WGN-TV’s newest Cubs commercial ends dramatically with the words “The Cubs Are Coming …’’ If it had been rolled out during any of the previous three seasons, the phrase would have been properly completed with, “… Quick, Cover Your Eyes!’’
But it’s just about perfect for a franchise that seems to be on the verge of something.
The spot starts with the voice of Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations: “There’s a day coming when all of our young talent will be here. There’s a day coming when we’ll have fully learned how to win. It’s coming, and it’s exciting.’’
There’s no doubt the commercial will launch all sorts of one-liners, but the message is spot on: After all the pain of the rebuilding years, something’s happening, and it’s no joke. That’s fair, isn’t it? No matter how far away you might think the Cubs are from contending, there’s forward momentum at the major-league level.
The Cubs are coming, finally.
Here come Joe Maddon, Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler, Javy Baez, Jake Arrieta and Dexter Fowler, among others.
And Kris Bryant soon. He’s actually in the commercial, though very, very briefly in a rapid-fire montage at the end. If the Cubs had gotten their hands on it during the production stage, they probably would have added a subliminal message above their top prospect’s head: “Buy your season tickets while you still can!’’ if not “Two words: Babe Ruth.”
So the Cubs are coming to life, and it’s about time. It’s not like their fans have all century. Well, maybe they do, but let’s not let the dark past have its way here and now.
The Cubs Are Coming …
There’s meaning in the ellipsis. A call to arms is in those three dots. So is the suggestion that opponents might want to take notice. “Stay tuned’’ is certainly in there. Remember, it’s an ad for a TV station. We don’t know how the story is going to play out, but we’re going to pay attention to it. This could be great or — and here comes the past barreling at you — it could be a huge disappointment.
Fan attitude has gone through several phases over the years. The first one could be called the Odie Phase, with a nod to the happy, slobbering dog in the “Garfield’’ comic strip. Fans were content with whatever slop was ladled on to their plate in the knowledge that the following season surely would be better. There wasn’t much in the way of animosity. The combination of sun and beer seemed to have a numbing effect. This phase lasted decades.
The second phase began in 2004, when the team fell apart miserably at the end of the regular season. Fans had seen enough. A real anger set in. People wanted more than sun and beer, though they continued to soak that in too. It was if they had finally woken up from a 100-year slumber. Much booing ensued. Soon, empty seats began multiplying.
We’re in the middle of the third phase, which I would call the Post-Cynical Phase. It started with Epstein’s hiring in 2011. It’s filled with hope, but a smarter kind of hope than its country cousin from previous decades, which went by the name of “Rube.’’ A lot of intelligent people believe that the Cubs have built this team the right way, and they are on board in a big way.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting. When Maddon orders his first infield shift, sending 1,000 aroused metrics freaks to their Cubs-themed bedrooms for a “seventh-inning stretch,’’ we’ll know we’re in a different place.
There are skeptics out there, and you know where to find one of them. But much of my skepticism stems from seeing so many prospects with glittering minor-league stats fail in the big leagues. Let’s see what these kids can do before we schedule vacation time during the World Series, any World Series.
Opening Day can’t come soon enough. When Will Ferrell’s visit to spring-training camps gets gavel-to-gavel coverage, you know it’s time for real games. If there were veterans begging the actor to stay another week, no one would have been surprised.
The only laughs the Cubs received the past three years were at the expense of their record – a combined 86 games under .500. This time, the enthusiasm is real and meaningful. That’s because the fruits of the rebuilding process finally seem to be upon us.
Let’s see action.