“Cub Nation” at one time was an international phenomenon. Used to be you couldn’t travel anywhere without seeing a Cub fan. In the airport. In line at Disneyland. Anywhere. The reason? Chicago Cubs fans were, literally, everywhere.
Unfortunately, times…they are a changin’.
It’s ironic that in a 21st century world where the entire population of the planet can connect to one another with the click of a button, “Cub Nation” continues to dwindle by the season. It seems the further from 1908 we get, the further our connection to our loveable losers becomes. And, it’s the one thing that technology is so good for, connectivity, that may be to blame for the lack of connection between the Cubs and their frenetic fan base.
Well, that, and losing of course.
The Cubs are coming off the worst three-year stretch in franchise history. They have managed to do so with a roster filled with mostly tradable pieces. A roster that has had more turnover than your local McDonald’s dinner shift. In building a fortified minor league system the Cubs have fielded a team that is oh, so forgettable.
Ask your average Cub fan to give you the names in the starting lineup today, and most likely this is what you’ll get. “Rizzo, Castro, Barney…I’m out.” What about the starting rotation? “Samardzija, Wood…I’m out again.” Heck, some have no idea who the manager is. It’s Rick Renteria, in guess you were wondering. Who’s Rick Renteria, you ask? Honestly, no idea.
Back in the day when you met a Cub fan from anywhere outside Chicago, the reason they were fans of the Cubs was as easy as 1-2-3. Three letters, that is. WGN. It was on basic cable, and your average baseball fan from Montana, North Dakota, North Carolina or any other state without a baseball team was either a fan of the Cubs or the Braves, who were on TBS on a daily basis. They didn’t have HBO or 250 channels to choose from – or a reason to root for the Cubs. But they had WGN.
WGN carried something like 150 games a season at one time. Now that number is well under half. The advent of Comcast (insert city here), Fox Sports (insert region here) and the connectivity of MLB to smartphones and iPads everywhere has curdled the need for Cubs baseball on WGN. The only problem is, every other avenue with which we can see our beloved Cubbies comes at an extra cost. Whether it be to your satellite service or your app store, Cub fans are forced to pay more of their hard-earned dollars to keep up with their team on a daily basis.
Show me a contender on the north side of Chicago and I will show you a fan base that will pay just about anything to see it play. But, in an economy like the one we live in now, how many Cub fans in Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon or Idaho are going to pay extra to watch their Cubs lose 95 games a year?
My generation of Cub fan grew up watching and adoring Harry Caray. This generation’s Cub fan is more interested in looking up the score on their phone after the game’s over – and they’re more interested in information about Harry Styles from One Direction than hearing stories about Harry Caray.
Evidence you ask? Well, counselor, let me present Exhibit A. In 2001 only one MLB team outdrew the Cubs on the road. That team was the San Francisco Giants and in 2001 they had some guy named Bonds who was chasing a three-year old home run record. In 2013, 10 teams outdrew the Cubs on the road, including those mega-road stars the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres. For all you Dr. Sheldon Coopers out there, that’s called sarcasm.
“Cub Nation” hasn’t completely been dismantled. But it has become apparent to me that it’s populous is becoming more localized to Chicago and the Midwest than ever before.