By Nat Krieger
If man is the more normal, healthy and happy, the more he can repress, displace, deny, rationalize, dramatize himself and deceive others, then it follows that the suffering of the neurotic comes…from painful truth…Spiritually the neurotic has long since been where psychoanalysis wants to bring him without being able to, namely at the point of seeing through the deception of the world of sense, the falsity of reality. -Otto Rank
While I can’t prove 100% that Viennese psychoanalyst Otto Rank was a fan of the ball club that plays at Clark & Addison, just substitute the words ‘Cubs fans’ for ‘neurotic’ in Herr Doktor’s conclusion: The Cubs fan is much nearer to the actual truth psychologically than the others and it is just that from which he suffers.
One hundred and eight years without a (I’m not superstitious, but one must respect local taboos) you know. This heritage has left Cubs fans the clearest eyed realists around. You never have to remind a Cubs fan that life is harsh and bloody, and beauty fleeting…“do tell, how about the collapse in ’69? Now that was a team, but Durocher played those guys into the ground…” And Cubs fans have little doubt what ball club life was playing for when Macbeth called it “a walking shadow, a poor player…” And what Cubs fan can forget the sound and fury over a muffed foul pop fly that signifies very little compared to the double play botched by a guy paid plenty to turn them….in short, there is no justice.
The Cubs fan combines the most philosophically sublime stoicism with superstitions that cover pretty much everything, not least the power of words—a particular awe that goes back at least to the Israelites and Pharaohs. So I will not speak of goats, scape or otherwise, nor of what cannot be spoken of, but if the result of the current best of seven competition is favorable…we have to face it, but how do we prepare for the unknown? Is this how the Alexandrians felt watching the Old Verities totter on their pedestals?
What belief system do the winners offer? Will Cub diehards become blasé and greedy for more? The National League version of Red Sox fans? And what would remain of an indigenous tradition handed down from generation to generation, an ivy encrusted world view rooted in the grim wisdom of anthropologist Ernest Becker, an admirer of Otto Rank, who wrote “The soberest conclusion that we could make about what has actually been taking place on the planet for about three billion years is that it is being turned into a vast pit for fertilizer.”
And how about the children? Numerous sociological studies have proven that if a child is already a Cubs fan when she sees Bambi she is far better able to handle the horror and cosmic injustice of the mother’s death than say, a little Dodgers devotee.
Will success change us from Voltairean pessimists to lotus eating Leibnizian optimists, skipping through Rosie O’Grady’s chanting “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”, unhinged in a world turned upside down?
The most unsettling question, the one Major League Baseball and ESPN has been doing so much NOT to talk about: if the small bears win the final game they play this year, what happens to the belief that time moves in one direction towards an endpoint? At the very least the Gregorian calendar would have to be recalibrated around 2016 but it’s more than that. If life on the planet does continue in any kind of recognizable form post the possible you-know-what, the cyclical and functionally infinite nature of time would be proven beyond all doubt. The religious and cultural ramifications are beyond imagining…
They say be careful what you dream for. Why? Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a chance to find out.