“Every man for himself is not going to work. It’s time to start organizing. We need to figure out how we’re going to survive here. Now, I found water. Fresh water, up in the valley. I’ll take a group in at first light. If you don’t want to go, then find another way to contribute. Last week most of us were strangers. But we’re all here now. And God knows how long we’re going to be here. But if we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone.” - Jack Shephard
I have generally avoided using this space to pontificate on things personal and outside of baseball. I figure you all come here to read about the Cubs, not my thoughts on health care reform. And for a guy who has an obsession with the television show LOST that is equaled only by his obsession with the Cubs, it’s hard not to go off about the show from time to time. Warning: this is one of those times.
But the truth is, this post is as much about the Cubs as it is about LOST. The parallels weaving their way through the show, the Chicago Cubs, and Cubs fandom are worth at least one, little article as we approach tonight’s premiere of the much-anticipated final season and dramatic conclusion of LOST. The article’s a bit longer than our usual fare here at Bleacher Nation, but I think it’s worth your time if you’re a fan of the Cubs or a fan of the show.
Sometimes I think about being a Chicago Cubs fan as being a part of a very large community; a part of, but insulated from the rest of the world. Deep down, we know there is something special about being a Cubs fan. Something that places us – for better or worse – on an island in the world of sports fandom. And without getting too heavy-handed, I can’t be alone in feeling, as I watch the Cubs sputter year after year, that I’ve just survived a plane crash. Barely.
Someday we’d find rescue – someday we’ll go all the way, and all that – but for now, the world watches on with guilty pleasure as we struggle against the cosmic forces, so clearly aligned against us. Never was this more true than in 2003, whose playoffs could have been ripped straight from the first season of LOST.
As the Cubs put away the Atlanta Braves and quickly went up 3-1 against the Florida Marlins in the NLCS, for us it felt as it must have for the castaways watching the raft head out to sea. Smiles all around. Happy music playing in the background. Is it really going to happen? Could it really be this easy? Are we really going to be saved?
No, of course not. It was only Season One for LOST, and only Season 95 for us. We stared on in horror as the Cubs coughed up the 3-1 series lead to the Marlins, highlighted by the Game Six disintegration not unlike – oh, I don’t know – a raft exploding ingloriously in the open ocean at the mercy of some devious “Others” and a home-made explosive.
Defeated and despondent, the rafters made their way back to what was quickly becoming a new island home. From there, all the castaways really did was mark the time – in 108-minute increments, to be precise – because surely no one expected rescue any time soon. And even as the 2004 Chicago Cubs continued winning games, adding Nomar Garciaparra along the way, did any of us really expect a championship? And after the late 2004 choke job, did any of us expect anything better in 2005? No – we, too, were simply marking time.
A listlessness settled in the show’s third season, the initial dreadfulness of which was rivaled only by the Cubs’ dreadful 2006 season. After the heartbreak of 2003 and 2004, how could Cubs fans be any less listless? To LOST’s credit, the show pulled a massive 180 in the middle of Season Three, barreling forward to one of the most impressive conclusions a television fan could ever hope for.
And still LOST’s survivors, like Cubs fans, remained powerless to save themselves, subject to the whims of unseen gods, dueling behind the scenes.
Then, for two seasons, the survivors of Oceanic 815 were teased with the prospect of rescue. A vessel just off shore? A helicopter? New cast members were on the way to save the day! But whether it was Daniel Faraday and Miles Straume, or Kosuke Fukudome and Rich Harden, the new folks simply couldn’t fill the shoes of savior. And just as the Oceanic Six could taste freedom, only to be violently ripped back to the Island by an ironic combination of choice and fate, we allowed ourselves to fantasize – if just for a moment – about the possibility of a championship. It tasted sweet.
Two humbling, painful playoff sweeps later and we knew we were foolish to believe our torment could end without the kind of dramatic climax befitting the finale of a show like LOST. A World Series wasn’t just going to come along – something incredible and historic would have to happen along the way to push the Cubs past the metaphysical headwinds they face.
It is probably no coincidence that the producers of LOST made Jack Shephard a Boston Red Sox fan, and used his fandom as a predicate to tug at his beliefs about fate. The Red Sox, of course, unlike the Cubs, had seen their dramatic climax – becoming the first team in history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit, against the hated Yankees no less – and a World Series championship, therefore, was a foregone conclusion. Naturally, they won it with a sweep. If it had been a television show, we would have scoffed at the lack of realism.
So where does that leave us? On the doorstep of the most anticipated series finale in television history? Perhaps. But as Cubs fans, it leaves us somewhere slightly less hopeful. The 2009 season certainly gave us very little to be excited about in 2010, and neither has the team’s offseason moves provided an emotional spark.
Still – we’ll get excited. It’s what we do as fans of the Chicago Cubs. We might even get more excited for Opening Day than we are for tonight’s season premiere of LOST. We’ll continue to cheer, to lose ourselves in the drama, and to hope. Like survivors of a plane crash, marooned on a desolate island while the rest of the world blissfully carries on, we can do little but stare out to the horizon looking for salvation.
And now we come full circle to Jack’s speech, which spoke to me not only as a LOST fan, but also as a Cubs fan.
Every Cub for himself is not going to work. It’s time for the team to start organizing. And we, as fans, need to figure out how we’re going to survive here. Now, I found Old Style. Fresh Old Style, up at concessions. I’ll take a group in the first inning. If you don’t want to go, then find a hot dog vendor. Before we became Chicago Cubs fans, most of us were strangers. But we’re all here now. And God knows how long we’re going to be here. If the Chicago Cubs can’t find a way to win together, then I am confident that we are all going to die alone – without rescue, and without a championship.
Exhale. And now onto a lighter LOST/Chicago Cubs crossover – because cheese is obligatory, and hey, it’s fun.
Ever wonder who the current members of the Chicago Cubs would be if they were characters on LOST? No? Well, I do. I guess you think you’re better than me now, huh? Well, that’s only true if you stop reading right now.
Ah ha! You’re hooked. And a nerd. So let’s get on with it: a smattering of Chicago Cubs as LOST characters.
Carlos Zambrano is … Benjamin Linus. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Or is he just crazy? You never really know what you’re going to get with him when he’s been tasked with leading the team on a given day. The main difference? Ben Linus is often on the receiving end of beatings whereas Carlos Zambrano is usually dishing them out.
Carlos Silva is … Hugo “Hurley” Reyes. He’s a big fat guy, and no one’s really sure if he’s ever going to contribute actual substance. He’s got a sketchy background, complete with incidents that would make anyone question his sanity. Of course, Silva’s recent ERA is big enough to dwarf both of them. Maybe at least Silva will fall down a few times, or something, and provide some much-needed comic relief.
Milton Bradley is … Michael Dawson. He’s a backstabbing douche who finally got what was coming to him: a one-way ticket outta here. The big difference? Michael’s atrocities were motivated by an all-consuming desire to save his son. Bradley’s atrocities were motivated by a warped desire to save face.
Kosuke Fukudome is … Daniel Faraday. What, you thought I was going to say Jin or Sun? You’re racist. I kid, I kid. No, Fukudome is Farraday because he starts off so well, and then he simply forgets how to hit. And Fukudome is probably good at math and physics and stuff. Oh crap, now I’m racist.
Starlin Castro is … Walt Dawson. A wunderkind with abilities that seem to come out of nowhere, Castro blew up this year. That was not unlike Walt appearing to John Locke in a vision, mystically blown up in size (well, mystically, and by virtue of the actor’s, you know, puberty).
Ted Lilly is … Sayid Jarrah. He’s a certified badass whose health status is currently in question. He leads by example, and I’m fairly certain he could be every bit the torturer that Sayid is.
Mike Fontenot is … Charlie Pace. One word: hobbit. ‘Nuff said.
Jim Hendry is … Jacob. He’s the one ultimately pulling the strings behind the scenes, but to what end? Is he working to make things better, or does he have a more sinister plot? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s really trying to improve things, or if he’s being foiled by his own hubris or stupidity. For Jim Hendry’s sake, let’s hope things end up a little better than they have so far for Jacob.
Ryan Theriot is … Kate Austen. He’s always running around like an idiot, just trying to help. He thinks he’s worth way more than he actually is, but damn if he doesn’t look great sunning himself on the beach.
Aramis Ramirez is … Claire Littleton. Everything was cool, he was doing fine, contributing to the team, and then out of nowhere, he just vanished last year. Word is, he’s coming back this season, which is cool because he’s hot. Er, she’s hot. Yes. That’s what I meant.
Derrek Lee is … Jack Shephard. He’s the leader of the team, with an unassailable desire to save his friends (usually from throwing errors). Does Lee have a pill addiction? Probably not. But I know he can grow an incredible scruff-beard.
Geovany Soto is … James “Sawyer” Ford. Among Cubs fans, he’s had an up and down image. Sometimes a hero, sometimes a goat, but he’s always got sweet facial hair. Bonus, Geo pulled a long con on Cubs fans by getting us to believe that he was a top notch hitter instead of a secretly fat guy who liked to smoke weed.
Alfonso Soriano is … John Locke. He’s bald, getting older, and has gimpy legs. We also haven’t heard from him in a while and he may or may not be dead. Imbued with a sense that he’s here for a greater purpose, he always seems to come up just short. And you can be sure: by the time Alfonso Soriano’s deal with the Cubs is up in 2014, he’ll be in a wheelchair.