Most Chicago Cubs fans grew up with the heartbreak of 1984, when the team lost three straight games to the San Diego Padres in the NLCS to choke away the pennant. Then again, with just five outs to go for a World Series berth, the team imploded and failed to reach the 2003 Fall Classic.
If you’re old enough, you may even remember the Miracle Mets coming back to beat the Cubs for the National League pennant in 1969. It is these moments that forged our Cubs fan hood.
Those moments will not forge the Cubs fan hood of our children. Winning the 2016 National League pennant changed everything. Win or lose the 2016 World Series, the perception of the Cubs has been forever changed.
Before the weekend when everything changed, Cubs fans were raised on Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And for the most part, this assumption held true throughout the seven decades the team failed to win the pennant.
Every fall, when the team was competitive, die-hard fans would allow some hope to creep in, but there was always that itching feeling in the back of your head they’d find a way to blow it. The confidence, swagger, and talent of the 2016 team, though, has changed all of that.
For starters, they finally showed fans the Curse of the Billy Goat was a myth. After all, the curse said the Cubs wouldn’t make it back to the World Series, so it is shattered. Don’t let that fool you, though. Cubs fans want it this year and they want it badly. This is the closest they’ve come to breaking their World Series drought since it stood at just 37 years.
But this team is built to last. Most key contributors are here to stay, meaning the door on a championship is wide open and could be for about a decade. If the team doesn’t break through this year, chances are they will in the next decade. At the very least, the Cubs will be a perennial contender as the next generation of fans are growing up.
They’re going to get used to winning division titles, seeing clutch hits, not losing playoff games and folding when it matters most. This will be the luckiest and most privileged Cubs fan base of all time.
Barring trades or major injuries, here are the players they will get to see for multiple more years.
- 2B Javier Baez
- 3B Kris Bryant
- OF Albert Almora
- C Willson Contreras
- RP Carl Edwards Jr.
- RP Justin Grimm
- SP Kyle Hendricks
- OF Jason Heyward
- SP Jon Lester
- SP/RP Mike Montgomery
- 1B Anthony Rizzo
- RP Hector Rondon
- SS Addison Russell
- C/OF Kyle Schwarber
- OF Jorge Soler
- IF/OF Ben Zobrist
Clearly, the nucleus of this team is going to be together for a while. Most guys on this list are locked up through at least 2020, meaning the championship window should be open for at least four more years. That’s about as good as it gets in this industry.
Fans growing up now are going to grow up rooting for the same names, the same heroes, the way it’s supposed to be. In the past, fans were given a revolving door of replacement-level players that not many people could get excited about.
Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but these are the most exciting times Cubs fans have ever had. After all, they aren’t the lovable losers anymore. They’re winners and they’re going to be expected to win for the foreseeable future.
Should the team win the World Series this season, the allure of being a Cubs fan may go away for some. After witnessing the team do the one thing they hadn’t done in 108 years, the last great accomplishment left in American sports, the passion for the team will naturally go down.
But that doesn’t mean the fan base will be any less strong. It will be a fan base of people used to winning. It will be a fan base that wants to see a winning product on the field year in and year out. It will be a fan base ownership and the front office envisioned when they joined forces five years ago.
Chairman Tom Ricketts spoke at Theo Epstein’s introductory press conference.
“We have the best fans in baseball, we know we have the best ballpark in baseball, and we look forward to the day we have the best team in baseball.”
Tom, you’ve got that now. Your fans, who hope to end a century-plus-long streak of heartbreak, will never be the same.
[Featured Image by Matt Marton/AP Images]