Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day: Cubs Fans and the Myth of Sisyphus

If you are a Cub fan at some point you've been taunted (probably by a White Sox fan or Cardinal fan) with some variation of the following, "101 years and still no World Series!" Never mind that few, if any, of us have been around to experience the full weight of a century of heartbreak and failure; my question is does it really make a difference? Should we let the ferocious taunting of opposing fans get us down? As far as I'm concerned we're as happy with our team as every other baseball fan out there...and no, it's not because some of us get so drunk at the game that we could care less if they win or lose, though that does hold true for some fans -- and it's also not because we Cub fans have a tenuous grip on reality. To me, the answer for our happiness lies not in self-delusion or alcohol induced bliss, but a figure in Greek mythology and an existential writer.

In the Greek legend, Sisyphus is a man who is condemned for eternity by Death to push a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. One would think that Sisyphus should despair at having to forever undertake such an absurd, futile undertaking. Not so, says the writer Albert Camus. Camus argues that Sisyphus is in fact, a happy guy. Once Sisyphus acknowledges the absurdity of his situation, he is freed to reach a state of contended acceptance. In the end, Camus concludes, "The struggle enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

So it's opening day today and I find myself back down at the foot of the mountain with my boulder after another season without a championship. Still, I am more than ready to begin rolling it back up again as we Cub fans struggle to try and make our way to the top this time. I fully realize that whether or not the Cubs win the World Series, that boulder will just roll back down again and we Cub fans will commence the struggle again in 2011.

Now, would I like for the Cubs to win the World Series? Absolutely! Unlike Sisyphus, the Cubs (as far as I know) have not been condemned by Death for all eternity. But even if we do win the World Series, it's not like we're going to suddenly stop our yearly, arduous trek back up the mountain. Win or lose, the struggle will commence again next year, right? So why not accept it and be happy? It's the struggle that keeps us going, after all. And every team, whether it's the Yankees or the Nationals or anyone in between, are right where we are right now -- at the bottom of the mountain....and next year around this time, we'll all be there again.

So I'm raring to go for another push toward the top...anyone with me?


  1. That's what I like about Cub fans, the never ending optimism. I fear the achilles heal will be the bullpen, I would not feel safe having Marmol as my closer.

  2. I don't think it's a particularly optimistic article. It's just saying that we worry too much about winning that elusive championship and we don't enjoy the season for what it's worth. I may be wrong about saying that if the Cubs win the championship, we'll just be starting up the same struggle again in 2011. The Cubs, along with the Bears, are the most popular teams in town. Whereas relatively recents championships by the White Sox and Bulls have been largely forgotten, the Bears lone Super Bowl victory in 1985 continues to be celebrated. I would expect the same type of longevity should the Cubs pull off the miraculous.

  3. An addendum to the post: My cousin suggests that a better analogy for Cub fans is "Waiting for Godot". Damn, she may be right! The only problem I have is that Godot never makes it, whereas Sisyphus does get to the top, it's just that the destination is somewhat fleeting because getting there just means he has to do it start over again. So I while I like the Godot analogy, I'm just not ready to deal with that the idea that "Godot" never arrives!