In spite of everything, there’s something a little more serene about this year’s Cubs campaign. Last year’s focus on the big centennial was such a huge black cloud that it shadowed everything good about the 2008 team. The team felt it, the fans felt it: the ominous hush during game one of the playoffs negated any home field advantage. The collapse seemed imminent because of that number, the 2007 trip, and that whole lefty batter thing that got most of the blame in hindsight. The centennial and all its festivities made us forget just how good the 2008 team was.
It was probably a better team than the one we have now, that’s for sure. DeRosa’s gone, Wood’s gone, our key players are another year older and just because we have a new crop of middle relievers doesn’t mean they’re any better than Wuertz and company. At the same time, I feel more relaxed this year. That 100-shaped storm cloud has given way to a fluffy cumulus that spells 101 when you look at it a certain way. The number 100 conjures memorials and anniversaries; the number 101 conjures dalmatians. No rainbows yet, but it’s an improvement.
Credit the Arizona Cardinals and their Super Bowl run for this mindset. The historical ineptitude of the Cardinals is no secret, but their championship drought had never gotten much press until this year’s success. Before last season, you could quiz any football fan and watch the shrugs as they try to come up with their last title. 1947- and that was pre-Super Bowl so in order to save face, we can say that compares to our 1945. Not a huge difference there.
Point is, nobody really thought about Arizona’s drought because they had no reason to imagine the Cardinals playing for a title. Now that the big 100 is out of the way, that means that the Cubs want people talking about 1908. It means a championship isn’t inconceivable. It means we’re close. There are only two ways to erase 1908, and one of them is return to a point where the team’s no longer contending. Where combining “Cubs” and “championship” into a sentence is just silly. The other way is… well, you know. It’s April. Let’s not get into that quite yet.
So now that the century mark has come and gone, let’s go back to worrying about baseball again. Cheering our team, celebrating the victories, agonizing over the losses, and just being normal fans instead of martyrs or masochists. Our team may not be as good as last year’s, but it seems that most of the NL Central has taken a step back, and the ones that haven’t are either still pretty bad or coached by Dusty Baker. I’d rather be a Cubs fan than a Pirates fan right now. Yes, stuff will go wrong, a rival will step up and St. Louis will figure out a way to contend like they always do. But let’s bring them on, see what happens, and hope when it gets closer to October the numbers “1908” and “101” come up in conversation more often. When they do it means we’re close, but right now it’s April and that’s as far away as it gets.