Wisconsin’s Love/Hate Relationship with the Cubs

Oh, where did we go wrong?
I was at a party last evening with my brother, his wife, and another buddy–all of us diehard Brewers’ fans. We all watched the Cubs’ get swept by the Dbacks…with joy. We recalled Brewers/Cubs games at Miller Park this season (and years past)–including one memory of a little Cubs’ fan, no more than 8 years old, yelling rude comments at Brewers’ fans. We all laughed at how cocky Cubs’ fans have become…especially since next year will mark the 100th anniversary of their last World Championship.
This was bittersweet for me. Around the age of 6½–in 1969–I became a baseball fan…and, with the Braves in Atlanta and the Brewers still in Seattle as the Pilots, me and my family were all Cubs’ fans. My first MLB game was at Wrigley, seeing the Cubs’ versus Astros (I recall keeping score, and awarding Randy Hundley a double on a bunt, now realizing that it was probably a fielders’ choice and an error). The first time my parents let me stay up past 9 o’clock was to watch a Cubs vs. Dodgers game in LA on WGN. I skipped classes in high school to watch the Cubs, not the Brewers. My first shot at a foul ball was at Wrigley, where I had snuck down to the box seats for the 9th inning, glove in tow, to have a Bill Almon foul ball careen off my bare hand (glove was on the lap, as I was taking a picture). I recall a bachelor party in 1984 where we were all depressed at seeing the Padres beat up on the Cubs.
So where did it all go wrong?
First, I blame the 1985 Chicago Bears. That’s right, the Bears. Prior to the Bears’ championship, Cubs’ fans were humble, contrite…even downright docile. I mean, after all, the White Sox, Bulls, Bears, and Cubs were all mediocre teams throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s, as far as I know (I think the Black Hawks might have been good…). Then, with the era of cocky Jim McMahon, Mike Ditka, and Mike Singletary, the fans in Chicago began to take on the players’ demeanor.
Of course, the final nail in the coffin was when Bud Selig moved the Brewers to the NL, causing the Cubs and Brewers to become divisional rivals. It was easy to like both teams up until that point–in fact, everyone in Wisconsin dreamed of a Cubs/Brewers I-94 World Series. The rivalry blossomed, Cubs’ fans could find cheap seats in Milwaukee that locals didn’t buy, Bud made more money, and the rivalry grew. But Wisconsin remains divided–a few years back, Sports Illustrated had a piece on favorite teams by state…of course, the Packers were first in Wisconsin…but the Cubs beat out the Brewers for second, an by more than a few percentage points. Now, Wisconsin does have a few transplants here, and the numerous WGN broadcasts on cable throughout the state in the 70’s and 80’s didn’t help…plus the fans in Kenosha are pretty much equidistant between Wrigley and Miller Park. My guess are those so-called “TV” baseball fans that only watch games on TV still remember those loveable losing Cubs from their youth, and still pull for the underdog. To them, I say, “hey–the Brewers went 15 years without a winning season! We’re loveable losers, too!!”
Anyway, half of Wisconsin–the Brewers’ half–seem a bit happier Sunday morning.*
*= Important note: for those outside of the Midwest, there is also a rather strong Twins’ following here in America’s Dairyland. It is a combination of transplants here from the Twin Cities that attended Wisconsin universities as the result of reciprocity and chose to stay, but also because Eau Claire, Superior, and Hudson are all closer to the Metrodome than to Miller Park. Plus, I think, there are still some nostalgics that long for the American League and replaced their NL favorite Chicago with Milwaukee, and subsequently adopted the Twins as their new AL favs. This author, due to his 3-year stint living in Chicago, chose the White Sox…along with the Tigers and Indians…and Royals. The rivalry between the Brewers and Twins is just too strong to root for “the Twinkies” in my world.

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