This can be the year
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

The Cubs dropped two out of three to the White Sox over the weekend. So on Monday, the Cubs fan spends his El ride into work mumbling under his breath: "We are so dead. It's over. We are so dead. It's over."

Meanwhile, up in Boston, after the Red Sox dropped two ugly ones in Philly on Saturday and Sunday, the Red Sox fan starts Monday off incessantly asking co-workers at the office (every one of whom knows exactly what he means without a word of explanation): "What? I should be surprised by this? There was any other way it could go?"

It's a different kind of thing being a Cubs or Red Sox fan. You see an open parking space, but you don't pull in, because you know if you do, pigeons will come calling for your paint job. You meet a pretty girl, but you don't ask for her number, because you know sooner or later she's gonna serve up your heart with fava beans and a nice chianti.

Todd Pratt
Todd Pratt's pinch-hit, game-winning homer in the 13th inning on Saturday crushed the hearts of Red Sox fans.

Hope is a trap to you, optimism's a tease. The world ain't nothing but a heavy anvil perched on a high shelf, waiting for the next chance to come falling down and squish you like the forsaken bug you are.

You trudge through a bleak, soulless existence: marking time without a title in the city of little, hunched-over shoulders, and living, working and dying under the shadow of the Bambino and his big, nasty curse on the Hub city.

Those of us on the outside, those of us who root for teams who throw us a bone every once in a lifetime, we know it ain't easy on you. We know you must feel like George McFly in a Biff Tannen world.

And we know, even when your Cubbies are tied for first, and your Sox are jousting with the Yanks and Jays in late June, you find it hard to believe in anything more than the certainty of your team's eventual collapse.

We feel for you (we think you're a little pathetic, but we feel for you).

But we say damn history and screw generations worth of precedent. We say your believing, in something, in anything, might make all the difference right now. And so we offer you this: a list of all sorts of things you can count on, things you can put your trust in, just so you can get the feel of believing.

Mr. or Mrs. Cub fan, please believe ...

Mark Prior
Mark it down: Prior may be the pitcher to lead the Cubs all the way.

... Mark Prior's arm is a lithe and powerful gift from the gods.

... there's no way Sammy gets caught with cork in his bat twice.

... the Astros are longtime losers, too (and the Braves ain't exactly known for realizing their potential, either).

Believe ...

... in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and ... in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.

... in the infectious enthusiasm of Ernie Banks and the poetic look of ivy on the outfield walls.

... that Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown is the greatest name-and-nickname combination in the history of baseball.

... and that you should never have let Rafael Palmeiro go.

Know, down deep in your heart ...

... that Rick Neuheisel will say something unbelievably deluded before the week is out.

Demi Moore
Repeat after us: Demi and Ashton will not last the summer.

... that LeBron will go No. 1 to the Cavs, and it still won't be enough to overcome the bad mojo associated with those new Cleveland unis.

... that the thing with Demi and Ashton won't last the summer.

... and that though last year's Taste of Chicago was the hottest, sweatiest experience of your entire life, this year will be hotter and sweatier by a longshot.

And while you're at it, you can make book, Mr. Cub Fan Man, on the fact that ...

... right this minute, someone somewhere is saying, "big players make big plays" and "it's all going to come down to which team wants it more."

... the ratings for Wimbledon will be weak, but the ratings for ESPN Classic re-broadcasts of the Borg-McEnroe 1980 final will be strong.

... the third "Matrix" will jump the shark and the third "Lord of the Rings" flick won't.

... Whoopi's new show will be brutal, car-wreck-in-slow-motion television.

... Greg Maddux won't ever be coming back to Wrigley (too bad), and neither will Todd Hundley (too good).

... and if you're sitting in the bleachers right now and you need to make a call, you can be sure the guy sitting next to you has a cell.

And you, Captain Red Sox, believe this, my friend ...

Pedro Martinez
Believe! Since coming off the DL, Pedro has allowed two runs in 15 innings.

... the only thing livelier than Pedro's tongue is his arm.

... Mookie Wilson's playing days are over.

... the secret powers of a man named Trot are deep and wide.

And believe ...

... in a town called Hope.

... the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier.

... David Beckham's stateside Q-rating is and always will be way below Alf's.

... Paul Pierce is a fighter.

... and even though it's a long-distance thing now, the Sports Guy still loves you.

Put your faith in this, too ...

... Justin and Cameron Diaz are going to make Ashton and Demi look like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

... Steinbrenner's going to say something soon that makes Neuheisel look rational and well-adjusted.

... the young GM Theo knows what he's doing, and a manager named Grady is the stuff of legend.

... and speaking of legend, the Babe was fat -- believe it.

Carlton Fisk
Believe ... that the Red Sox can recapture some of Carlton Fisk's good karma from Game 6 of '75.

And you can also be sure that ...

... Bucky Dent is done.

... Tom Brady ain't.

... Clemens is gone.

... but so is Carl Everett.

... and if there's still work for John Larroquette, everybody's got a shot.

And when you find yourself dangling over the deep, dark pit of despair, dear Red Sox loyalist, take comfort in these essential truths, these bedrock facts upon which to found one's belief ...

... "Cheers" re-runs kick "M.A.S.H." re-runs' sorry butts.

... Ted Williams' swing is one of the three most perfect mechanical devices of all time. (And no one knows or cares what the other two are.)

... John Kerry could take Joe Lieberman with one arm tied behind his back.

... thanks to highlights of the Fisk home run, folks outside Boston actually think the Sox won the '75 Series.

... and, um, you know, the law of averages has to kick in some time.

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.



Eric Neel Archive

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