Checkin’ Out The Rivalry (74-75)
Dear Ken Macha,
Kudos on the five game winning streak you’re currently sportin’. Football season is probably not the best time to go on the longest victory jag since May, but fans will take what they can get considering the sadness bowl this season has been.
As nice as it is to see that there’s still a little something left in the team’s tank, it’s truly difficult to get excited about a winning streak when the upcoming week will likely bring with it the mathematical elimination of the Brewers from playoff contention. Still, if you’re going to get back in the good graces of Brewer fans it’s not a bad idea to time your best week in forever with the final homestand of the season.
With just seven games left for fans to pay their respects to the 2009 season in person, it’s fitting that three of them will be against the Chicago Cubs. No city inspires more irrational hatred in area fans than Chicago, and no team fuels our resentment quite like the Cubs. Like clockwork, each home series against the Cubs brings out the same tired complaints that Chicago fans are rude and disrespectful to us proud-and-humble Milwaukee folk. They drink too much; they don’t care about the game like we do; they buy our tickets (that we sell them); cause a ruckus; and then they cruise out of here, leaving behind a trail of destruction that would bring Iron Eye Cody to tears.
It’s all long-a crap.
One of the most useless traditions in sports fandom is the stupid, type-A pursuit of rivalry and the intentional creation of one where none exists.
For example, growing up in northern Wisconsin, the rivalry between the Bears and Packers felt legitimate because the two teams actually hated each other on the field. In the ’80s, the Bears were good and the Packers were Forrest Gregg-terrible, creating a one-sided rivalry that bubbled over after an escalating succession of fights that ended with Charles Martin’s bodyslamming of Jim McMahon. Years later when Bud Selig switched the Brewers to the National League, dim-witted fans and lazy sportswriters sought to exploit this Packers/Bears rivalry by grafting the Brewers/Cubs onto it even though no such rivalry ever existed before.
Why is it not a real rivalry? For one thing, it’s not reciprocal. The Cubs main rivals are the St. Louis Cardinals, their longstanding National League opponent and the team that divides the fan base of Illinois. The Brewers have a similar draw with people in Minnesota, but since they’re all Minnesota Nice it’s not so easy to demonize them like all those too-busy-for-the-city Chicago folk. But that doesn’t really matter because Cubs fans already have their plate-of-hate full with the crosstown White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Like the Japanese soldiers during WWII who never realized the war had ended, some people in Milwaukee have been trying to keep this stupid feud going for far too long despite its obvious pointlessness. They’re jealous that the Cubs fan base, thanks in large part to their immense population advantage and nationally broadcast television station (WGN), is larger than the population of the five-county Milwaukee metropolitan region. This extra revenue from fans gives the Cubs the ability to spend far more money on payroll and — here’s the real reason for the jealousy — the ability to make the types of boneheaded personnel decisions that we secretly wish we could make.
Rather than getting indignant over Cubs fans visiting and spending their money here, we ought to be focusing on the team that’s actually won a world series or two — the St. Louis Cardinals. It’d make a great secondary rivalry for them: they’re as indifferent to the Kansas City Royals as the Cubs are to us. Not to mention, they’re actually taking offense at our team’s behavior, a crucial first step in any pointless rivalry.
The bottom line, Ken, is that it shouldn’t take a bunch of hokey excuses to get fired up about playing a divisional opponent. Although this season both the Cubs and the Brewers are bespoken also-rans to the St. Louis Cardinals, there’s still the moral victory that will come from overtaking the Cubs for second place in the division. Now, that’s something Cubs fans will notice.