Now entering Cubdumb

The Cubs can’t seem to drive baseballs very well these days, but they’re doing a heck of a job driving nails.

And even though it’s still August, I’d say that the coffin the North Siders are building for their 2009 season is already almost complete.

Perhaps the Ricketts family should just turn Wrigley Field into a carpentry shop when they take over. Sammy Sosa could even come back to Chicago to work.

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me an e-mail saying that this bunch of Cubs might be even more disappointing than the 2004 crew that maddeningly squandered a Wild Card lead in the final week of the season.

I argued to my buddy that the ’04 squad — which actually won more games than its famed 2003 counterpart — still ranks ahead of 2009 in my ever-so-lengthy list of Cubs-related frustrations.

And since I’m in such a nostalgic mood today (that’s sarcasm you hear dripping), I figured I’d share with you a column that appears in my book “Northern IlliNOISE: Tales of a Territory”. It was written five years ago when I vented my, ahem, considerable frustrations as the 2004 Cubs completed their tailspin while working as a columnist for The Daily Times in Ottawa, Ill.

So, you know, enjoy it. Or something.

Now entering Cubdumb


Sept. 30, 2004

The (Ottawa, Ill.) Daily Times

Bought a new T-shirt last week.

Front of it reads, “CUBS. Always at the top …

“Or near it.”

Well, truer words were never spoken. Or, I suppose, printed.

Because, after Wednesday’s latest meltdown against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs — they of the easy final-week schedule … right? … right? — are no longer at the top of the National League Wild Card race.

But, oh, they’re near it.

Just near enough that they’ll probably continue to tease and torture their legions fans with the possibility of postseason baseball right through Sunday afternoon — before they blow it all in final inning of the final game of the regular season.

Either that, or they’ll just fall flat on their face and lose the next four.

Both ways would be, of course, typical Cubs — the only group of guys who break more hearts than “The Bachelor.”

Lovesick sucker that I am, I was at Wrigley Field Wednesday afternoon and watched the Cubs in all their gory as LaTroy Hawkins — perhaps the worst ninth-inning, two-out, two-strike pitcher in the history of baseball — turn another must-win into a mushed win.

Having lost 4-3 in 12 innings to Cincy, and with Houston knocking off the listless Cardinals (thanks a lot, St. Louis), the Cubs, along with San Francisco, are now a half-game behind the Astros — a team that has merely won 15 in a row at home and hosts the lowly Colorado Rockies for the final three games of the season.

Better put a stop on those Cubs-Braves National League Division Series tickets.

No, it’s not over yet — and I’m hoping beyond hope that the Cubs can somehow pull this thing out — but after watching the Cubs self-immolate with four losses in five games against the Mets and the Reds (the Mets and the Reds!), who can be optimistic at this point?

Certainly not a friend of mine in Chicago, who sent me an e-mail yesterday afternoon with the subject line: “I’m now a D.C. fan.”

There were plenty of other people searching for some kind, any kind of solace outside of Wrigley following Wednesday’s gut-wrenching loss. I felt bad when one poor guy at the crowded intersection of Clark and Waveland was forced to snap out of his misery-induced funk for a moment and hustle across the street as a bus bore down on him.

“I’ve already been run over by a loss,” he said to no one in particular. “I don’t need to get run over again.”

Trampled was the prevailing feeling in Wrigleyville on this brisk, it’s-almost-October afternoon as half its denizens walked in a daze, while the other half shouted into their cell phones, colorfully complaining about the Cubs’ ongoing collapse.

We’ve still got four more days of this stuff?

So caught up in the throes of agony is Chicago these days that on my drive up to Wrigley Field on Wednesday, one borderline hysterical guy called in to a radio station just to bemoan his life as a Cubs fan.

A hip-hop radio station.

All’s not lost, though. If the Cubs don’t make the playoffs, then, hey, at least our October calendars will be cleared up, and we’ll have more time to concentrate on other things.

Like, you know, the Bears.

Heaven help us.

All season long, I’ve stuck by and supported the Cubs — heck, I’ve seen them play in four different states since April — but right now I feel like Julius Caesar with a knife sticking out from between my shoulder blades.

Et tu, Dusty?

Come Friday, the Cubs play the Braves in yet another do-or-die contest. It’s a game that no person with any respect for their mental health and emotional well-being would ever think of attending. It’s a game suited only for masochists and complete gluttons for punishment.

It’s a game that I’ll be at.

Hey, what can I say?

I’m a Cubs fan.

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