Now that both of the Cubs' young ace pitchers, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, already have gone down with arm trouble before the team even breaks spring training camp, it's the fashionable thing to declare the season already over for the Chicago National League Nine, yet another piece of coal in the overflowing sack of misery that is the existence of the die-hard Cubs fan. But what about me. Am I about to pronounce the Cubbies dead on arrival in 2005? Am I going to write off the forthcoming campaign as a wash-out, a perpetual six-month black cloud over my head?
Not that great things can't happen. No one saw 1969 or 1984 or 1989 or 2003 coming, after all. In all of those years, the Cubs were supposed to do their usual die-in-August routine, yet they contended for, or actually, made the playoffs. But, then again, as is the lot of us martyrs to the blue pinstripes, we think as much about how all of those seasons ended as to the thrilling lead-up to the finales. And none of them ended with World Series titles, or even World Series invites. They ended with black cats on the field, first basemen forgetting the basics of fielding, or random fans inserting themselves into the action at the worst possible moment. In short, they ended crappily.
I, and others of my ilk, take preverse delight in saying that we are guaranteed admittance into heaven when it's all over because we have lived our Purgatory on earth courtesy of the Chicago Cubs. With Sosa off the reservation for good and Wood and Prior already fragile, it may be time to think of 2005 as another step along the way to salvation.
Or they could go all the way. Hey, anything is possible. (Right, Boston?)