Essay: I’ve Given My Blood, Sweat and Tears for the Chicago Cubs

Senior writer Caroline Bell writes about the highs and lows of growing up a Cubs fan.

At the small northwest Indiana grade school I attended as a kid, the rules were clear — you were either a Cubs fan or a Sox fan.

On sports-themed dress-down days, I was always in the minority of Cubs fans, my blue shirt sticking out like a sore thumb. I was often the brunt of jokes made by friends who were White Sox fans, who’d point out the Cubs’ century-long losing streak. Of course, they were right, but I didn’t care. They were my team.

Both sides of my family consist of loyal Cubs fans. I can trace our roots back as far as my mom’s grandpa, who was born after the Cubs’ 1907 and 1908 World Series wins, and unfortunately died before their historic 2016 World Series win.

I grew up listening to Pat Hughes and Len Kasper announce games on 670 The Score during car rides and squeezing 20 people around one TV at family parties just to watch spring training games. There’s many videos of my brothers and I singing Steve Goodman’s “Go Cubs Go.”

Entering high school in 2016, my friend group consisted of mostly Cubs fans for the first time in my life. We celebrated together after the World Series, donning sweatshirts and caps without shame and watching the city of Chicago explode with pride. Suddenly, it was cool to be a Cubs fan. We finally had something to show for the years and years we’d insisted the Cubs were underdogs and that they’d get their comeuppance someday.

Five years later, as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and fans returned to Wrigley Field, I was shocked to learn it was common for Loyola students who hadn’t grown up in or near Chicago to attend games for fun. Here was the team I’d spent my entire life defending against naysayers, only for people who hadn’t grown up with the team to root for them free of emotional labor. Admittedly, I felt like they hadn’t earned the right to root for the Cubs.

I believed because the Cubs have always been a large part of my family’s culture, I held that right. We go to a few games every season, hang the W flag on our front porch after series wins and watch reruns of old games on Marquee Sports Network — my brother and I spent one Christmas night a few years ago rewatching Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and cheered at the end as if we hadn’t known the outcome.

My grandpa even calls our landline after every win, leaving a voicemail of himself singing “Go Cubs Go” followed by a play-by-play of his favorite moments.

Naturally, scrolling through my Instagram feed to see east and west coasters attending games in full Cubs gear made me feel like a bit of a gatekeeper. I wanted them to have experienced everything I’d experienced — both the good and the bad.

That changed last year due to the Loyola Night Cubs game. Sitting in the stands surrounded by many students who’d never been to a Cubs game before, I realized how fun it was to share the team I’d loved for so long with others. We shivered together in the 30-degree weather, sharing beers and heckling Padres players from up in the 200s.

I sat next to a good friend and explained the lore around certain players, including inside jokes my family had surrounding Dansby Swanson in particular. The Cubs ended up winning 6-0, and I danced in the stands as Steve Goodman sang through the speakers.

That day, I came to terms with the fact that the Cubs aren’t just my team. I may have more nostalgia and personal experiences tied to the team than some others, but that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to call myself a fan and they’re not. After all, the Cubs can use all the fans they can get.

As for me, I know I’ll never cheer for another baseball team for as long as I live — I’ll only root, root, root for the Cubbies.

Feature image by Lezlie Meraz / The Phoenix

Caroline Bell

Caroline Bell