When Shoeless Joe Jackson, the great left-fielding slugger who Babe Ruth credited for teaching him how to swing a bat, was indicted in 1919 for throwing the World Series, a tearful young fan pleaded with his hero in words that still echo across the eternal ball field: "Say it ain't so, Joe."
At least that's how the story has been told.
But whether history or legend, I felt the raw pain of this plaintive cry late Tuesday night when the first base ump snapped his right arm, tragically ending Chicago's 108-year dream of inspiration. Three days later, this market watcher is still numb and feeling more than a little hopeless.
Make no mistake about it. I'm not just some malcontent from Cleveland out to pop all the party balloons at Wrigley. Nor am I some sick psycho who somehow gets his jollies through endless innings of suffering and disappointment.
In truth, I'm a life-long Cubs fan who's been absolutely energized and encouraged, time and again, by the team's dogged sense of stubborn renewal. For more than a century, this motley crew of half-talented losers has persevered through prolonged losing streaks, roster-ripping trades, and seasons of dismal states with a unique, if sometimes maddening, tenacity.
"Winning isn't everything" has been all but embroidered on the back of every Cubbie blue jersey. Indeed, it's been exactly this sad but unwavering standard of relentless optimism that's inspired the much-challenged league of agriculture to keep showing up for spring practice.
One story in the annals of farming depicts an old wheat producer interviewed by the local paper. When asked to name the most profitable growing seasons in his career, the veteran has a ready answer: "1916 [when European production was destroyed in WWI, sending prices through the roof) and next year."
Along the same lines, Mari Sandoz dedicated her historical classic entitled "The Cattlemen" like this: "To the old-time hard-bitten, hard-driven cowmen, the greatest believers in next year, and the year after."
Everyone in agriculture -- from the seed-corn salesman to the rancher making bred heifers to the country banker cajoling examiners -- knows that "next year-ism" is a necessary way of life. And up until this week's victorious blunder, we could always count on the hapless Cubs to recklessly lead the charge into the scary future.
Maybe I'm making too much of this successful fluke. It's not like Chicago has embarked on the establishment of the next Yankee dynasty. With any luck, the Cubbies will quickly resume their heartening tradition of unvanquished failure.
So go ahead non-farm fans and teammates. Bask and frolic in your momentary sun. Just don't make it a habit.
For more from John see www.feelofthemarket.com
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