I’m a big fan. Whether it’s pigs, chocolate, Chardonnay, Jane Austen novels or Chicago-style deep dish pizza, I am all in. No one can doubt my enthusiasm. In fact, for Halloween one year, I had a t-shirt emblazoned with “Go, Ceiling!” and had pom poms, a little skirt and made up pro-ceiling cheers. Get it? Ceiling fan?? Just a little punny seasonal humor.
As a sports fan, I am somewhat rabid. Cheering for the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team is akin to a religion for me. As a KU graduate, we take our basketball very seriously. We have two national championships under our belt in the last 30 years, one while I was even a student there! May I share that tragic story with you, dear readers?
Good daughter that I am, I went home for Easter weekend (an 8-hour drive) because my mom had fallen and broken her elbow. No one (including myself) thought the Hawks had a chance to get to the Final Four, much less the National Championship game so it was safe for me to leave Kansas. Yeah, turns out we were all wrong. Danny Manning and the Miracles, as they were later known, beat Oklahoma (one of my top three Most Loathed College Teams) to take the title that April of 1988. And where was I – KU Sophomore, Uberfan, lunatic Jayhawk? Hanging from trees on campus? Participating in the honking craziness of an impromptu parade? Screaming until I was hoarse with thousands of fellow students and fans? Of course not! I was at home, in Peoria, IL, in my parents’ living room, weeping at the injustice of it all. A monumentally historic moment lost. Admit it – you had a little tear in your eye just now. Or not.
That’s the Jayhawks. Then there are the Chicago Bears, my lifelong pro football team of choice. How’s that been working for me the last few years? Full-on pain and suffering which I mostly blame on Jay Cutler. How tired am I of hearing from Bronco fans about the Bears’ stupidity in taking on their former trainwreck quarterback? Very tired indeed. I don’t see us getting into the playoffs anytime soon, much less the Super Bowl, but at least when the Bears do, no one can accuse me of being a bandwagon fan.
Which is exactly what my loving brother called me when his beloved Dodgers lost in the playoffs to the Cubbies. I have a tricky relationship with the Chicago Cubs. My mom, the biggest sports fan of all time, was a devoted Cubs fan. Memories of growing up in our house are inextricably linked with the sound of Harry Carrey’s melodious voice and the fans of Wrigley Field on our TV set for decades. It was the background noise of every summer at home. But I really loathe the actual sport of baseball. I find it slow, boring and tedious. Did I mention boring?
When I started to cheer the Cubs on during the playoffs, my brother accused me of being a bandwagon fan who didn’t even like baseball. Somewhat true except here’s the thing about the Cubs. They have not gone to a World Series since 1945 or won a World Series since 1908. They’ve gotten been in the vicinity of a pennant win but haven’t closed the deal. Their fans are beyond diehard. My mom is screaming her head off in heaven that they’re in the World Series. The Cubs are part of my upbringing, my heritage and my family – how could I not cheer for them? I am actually watching the World Series, by choice and on purpose. It’s kind of wild.
I guess my point of this column is that it doesn’t matter what you choose to be a fan of as long as you do it with your whole heart. Quilting, dominoes, the Cleveland Browns – it doesn’t matter what your passion is, embrace it and own it. Because the losses and the naysayers and the missteps all mean that when success is yours, it’s that much sweeter and richer. Ask the Cubs fans.