Cubs Fans: Free the Fear!

I am not superstitious. I know that curses work only upon our imaginations. I also know that the Cubs have not won the World Series in living memory, and it is natural to be nervous. That said, as Cubs fans, we have a responsibility to exorcize our demons before the kids get back to the ballpark.

Remember the last postseason game at Wrigley. Our best pitcher Ryan Dempster was taking the mound. He had had a great regular season. We had Sweet Lou Pinella and Derek Lee: we had players who had been there, done that before. We should have been confident. But we were not. The fans were not. Walking to the park through the back streets of the Northside, my wife and I could have been creeping through a haunted forest. All was quiet. The television blimp floated in the sky like a nightmare image out of Odilon Redon. People we passed muttered nervously to one another. What I would have given for some already soused meathead to have shouted “Go Cubs!” just to break the tension in the air. When we turned onto the main thoroughfare of Addison, all of the blue caps herding together toward the famous marquee seemed like a procession to a cemetery for a public funeral. And, of course, we were. The Cubs lost the game, went to Los Angeles Chavez Ravine, and never returned.

Before we had Bartman to blame. But that last time we can only blame ourselves. I’m sure our anxiety affected the team. There’s no such thing as curses. As the poet sings, “If you believe in things you don’t understand, you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way!” It’s an issue of mass psychology, of mass psychosis. We need to snap out of it!

I propose that rather than worry for the few days about what’s going to happen when the Cardinals come to town, we instead should follow Joe Madden’s advice to young Addison Russell when earlier in the season he thought the young short stop was thinking too much: We ought to all read a horror novel.

Horror purges anxiety. A most ancient form of horror story was Greek tragedy. Acted out on stage during the festival of the god Dionysius, the god of wine and transgression, tragedy literally means “goat song” because, historians speculate, the sacrificed goat “sang out” as its throat was slit at the altar and the actual blood of the animal was used as “make-up” for the story’s inevitably gory climax. Enter Oedipus bloody eye-sockets empty, wailing at having slept with his mother and murdered his father. Enter Orestes chased by furious demons, etc, etc: classic horror scenes! Tragedies are stories about when terrible things happen to great people. Aristotle claimed that such horror stories had two effects on its audience: pity and terror. Aristotle pointed out, moreover, that experiencing pity and terror through a story had the effect of a catharsis, a release of anxiety that allowed viewers to think more clearly afterward.

The late great horror-movie impresario Wes Craven said that horror stories don’t make people afraid, they release the fear that is already in them. In this spirit, I propose that Cubs fans take the next few days to read a novel by Stephen King. Madden recommended that Russell read the creepy King time-travel thriller 11/22/63. Let’s start a post-season bookclub for Cubs fans. It will purge our nervous energy before we get to the ballpark. It will free our fears so we will have no negativity to share with the team. All the players will hear will be our well-practiced screams: Let’s go Cubbies!

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