By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Springtime is fast approaching, and unless you’re one of those weirdos that enjoys the cold hellscape of Chicago winter, that’s always a good thing. And with the icy calendar days of February peeling away come those magical four words: “Pitchers and catchers report.”
Yay! Baseball is back, kind of! We made it through another soul-crushing holiday season without decapitating a relative with a serving spoon!
It never fails that, with the advent of Opening Day, spirits perk up no matter what the expectations for one’s favorite team may be. A sports fan’s DNA has such a built-in automatic response. The 2013 Cubs are a very good example, as that may be the only time I can type “Cubs” and “very good” this year.
I’m very much aware that the Cubs will not be a contender this upcoming season, and you should be, too. “Next year is here” memes and culture be damned, the team is still amid rebuilding mode, and while Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are setting the table for future success, this summer will consist of mostly table scraps.
This makes an already tough time for sports scribes even more difficult. February is a sports wasteland with no football, boredom with the NBA regular season, apathy for the NHL, and no real baseball. Conjuring up “stories” then becomes zombies hunting for brains.
So this weekend Cubs beat folks were feasting on the warm goo of the annual bunting tournament. It’s quirky and playful and a “aw, isn’t that cute” sort of thing for fans to sort of pay attention to. “Hey, Epstein with a bat in his hands! Look!” Also it’s a reminder of a team with one foot already in the grave before the first pitch is thrown.
See, the Yankees or Tigers or Giants having a bunting tournament wouldn’t be a story. That’s because those teams aren’t amid a culture of losing acceptance. They aren’t resigned in the winter to a fate of sub-.500 baseball.
But it’s a story for the North Siders. During what is usually for most fans a time of hope and new life, Cub fans get a 64-man bracket of small ball. That is utterly depressing to me. And, again, I’m aware that a positive future is (hopefully) in the works for this organization, but it still can step on your heart to not even be allowed the opportunity for false hope.
And it’s not the fault of the beat writers. Ink needs to be spilled no matter what a team’s expectations are. What sucks is that this is their best option for a story. Not the progression of Starlin Castro, the solidity of the starting rotation, or the awkward presence of Carlos Marmol.
Nope. Bunting tourney. Because all that other stuff is futile, unimportant. The 2013 Cubs are fait accompli, and there are only so many ways for someone to write that the team is going to be bad again.
Next year is not here. Next year is next year. Maybe. What an awful feeling in February. But, hey, what are Jorge Soler’s bunting tournament odds for 2014?
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.