I once had a professor in college who said, "I don't need anyone to teach me about pain and suffering. I'm a Cubs fan."
Once again, the Cubs have managed to pull off a staggering heartbreak -- coasting into the playoffs with the best record in the National League, only to fall in three games (out of three) to the Dodgers. Not only did they lose, but they lost spectacularly -- according to what I've heard. I wouldn't know personally since I didn't watch a single game.
See, here's the thing. I love the Cubs. I really do. I grew up watching them, rooting for them, and being disappointed by them time and time again. When the Cubs went to the playoffs five years ago, I spent hours camped in front of the television, often listening to the game simultaneously on WGN radio so I could listen to Ron Santo call the game. And then they lost. I still remember that moment of turning off the television and walking towards my bedroom, only to stop halfway there, doubled over in tears so full of grief and agony it's almost embarrassing to recall. In that moment, I knew pain and suffering like I'd perhaps never felt before. And I made a decision then and there -- I could not be in a relationship that caused me so much pain. I couldn't put myself through this again.
So I didn't. I kind of think of myself as being divorced from the Cubs. It's a pretty amicable divorce. I wish them nothing but success and love, and I do think back on the 30+ years I spent with them as good times despite the heartbreak. When I hear about their success, I smile wistfully and express my good wishes. When I hear about their failures, I smile wistfully and express my sympathies. But I know in my heart of hearts that as much as I love them, I can't go back. I almost gave in this year. Watching their successful season from afar, I have to confess those thoughts crept into my head -- "What if . . .?" What if they made it to the World Series? What would I do? What if they WON the World Series? What would I do? The Cubs and I were closer to a reconciliation than they probably knew. I'd decided that I would go back if they made it to the Series. In the slim chance that they won, I knew that I had to be there -- for me, for my dad, for the sake of history. Luckily, the Cubs did the noble thing and put an end to the reconciliation, saving me from making a mistake I would regret.
But I walk away full of melancholy, knowing that this is a relationship that may never be truly over, that this love runs much deeper than I care to admit and all they have to do is say the word (or win the freakin' game!) and I'm back in their embrace once more.
There's always next year.