SAN FRANCISCO — I’m not sure how many Cubs fans will be in the Bay Area for Game 3 (and perhaps Game 4) of the National League Division Series against the Giants.
But if we know anything, it’s that Cubs fans are legion, they travel well and they are desperate.
The Cubs have played many away games through the years that you might have thought were being played at Wrigley Field, so numerous and vocal were their visiting fans.
Their day games and decades-long affiliations with WGN-TV and WGN radio cemented a huge following, not just in Chicago and the Midwest but across the whole United States, thanks to cable and a strong signal.
And then you have the bonding that occurs when people at first are fascinated by, then invested in, a team that can’t win it all.
So before we get to the fascinating matchup between Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta and Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner on Monday, here’s a tip to Cubs fans everywhere: Try to enjoy this!
Try to have a good time as the Cubs shuffle down this road to maybe the mountaintop or maybe . . . well, you know, off a cliff. Because it’s supposed to be fun, isn’t it? Even — yes, it could happen — the splat we’ve heard before.
But they’re up two games to none, which means the Giants have to win three in a row to move on, so what more could you want?
Yes, Bumgarner is a stud, maybe the best postseason pitcher of all time. He moves his pitches all over, and he is a bearded, fearsome-looking fellow who literally seems to want to punch out batters. Plus, he’ll be pitching on his home field.
But what is Arrieta, chopped goat liver? Do you recall he won the NL Cy Young Award last season and wasn’t too shabby this season, either, with 18 victories and a 3.10 ERA?
All pitchers have bad games, you know. Even Bumgarner. And don’t forget that Arrieta in 6-0 with a 0.20 ERA in California the last two seasons.
But that really isn’t the point, either. It’s this: If the Cubs were to go all the way and win the World Series for the first time in four-plus generations, and you were miserable the whole way because of fear or emotional distance created because you didn’t think your heart could withstand another shattering, that would be sad.
Of course, it’s hard to forget the past moments of letdown. Keep them in your pocket like a worry stone.
But the Cubs have won a combined 200 regular-season games in the last two seasons. In 2012-13, they lost a combined 197. I understand the nervous faces in Games 1 and 2 at Wrigley, all those lifelong fans who are as terrified as they are hopeful.
I doubt it will be like that for Giants fans at AT&T Park. Three World Series titles in the last six seasons, with the possibility of a fourth this season? This isn’t struggle for those folks; this is piling on.
The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, and it happened so fast after their crazy early thrashing of the defending champion Red Sox that I don’t think Sox fans fully enjoyed it.
Don’t let that happen to you this season, Cubs fans. Be happy, folks.
As Chicagoan Nelson Algren said: The end is nothing; the journey is all.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.