fans there (and this is anecdotal based on my observations) tend to get more drunk and out of control, because fewer tend to drive to games (take the el, live closer to the park, take a limo, plan on hanging out at the Cubby Bear for several more hours, etc). Not to mention the closer quarters you are in with the cramped concourse and washrooms (my one and only trip to a Wrigley Field washroom was one of the scariest moments of my life, and I wasn’t even wearing White Sox gear; the fighting words were flying around the trough). With the controlled secure parking at the Cell, more people drive, and so more people have to be more responsible (though certainly not all).

      To reiterate: this post was (to a certain extent) meant with a small amount of sarcasm. I have friends who are Cubs fans, and I love them all. I dish, they dish. It is a part of life in the Chicago baseball world. Sarcasm toward the Cubs is among a Sox fan’s first duties in life. It keeps the Cubs fans down to Earth (that and a century of not actually winning anything) 😉

  5. Adamollo says:

    I tend to agree with this despite the weakness of the statistical analysis, but the whole thing is undermined by the Hawk comment. He’s an ignorant hillbilly and he’s driving away the dedicated and casual fans alike. I guess they powers that be like him for his rampant homerism. But they probably don’t have to watch the games on TV.

  6. Hey Tegan, I don’t know who you are or how I got to this website but I find it to be interesting analysis you’ve provided here. Being a Cubs fan, I can’t say that I am not biased but here are some facts and my opinions on some things:

    The Brewers sold more tickets last season than the Chicago White Sox. I went to a game in mid-July with my girlfriend, it was a promotional night (Dog Night) and the White Sox were in first place playing a team in their division, yet there were only 27,000 fans there. I don’t know why.

    I have to say, it’s true that Wrigley is a fantastic place to watch baseball. However, it’s also true that Wrigley is a terrible place to go to the bathroom or try to walk around and buy stuff at. Once you are in your seat, few stadiums in any sport are as nice as Wrigley. However, as I said, it can take a full inning to buy a hot dog and I don’t even want to start to get into the bathroom topic.

    I happen to think that the Cell is also a nice venue. It is not as special as Wrigley in some ways but the ammenities are much nicer. They also have the same food, they use the same company to provide their food. So, other than funnel cakes and margarita’s, you can get most anything at Wrigley you could get at the Cell, it’ll just take twice as long!

    Someone else mentioned WGN. People all throughout the country watch the Cubs, they were nationally televised for a long time just as the Braves can be watched on their home station. This means people living in cities/states without teams probably end up watching the Cubs, the Braves, or the Yankees. What choice do they have?

    As for Hawk, don’t forget that the Cubs have Santo on the radio. Now, I personally like listening to him. Why? Because he’s hilarious! Not because he’s good at his job by any means but he does really care and will yell funny crap and talk about things that have nothing to do with anything. Pat Hughes is a saint for dealing with him so well. So, we have our over-the-hill homer and you guys have yours.

    Unfotunately I have to run to class but will hope to see a reply.

    • teganx7 says:

      Thank you for seeing through a bit of my sarcasm. Truth be told, Fenway and Wrigley should be encased in lucite and preserved as national treasures. Should have done that with the old Comiskey and Tiger Stadium too.

      As for Hawk: a lot of Sox fans don’t like him. I do. When I see a national broadcast, nothing chafes me more than the biased commentator. Ironically, I have zero problem with that when it is a home team’s broadcast. Is Hawk a homer? The biggest! But, he will also criticize players/managers when he thinks they aren’t hustling/doing their job. I like the fact that when I hear him, I am hearing an honest to goodness fan of the game, and not something that is sanitized for a national audience. Ron Santo is that way, though I don’t think he gets as negative as Hawk does sometimes, and I am fine with that. I actually feel bad when people start getting on Santo for being who he is: he’s a fan, and he broadcasts that passion to the fans. Some Cubs fans actually cite Santo as one of the worst things about the Cubs, while I would say he is one of those true gems the organization should be glad to have.

      (Having said that, I am thrilled that Steve Stone is joining the Sox ….. he is a phenomenal broadcaster).

  7. Oh, I am so jealous of you guys for getting Steve Stone on TV!!! I listened to White Sox radio games just to hear him (which was painful sometimes because I hate how monotone Farmer is).

    I love Santo’s passion, I even enjoy his wacky, off the topic stuff. It always makes me feel like I’m watching the game with my grandfather when I hear Santo. I have no problem with people disliking his broadcasts but I was serious about Pat Hughes handling him so well, they actually sound really good together generally.

    Baseball is, in a lot of ways, about it’s history and very few teams can claim to have a longer history than the Cubs. Experiencing a game at Wrigley is like experiencing baseball in a time machine. The thing that bothers me most about new stadiums is I hate the commercials and other things that they play on the score boards/jumbotron’s that really don’t add anything to my enjoyment of the game. If I want to see Chevy commercials, I’ll stay home and watch the game (since there will be an average of 2.374 Chevy commercials each break).

    Contrary to popular belief, most people at Cubs games are Cubs fans and really do care about baseball. Very few of them are there just to drink and party in the stands. However, even serious baseball fans cannot avoid looking at some of the pretty ladies, especially after some drinks!

    Also, some people just don’t like American League baseball. I know that some people prefer the DH, but many people also prefer the old school rules. I’m sure many people don’t even know what a DH is. I know that I have Sox fans who are in their mid-20’s who were obsessive baseball fans but had never heard of a double switch until Ozzie used one in 2005.

    Finally, do you ever think that some people are Cubs fans BECAUSE they have a history of not winning big? It seems to me that, in general, people like to complain about things and there’s 100 years worth of stupid decisions and bad lays for Cubs fans to complain about. Besides, who doesn’t want to say they were a fan BEFORE the World Series Champion Cubs?

    p.s. I just realized this was written nearly a year ago. Oh well, it’s still cool.

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