In an hour or so, the Giants, the toast of the Bay Area, will open their National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs.
As a Cubs fan living in hostile territory, I've got to tell you I can practically smell the self-assuredness of Giants Nation. It's an even-numbered year, after all. Hunter Pence has his pants pulled up a couple of extra inches, and MadBum has put the world on notice you better not look at him the wrong way. The unspoken message, conveyed in knowing looks and telepathic chat rooms across the Giants' jealously guarded exclusive territory: Too bad, Cubbies! We can't lose.
For Cubs fans, laboring under the weight of 1.08 centuries of non-championship history -- near-misses, Bartmans, bad teams and really bad teams --it's both a moment of dread and the overture to an October that one hopes, but dares not hope, will end differently from every other October in the collective memory bank.
But let's not dwell on the past. Our purpose this afternoon is to offer, in the friendliest possible terms, some tips for Giants fans seeking a deeper understanding of the Cubs and their fans. In no particular order, despite the numbers:
1. They're the Cubs, not the "Cubbies." The latter form of address, which fans of the Local Nine tell me they use to irritate fans of the Chicago National League Ballclub, is akin to "Frisco" or "San Fran." The preferred form of address is always Cubs, with or without a profanity appropriate to the moment, as in: "I can't believe the _____ Cubs blew that lead."
2. The Cubs have that even-number thing down. Their last championship was in 1908 -- an EVEN NUMBER. And almost semi-magically, it's been 108 years -- ANOTHER EVEN NUMBER --since they last wore the crown of baseball's so-called World Champions.
3. The Cubs have the all-time best team song -- about losing. It's Steve Goodman's "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request." See below. And for extra pathos, note that Goodman died in 1984 just days before the Cubs clinched their first postseason berth in his lifetime.
4. Yes, they've been losers. Just don't call them "lovable losers." The team's long history of unsuccess makes Cubs fans feel just as warm and cuddly as when Giants fans think about Game 6 of the 2002 World Series.
5. The Cubs and their faithful embrace success but don't shy away from advertising their down days to the world. When the Cubs win, the team "flies the 'W'" -- a white banner with a bold blue "W "in the center -- from Wrigley Field's centerfield scoreboard. When they lose, a blue flag with a white "L" is hoisted for all to see. Giants fans will want to run right out and buy an "L" flag today. I recommend dumping 75 bucks on the 5-foot-by-8-foot version. That way, if the Giants lose this series, you'll have a swell reminder of the occasion.
6. I hear Giants fans reminiscing about the franchise's tough, tough years and their long, long (sniff, sniff) wait for a World Series championship. One fan offered 1989 as an example of the hard times. Reminder, you partisans of Los Gigantes: Your team was in the World Series that year. And in 1962. And in 2002. To Cubs fans, who have watched parents and grandparents die waiting for the next pennant, that would be a record of crazy success, even leaving out the nutty even-year thing.
7. There's one upside to losing: Avoiding the smug entitlement of Giants fans, who now run a close second to the Red Sox faithful in boorish self-absorption and braying triumphalism. Of course, Cubs fans will boast and bray, too, if their team manages to win.