Cubs: 1 . . . and Counting?

Spitting in the face of the ancient wisdom that tells us those who don’t learn from failed Jack Black movies are doomed to repeat them, the Cubs’ crack marketing staff has settled on the slogan, “Year 1” for the 2010 season. Requisite eternal optimism aside, the moves the Cubs have made this winter seem less like the foundation of a new beginning and more like the premise of The Neverending Story III: Escape from Fantasia.

I understand what they’re trying to do here. There’s a new owner in town. The ill-fated decisions leading up to 2009 have been virtually undone. There is no curse. The Cubs care about this year, not the 101 championship-free seasons that have preceded it.

Not surprisingly, the guy counting away the failure on his blog with the Cubbie Roman numeral 102 at the top isn’t buying it. And neither is Chan Ho Park.

When, at this morning’s news conference, Park announced his decision to sign with the Yankees instead of the Cubs, he made it clear that he’s seen enough bad Jack Black vehicles and is making the Bronx Bombers his pick of destiny:

I was deliberating on the Chicago Cubs and the Yankees, but their history and championship contention resulted in me picking the Yankees.

The sad reality is that I didn’t even flinch at the not-so-subtle dig against the Cubs because its bluntness is couched in blatant truth. Since spotting the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the all-time World Series title race, the Yankees have gone on a 27-0 run. And this year looks like a good bet to make it 28-0. Chan Ho’s just telling it like it is. To ignore that would be . . . well, marketing. And I happen to think it’s also bad marketing.

Yeah, I decided to make the running total of years spent waiting for a third Cubs’ championship the central gimmick of my blog as an emblem of the torture that is Cub fanaticism. When it started “And Counting,” the tally was at 101. Now it’s 102, and I can only assume that come the fall I’ll be working on a 103 logo.

By the way, I know that the Cubs have only experienced 101 losing seasons since the last championship, but the wait will be at least 102 years. My counting system is derived from the same conclusion at which the Cubs’ marketing team arrived: there is no year zero. There is B.C. (Before Championship) and A.D. (Anno Detrimentum, the Year of Our Defeat); or, if you prefer, B.C.E. and C.E. (Cubbie Era).

But that is where the Cubbie marketers and I part ways. I don’t believe in Year 1. I’m not happy the Cubs have failed for so long, but I do wear it as a badge of honor. Feel free to be the 237,651st to call me stupid, but to me no character trait is more important than loyalty. Denying the past would be to forget the quick, sweeping punches to the gut that knocked the wind out of us in 2007 and 2008 (and to a lesser extent 1998). It would deny us the hard lessons 2009 taught us about ourselves more than anything. I can’t and won’t try to forget the crushing disappointments of 2003, 1989, and . . . 1984 (when a certain 9-year-old boy cried like a baby for hours in his bunk bed mourning the tragedy that shaped his idiot brain forever). Those memories, and the inglorious regular season disasters that filled in the gaps) are scars, and they remind me that even if this is not the year, I’ve seen worse.

And when the Cubs finally do win it all again, it will be the wait—those 102 years (and counting) filled with frustration and anxiety and unmerited hope—that will give the moment its unmitigated glory.

This is not year one, not to me. It’s 102 by my count, and I hope the Cubs don’t make the mistake of ignoring their losing history—I don’t think I can bear to watch them repeat it.

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