I’ve been a Cubs fan since birth, and sadly, being a Cubs fan has never really been about winning. Sure I still root for them every year, but I’ve grown weary of the “this is our year” mentality that tends to end in heartbreak. For me, being a Cubs fan has always been about my connection to the Cubs through my family. My dad is a Cubs fan, as was his dad who, like Ernie Banks, lived 80+ years and never saw the Cubs win a World Series.
In many ways, Ernie Banks embodied the true spirit of what it means to be a Cubs fan. Even after his playing days were long over, he found so much joy just being around the team. Everything friendly about the confines of Wrigley Field came out in his smile.
But “Mr Cub” wasn’t just about bringing positivity to the ballclub. His “Let’s Play Two” mentality is something we still remember fondly and embodies his “live life to the fullest” spirit. He was also one of the best who ever played the game. Banks was an 11-time all-star who played in 2,528 games, all of them as a Chicago Cub. He was the first African-American player ever on the Cubs and was also the first number to be retired by the Cubs organization. To this day he is still the Cubs’ leader in games played, at-bats and extra-base hits and is second in home runs, hits and RBIs.
No matter how well (or not) the Cubs are doing, I get a very special feeling walking into Wrigley Field. I feel like a little kid again. Growing up in Chicago, the Cubs were always a big part of my life. It has always felt like family there, and Ernie Banks always felt like the godfather of that family. He felt that sense of joy and appreciation every time he entered the ballpark. In a world, particularly in sports, with so much importance put on on results, Banks proved that so much of the joy came in the doing. So rarely nowadays do we appreciate our lives in the moment. We look at so many things in terms of “getting it over with” or thinking ahead to the next thing we’re doing. I feel like even though Ernie Banks never won a World Series, he loved playing baseball so much that you’d never know it to hear him talk about his playing days.
It is an exciting time to be a Cubs fan again, and a good time to be reminded that this exciting off-season doesn’t automatically equal immediate results. But instead of finding things to complain about, instead of nit-picking 20 year old ball players who are still growing and learning how to play, just allow yourself to enjoy watching the first team of players in the last decade to truly be proud and excited to be playing for the Chicago Cubs, just like Ernie Banks was every single day of his life.