What is a Cubs Game Worth?

Do you really have to be there?

The newest Cubs ticket plan, the six pack, is now on sale at Cubs.com. Six games for $150 or more (they advertise the prices starting at $97, but the cheapest seats available in package E, for example, ring up at $141.16 once fees are included.) Not bad, all in all, I guess. You’re going to pay $23 a ticket for not very good seats to 1 premium game and 5 games you’ll try to sell to someone else (or maybe vice versa, I don’t know you).

But is a trip to Wrigley worth that right now? I’ll throw out all the other costs associated with getting to the game, because going into Chicago is worth it. I love Chicago. I love driving into Chicago. Up Lakeshore Drive. Through the tangled mess of the Dan Ryan. Neighborhood routes or expressway bypasses, I don’t care. I love being in the city, and I’m not going to add the price of getting there into the Cubs’ side of the ledger. Getting there is on me. Glad to do it.

Once I’m there, though, is it worth $23 to mingle around the statues and take in the ballpark rising from the cramped city . . . trapezoid; to trudge through the fog of beer fumes and hot dog vapors; to fade into a crowd of people who more than anything just want to see a Cubs win and enjoy a few drops of sunshine along the way; to sit in uncomplicated seats; to bring my voice close enough to the field that the players can hear my cheers of support and groans of disappointment and shouts of triumph? Is that worth $23? $30? $125?

How much is it worth to me to indoctrinate my sons with an emotional attachment to a team that offers little rational return on the investment? To bring them to a place so big and green and beautiful that reveals itself in a sudden wave of glory as we head up the steps onto the mezzanine? To sit beside them and talk about whatever they want to talk about and answer every question and not have a TV on? How much is that worth to cement a moment in time between me and the members of my family?

I guess about $15 per person is what I’m saying.

Who Would Pay to Rename Wrigley?

All this talk of renovating Wrigley at the taxpayers’ expense (and let’s face it, no matter how the taxes are collected, bonded, spent, or repaid, it all comes down to people paying taxes through the nose) has stirred up a lot of conversation about other potentially disconcerting ways for the Cubs to bring in revenue. While we fans are still partial to the idea of selling 2011 Cubs World Series Champion memorabilia as an ideal money-making scheme, the likelihood of that is { }.

Cubs think tank members in blogging and mainstream realms agree that the most obvious way for the Cubs to collect some quick cash is to peddle their most attractive commodity: Wrigley Field. More precisely, the naming rights. Wrigley by any other name would still smell like piss, so let’s get over the sentimental attachment to our former overlords, shall we? It wasn’t named Wrigley before that family owned it, so why shouldn’t the name change now that we’re 2 or 3 owners removed from their gum-chewing legacy?

Even if the Cubs do decide to sell the naming rights to their North-Side shrine, they still need to find a buyer. I’ve come up with ten possibilities, and, in a departure from the norm, most of them aren’t even sarcastic options. As far as I know, none of the companies I’m suggesting have naming-rights deals with other arenas, fields, parks, stadia, etc. Some with good reason. Let me know what you think about the prospect of watching the Cubs play in, say, Apple Field.

1. Apple
They’ve got the money. They don’t typically shy away from extra publicity. Maybe it could come with a decent Wi-Fi package for the fans as well.

2. Frontier
Frontier Communications is an ISP/telecom provider typically in smaller suburban and rural communities, and they recently acquired a ton of customers from Verizon service areas. Somehow this resulted in an enormous dip in their stock value. Telecom companies typically like naming-rights deals because brand awareness is huge for them. The publicity of owning the rights to the field soon to be known as formerly-known-as-Wrigley would give them a much-needed competitive edge in the market. It’s a bigger doubt, though, that this smaller player in the telecom game would be able to pay out big bucks.

3. BP
Don’t laugh. Or laugh, whatever. But BP, we know, has the money. They also have a brilliant history sponsoring crosstown cups. What they don’t have is anything to lose. Yes, BP Field would make Cubs fans mad and unhappy. But guess what? They already are. BP and Cubs fans have nowhere to go but up, so I look at this as a low risk, high reward venture.

4. Kraft
I don’t have a real good reason for this one other than that they could use a stadium deal, they have a ton of money, and I think my sons would enjoy Cubs games more if the vendors sold Lunchables.

5. Mars, Inc.
Food/candy giant. Recognizable, well respected name. Unobjectionable products. Oh, and Wrigley is their subsidiary, so they could keep the field named Wrigley and finally pay up on the 30 bagijillion dollars of free advertising they get every year. Or they could sue the Cubs for trademark violation for desecrating their brand by tying their name to a urine-soaked frat house. I prefer the bagijillion dollar option, though.

6. Bank of America
Kiefer Sutherland tells me that Bank of America is a proud partner of the Chicago Cubs. This is only natural. Let’s put that bailout money to work at Wrigley. I mean, at BOA Ballpark. But seriously, the banking industry is another one where name recognition means a ton. This investment would pay off.

7. Comcast
From what I hear, Comcast customers are just as tormented as Cubs fans, so this makes all the sense in the God-forsaken world. It’s another huge, competitive market, and Comcast stands to benefit greatly. Couple that with the 25% stake the Ricketts family has in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and it’s a win-win for everybody.

8. Friends of Meigs Field
Meigs Field got destroyed in a midnight raid by Mayor Daley. I’m sure the group that mourns that loss would take some pleasure in bringing Meigs Field back home to Chicago in the confines of Daley’s least favorite baseball franchise, even if they couldn’t land planes there. But they have no money. So . . . yeah. No.

9. Geico
The gecko. The cavemen. The money with eyes. The dude from Brothers McMullen and She’s the One who’s not Edward Burns. There can be no doubt that Geico isn’t afraid of brand saturation. Why not add the Cubs as just one more spokesman? I see no reason. Making the decision to redub the Friendly Confines Geico Park is so easy, even a Cub could do it.

10. TD Ameritrade
Ever heard of synergy? Of course you have, and your psyched about the opportunity to see it happen for the Cubs. The Ricketts family is no stranger to paying for Cubs business with TD Ameritrade money. Okay, actually, everyone else in the world but the Ricketts is a stranger to that. Synergy. This is unbreakable. This is inevitable.

Purpled Wrigley

Image by @WNUR_Sports

A lot of people seem distraught that the Wrigley Field marquee has been repainted purple for the upcoming Northwestern football game. I don’t mind so much. The scoreboard treatment was a little more shocking, though.

I could get used to that, whatever.

I wish they would have stopped at signage, though. There are some situations where purple just doesn’t work. 
Mike Quade agrees.
So what do you think? Does painting Wrigley purple have you blue in the face? Seeing red? Green with envy? Pinkish hue? Bueller?

The Cubs Home-Field Disadvantage: Is Day Baseball to Blame?

A few more night games might not be a bad idea.

Yesterday I looked at the Cubs’ league-worst home-field advantage since 1970. Today I’m surveying the history of the Cubs at home since 1901. Obviously most of that (every year from 1914 on) is at Wrigley Field, but I threw in the numbers from before that as well simply because . . . well, because I have them.

Before I go any further, I just want to rehash a few main points from yesterday’s post:

  • Home-field advantage is legitimate in Major League Baseball. Every year since 1901 the home team has won a majority of the games played in baseball (a .540 winning percentage since 1970).
  • A study of the 2004 MLB regular season showed that travel leading up to a game has no effect on win probability for either team.
  • The study also concluded that home-field advantage is statistically relevant only in games decided by one run.
  • Results over the years support that studies conclusion that home-field advantage matters the most in one-run games; the home team has a .608 winning percentage since 1970. The home team has still maintained an advantage in games decided by 2 runs or more (.511) or 3 runs or more (.518).
  • Since 1970, the Cubs have MLB’s worst winning percentage (.577) in all one-run home games where their advantage should be the highest.
  • Explaining home-field advantage is considered one of baseball’s most indiscernible mysteries.
  • The Cubs, like every team in baseball, have an advantage when playing at home, but theirs has historically been less advantageous than that of any other team.
Most people who care to argue generally take one of a few main positions in explaining the home-field advantage in baseball. The first is that the structure of the game itself favors the home team. They’ll argue that having the last at-bat either allows the home team a strategic advantage in one-run games (they know exactly how many runs they need to score in the 9th) or that it simply creates the statistical illusion of an advantage (if the home team is tied or trailing in the 9th, they’ll almost always win by one if they win at all, and they never have the opportunity to build on their leads after the 8th inning). 
Another main argument is that playing in front of the home crowd and hearing their cheers (or, adversely, boos) in a familiar environment gives the home team a psychological or emotional advantage that comes into play especially significantly in close ball games and dramatic situations. I’d expect this type of thing to be more observable in basketball and football where playing at home offers no advantage within the game itself. But I’d also expect that over time that type of thing would equalize from team to team.
The other main factor in discussing home field advantage is the field itself. Baseball is unique among team sports in that the field of play varies pretty significantly from venue to venue. Teams can then customize their teams according to their home park (or adjust the field to the team’s strengths). It could be the spacious outfield at Petco, the speedy Astroturf infield at the old Busch Stadium, or the light mountain air of Coors Field. (Coors seems to have had the greatest impact on that front. The Rockies have a .652 winning percentage in the 339 one-run games in Denver, and there isn’t a close second in recent history. Three teams are tied with .635.)
Like I said earlier, the average winning percentage in one-run home games since 1970 league-wide is .608. There are only two teams with winning percentages more than .030 points away from that mark on either side. The Rockies at .652 (+.044) and the Cubs at .577 (-.031). The Coors effect isn’t really all that surprising, because the high altitude, you’d expect, requires an adjustment most visiting players need more than a few days to make. With Wrigley the most obvious explanation, the unique factor that comes to mind almost immediately, is the prevalence of day baseball. Is that really hurting the Cubs?
I think it is. I broke down the Cubs’ record in those all-important one-run games at Wrigley by decade using the miraculous Baseball-Reference play index tool. I went by decades because it takes that long for a good 200+ game sample. The results almost speak for themselves, but I’ll ramble on just for kicks.
Cubs Home-Field Advantage in 1-Run Games by Decade
Decade Rank G W L W-L% LgAvg Diff
1901-1909 6 of 16 200 129 71 .645 .613 .032
1910-1919 5 of 24 238 154 84 .647 .611 .036
1920-1929 7 of 16 235 149 86 .634 .622 .012
1930-1939 1 of 16 216 149 67 .690 .629 .061
1940-1949 14 of 16 243 136 107 .560 .617 -.057
1950-1959 15 of 16 257 145 112 .564 .617 -.053
1960-1969 10 of 24 251 156 95 .622 .608 .014
1970-1979 17 of 26 255 148 107 .580 .599 -.019
1980-1989 19 of 26 240 144 96 .600 .615 -.015
1990-1999 24 of 30 251 145 106 .578 .606 -.028
2000-2010 28 of 30 265 146 119 .551 .614 -.063
1901-2010 19 of 30 2651 1601 1050 .604 .612 -.008
1901-1941 3 of 16* 939 607 332 .646 .618 .028
1942-2010 30 of 30 1712 994 718 .581 .610 -.029
*Of teams with at least 100 1-run home games in that span
As you can see, the Cubs enjoyed a pretty healthy home-field advantage compared to the rest of the league until the 1940s. Since then, they’ve only been above average in one decade. So what changed? 
Well, in the late 1930s, the starting time of baseball games began to change. By the start of the 1942 season, only 5 teams had yet to install lights at their parks, and by 1949 there was only one holdout remaining. That team wouldn’t play a night game at home until August 8, 1988. Even now they play more day games than any other team in baseball, including all of their Friday home affairs.
Cubs home games have a uniqueness all their own. They play more night games than they used to, but the balance is still significantly different than the schedule of any other MLB team. That uniqueness is very likely costing the team wins. Since the 1942 season when most teams began playing night baseball, the Cubs have enjoyed a smaller-than-average portion of the built-in advantage appointed to every team in baseball. They went from a 2.8% better-than-average clip to a 2.9% dip below average.
Maybe it’s more than just the day-baseball factor. Maybe it’s their sub-par team facilities, too. Maybe it’s just luck. But seeing as though the bad luck thing doesn’t seem to want to go away, maybe the Cubs should address those other two distinctive traits and make the Wrigley confines a little more friendly to winning.

Wrigley: the Worst Home-Field Advantage in Baseball

I love Wrigley Field. I do. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. I say that to inform you that nothing in this post is out of spite for the venue I revere as a mecca of the baseball world. And as much as I give Cubs fans a hard time, I don’t really think they’re worse than the fans of any other team. There are some great Cubs fans and some abominable ones just as any fan base is prone to including members from both ends of the spectrum of tolerability.

But the home-field advantage at Wrigley, for the last several decades, has been the worst in all of baseball, and I’ve got the numbers to prove it.

I started out investigating home-field advantage in general in the hopes of proving something about the significance of psychology in baseball. The first wave of research showed that as far back as I could look (1901) there always has been a home-field advantage league-wide. In every season of Major League Baseball, the home teams have, collectively, registered a winning record. There have been 4 seasons in which the teams of either the National League or the American League had a collective losing record at home, but it has never happened across baseball.

Then I came across this study of the 2004 Major League Baseball season that went to great lengths to isolate the effect of both home-field advantage and travel on the probability of winning. I was happy to learn that travel was ruled to have no significant effect on win probability for either team and that home-field advantage is very real. However, the study also concluded that home-field advantage was statistically significant only in games decided by one run—but in those one-run games, it’s pretty significant.

I checked baseball-reference.com using the play index tool to see if those conclusions held true throughout history. They did . . . kind of. In the nearly 88,000 games played since 1970, home teams have a .540 winning percentage. Obviously that’s significant. But in all the games decided by just one run over the past 40 years, the home team’s winning percentage is even higher: .608. I still think there’s an advantage in the other games, too, because a .511 winning percentage in games decided by 2 or more runs is nothing to sneeze at (and .518 in games decided by 3 or more runs), but I can’t ignore the huge difference home-field makes in one-run games.

So I decided to compare the winning percentages of all the teams across baseball over that time period. (I chose 1970 because I wanted to keep things fairly modern but include a large enough sample to make it significant.) I limited the results just to one-run games, since that’s the condition in which home-field advantage is supposed to be at its most pronounced. What I found is that the Friendly Confines are a little too friendly to the visiting teams.

I don’t really have a reaction other than . . . Crap. Is it Wrigley? Is it us? I don’t know. But it’s not working.

UPDATE: Okay, now I do have a reaction. Could the problem be day baseball?

Cubs Spring Training Site an Unexpected Choice

Christmas in July? Try spring training in August.

Listening to some Bears chatter in anticipation of tonight’s game against the Raiders, I laughed at the intensity with which football fans discuss preseason games. Wins and losses are insignificant at this point. Most of the guys you’ll depend on to win games when it counts won’t see meaningful action. And a high percentage of the guys on the field will be off the roster before too long. But as much as they say they don’t care, the fans still find themselves completely pulled into these games like the division championship is on the line.

And then the question hit me: What Chicago team am I talking about?

So I was going to write something about how the Cubs’ regular season is looking an awful lot like the Bears’ preseason. Then I realized it’s looking a lot like spring training. And when I stopped to really think about it, the truth became obvious. This is spring training.

Forget Mesa. Screw Naples. The Cubs’ new spring training facility (reeeeeeaaaaallllly extended spring training) is in Chicago at good ol’ Wrigley Field. The Cubs are no longer just giving a rookie or two (or three or four) a shot at earning some playing time. They’re handing the playing time to the prospects, because this is the time to do it . . . when the games don’t count. Not really, anyway. The Cubs could run the table the rest of this year, win every remaining game, and they still wouldn’t reach 90 wins.

Jim Hendry said he’s not giving up and doesn’t want his players to quit, either. And they shouldn’t. They’re basically auditioning for playing time in 2011, just like they will in spring training. So call it extended spring training or call it a really advanced head start on 2011, but this season is more about talent evaluation than winning baseball right now. Hendry’s outlook on this season via Bruce Miles:

It’s going to be a good opportunity for a lot of people to establish themselves going into the off-season. I think we’ll see a few more guys from the minor-league system eventually here, whether anyone one else is traded, or in September, you’ll see some other new guys.

The good thing, if you can be persuaded to agree that 2011 is still worth fighting for, is that the Cubs expect the games to count again sooner rather than later. Also from Hendry:

I’m here to tell you it’s not some kind of a major rebuilding job. When you start seeing the improvement in the young people that we have and the type of young arms that we have and the arms that we have coming, you make three or four solid moves in the off-season and your young guys keep developing, then you’re right back to being a contending team, and that’s the way we’re going to go about it.

I really can’t fathom the concept of next year anymore, because I’m still watching the awful melodrama unfold this year. My first step, I guess, is to stop watching these games with any regard to wins and losses. I can’t really enjoy it as good baseball, either, because lately it just isn’t. From here on out, I’m trying my best to watch as a scout. I’d like to see who impresses me, who shows promise, who seems better off playing near cornfields.

It’s the spring training mentality from this day forward. Maybe I should fly to Arizona and watch the games from there to enhance the effect.

Celebrity Guest Conductor: Save This Awful Tradition

CHICAGO - AUGUST 17:  Celebrity Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon sing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' during the seventh inning stretch of a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers underneath a sign which pays tribute to the late former Cubs announcer Harry Caray on August 17, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs 3-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
He’s the prince of Cubbie darkness.

I probably change my mind on this every other time I hear another semi-famous person butcher “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” but for now I’ve made up my mind. The Cubs should continue the tradition that has lasted into its lucky 13th season. Here’s what has ended the back and forth* for me: everything about it reminds me of Harry Caray.

They sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” 
Duh. Hear me out. I grew up with Harry Caray being the Cubs’ biggest star, and that lasted right up to the day he died. Out of all the things people loved about Harry, his leading the 7th inning stretch was his most popular gimmick. It was just that, a gimmick, but when I first observed it in person at Wrigley, it was an extraordinary phenomenon. Everyone stood. My mom told me right where to look. “There he is, do you see him?”

And I did see him, which felt pretty incredible to me since I was about three feet tall and could never see anything in a crowd. During that and every other game I went to while Harry was alive, the stretch seemed to make everyone so happy. I mean, big, beaming, geeky smiles sprang up on every previously slackened face in their various states of drunkenness. The guest conductors don’t achieve that same effect exactly, but they’re reminiscent of it, and that’s good enough for me.

They sing terribly.
Yeah, that’s a plus. The recorded versions of Harry’s greatest 7th-inning hits sound like they were hand-selected from his most coherent performances. They weren’t all like that. As I remember, Harry almost always strayed from his original key and then waved the mic until he could relocate the tune. Kind of. It was always bad, and it was always wonderful. So when Mike Ditka charged through it, Denise Richards drop-kicked it, and Chester Taylor didn’t even realize he was supposed to sing it, I couldn’t help but think of Harry.  (Special thanks to Eddie Olczyk for reminding me by merrily skating around each and every note tonight.)

Harry sang at the top of his lungs with boundless enthusiasm despite the obvious fact he wasn’t a good singer. I love seeing people who are otherwise excellent at what they do (give or take a few exceptions) subject themselves to ridicule in an unfamiliar element. Singing the stretch is a chance to say, “Forget what anybody thinks. I’m having some fun.” Being a Cub fan is kind of like that, too. There’s no sense trying to act cool. We’re not. This team sucks. Stop trying to make it look good.

They get in the booth and don’t talk about baseball.
Harry was the king of directing the conversation away from baseball. He’d say names backwards. He’d commend Arne Harris on his ability to find nice . . . hats in the crowd. He’d break into a chorus of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” even though, as far as I could tell, there were no bubbles anywhere to be seen. Steve’s cigars. Ron’s gamer. Arne’s dog-racing gambling problem. The Cracker Jack conspiracy. Harry was at his best when he wasn’t talking about baseball.

I really don’t care when guests steer the conversation away from baseball. Whatever Rob Dibble thinks women are talking about at baseball games, my experience has shown most people regardless of gender don’t talk much about baseball. I mean, come on, I love baseball, but I talk about other stuff at baseball games. Baseball discussion is the pepper on the steak of conversation at Wrigley or any ballpark. A lot of people like to think they’re all baseball from batting practice to “Go Cubs Go,” but they’re kidding themselves. Watching this game is incredibly conducive to good conversation. Sometimes we talk about baseball. Other times, we talk about whatever comes to mind, like . . . what other people in the crowd might be talking about.

So when Kellie Pickler talked about Apple Jacks and milk vendors and not camping out in the middle of the infield, I loved it. It was hilarious. Did it belong on a broadcast of Major League Baseball? Of course. It belonged just as much as Bill Murray dropping into the booth and asking Harry if he wanted another Budweiser out of the fridge. That is to say, it totally belonged. Is anyone that enthralled with what Len and Bob have to say about every single player and every single pitch sequence? Of course not! It’s TV. You aren’t missing anything while Shawn Johnson discusses Dancing With the Stars. You just aren’t. Even if it’s the radio and Santo is going on about soup or Acapulco Taco Pie, if something important happens you’ll know.

By the way, do you remember Harry on the radio? “And Mary Lou Greenberg is here from . . . Hey! It’s a line drive deep to . . . second . . . Oh! No! You gotta . . . well, the side is retired. No runs. One hit. None left.” Even when he missed a detail or two, we got over it. He was fun to listen to regardless.

They draw a small amount of attention away from the losing.
Harry did it. Eddie Vedder does it. I see no problem with it. Seriously . . . is anyone complaining that not enough words and airtime are dedicated to discussing the state of Cubs baseball?

Not me. Let’s keep this tradition going strong.

*If I ever do change my mind, it will probably be something along the lines of ditching the losing attitudes of the past. We’re no longer going to have fun losing. No more lovable, no more losers. That kind of crap. The reason I doubt I’ll change my mind: this stuff has nothing to do with why the Cubs lose all the time. Nothing. You can’t speed up traffic by turning down the radio. You can take the edge of the gridlock by singing along. Alright, let me hear you. A one, a two, a three . . .

I Don’t Have a Topic. Cubs Stuff.

The Cubs have lost more one-run decisions than anyone else in the majors. I guess that means they’re almost really good.

The Cubs are 13-28 (.317) in games decided by one run. They’ve come dangerously close to not losing 28 times.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. If baseball were horseshoes, the Cubs would be the champions. If baseball were hand grenades, everyone  would be dead.

The Cubs are 3-9 (.250) against the Pirates. The Pirates are 39-74 (.345). So, if you’re following, the Cubs against the Pirates < the Cubs in 1-run games < the Pirates in general.

Against teams not named the Cubs, the Pirates are 30-71 (.297). That’s almost as bad as the Cubs are against the Pirates, but not quite.

The Cubs playing the Pirates is quite possibly the worst baseball you could ever see played at the Major League level. They should probably be playing hand grenades.

Roy Halladay has a 7.50 ERA against the Cubs this year. Tim Lincecum has a 13.50 ERA against the Cubs this year. Their respective ERAs overall are 2.34 and 3.41. That is weird.

Tony LaRussa will be suspended for two of the Cubs’ upcoming games against the Cardinals. The St. Louis middle infielders will have to remember on their own to start back and charge in when there’s a runner at third.

Darwin Barney’s middle name should be comma.

When athletes who play sports that do not allow fighting get into fights, they should be arrested. When I beat up my coworkers, I’m never granted two days off. They always press charges.

A beer at Wrigley costs seven dollars. That’s outrageous. If they used the same ROI ratio they use to price tickets, seven dollars would only get you a glass of trough juice.

That was gross. I’m sorry. But if this were Wrigley, you’d still owe me $14 for that joke.

Most of the Cubs roster now looks to Starlin Castro for his veteran wisdom.

The Cajun Connection is now split onto opposite sides of baseball’s most heated West Coast rivalry. Their dueling hip-hop albums cannot be far behind.

I’m out of ideas. Now I know how Lou felt in mid-April.

How the Cubs Became My Fountain of Youth

Forget Next Year. I’m holding on to 30 years ago.  

The cliché tells us to dance like no one’s watching. As someone who dances only when no one is watching, I can only guess that the intended conclusion of this mantra is that we should disregard everyone else’s judgments and do what makes us happy. Nobody understands that concept better than little kids. Some might say our ability to retain that shameless, childlike appreciation for the moment is what keeps us young at heart.

As Cubs fans, that’s also what keeps us sane.

I can’t speak for all of us, but I started cheering for the Cubs when I was too young to know better and too wrapped up in the joy of youth to care if it was a wise decision. I loved the Cubs, and I cheered like no one was watching. It wasn’t the only foolish road I ever ventured down, but it’s the one I’ve been on the longest.

When I think about my childish mistakes, I’m happy to leave almost all of them in the past. The crush on Morgan Dingwall. My inability to pronounce the letter R sound. The skater haircut. The hunter green and fuchsia plaid overalls or the pastel Easter-egg Skidz. Telling the photographer on Picture Day sophomore year that I didn’t need to consult a mirror before he took the shot. I have no problem leaving all these foibles in the past never to be revisited again. Repeating them wouldn’t make me feel young, it would make me feel stupid.

I regret the hair, not the hat.

For some reason, cheering for the Cubs is different. Although I’m reminded on a semi-daily basis that being a Cubs fan betrays any sense of intelligence I may have been able to establish over the course of my life, I can’t help but remember how happy I was the first time I saw with my own naive eyes the lush green blanket of grass that covered Wrigley Field. I can still tap into the wonder that washed over me as I was baptized into the aroma of beer and cigarettes and hot dogs when I first stepped through the turnstiles at the Friendly Confines. I can still taste the Pepsi that was so sweet, sharp, and chock full of ice that it burned my upper lip as I happily drank it in. I still feel the same pride I felt the first time someone explained to me the meaning of die-hard and I decided that was exactly the kind of fan I wanted to be.

There are plenty of times when allowing these feelings of unbridled juvenile rapture (brought on by a generally bad baseball team) to resurface in my grownup consciousness makes me feel like an unequivocal fool. If someone were to know how swept away with glee I become when the Cubs win a game, they’d be required by the unwritten rules of society to call me a moron to my face and in front of my children.

I don’t care. I’m putting it out there: I’m an idiot Cubs fan.

But I don’t cheer for this team because I believe all the thoughts I entertained as a kid. I don’t think the Cubs are good and everyone else is evil . . . not really. I don’t think they’re the best team no matter what and that other teams happen to win every year only because they cheat. So I don’t have a ton of patience with adults who praise or berate this team with all the logic of a six year old.

I also have no love for the people in the organization who would exploit my desire to retain the carefree passions of my youth. When I was a kid I may have had no respect whatsoever for the value of a dollar, but those days are gone. There’s only so much I’m willing to spend to be a fool for a terrible team. I’ll watch and cheer and blog like no one’s reading (which isn’t all too difficult to imagine), but I do expect something before I flatter this team by imitating their propensity for taking on debt in the name of losing.

On the other side of the spectrum of childlike wonder, though, are the people who continue to love this team simply to enjoy the action no matter how dismal, the people who cheer like no one’s watching and then continue with their lives unperturbed by the outcome. I applaud you. I hope to join you.

History and my life insurance actuary tell me there’s a not-too-small chance I’ll die without seeing the Cubs win the World Series. I’d rather not entertain the thought. Instead I’ll continue to let my inner nine year old call the shots during Cubs games without regard for how stupid I may look or sound. It’s how I stay young. It’s how I stay sane. It’s why I remain a Cubs fan. It’s why, inside at least, I will do this dance when the Cubs win while outwardly I laugh with all the mocking force I can muster. (h/t to Cubs Fan Report for the link to this video in today’s report)