I've spent over three decades watching the Chicago Cubs lose baseball games. Along the way I realized having my heart break and reassemble (over and over) has been great training for fatherhood. If you can look into the eyes of an idealistic young boy in an unfair world and explain to him the Bartman incident, the ground ball through Leon Durham's legs, or the black cat at Shea Stadium, then you can talk with him about anything. So, here are five ways being a Cubs fan has made me a better father.
1) It Prepares You For Life's Tests. Your kid is amazing, but everybody falls down. Even Ryne Sandberg made the occasional error. Your job is to teach them how to get back up. Maybe Jolene doesn't make the basketball team, or Bernard is relegated to second chair oboist or Mark Walsh breaks your little girl's heart. Sometimes a fan figuratively or literally interferes with a foul ball in your figurative or literal NLCS Game 6 when you are five outs from the figurative or literal World Series. You can let it ruin you or you can overcome it (and teach your kids to do the same). You know why?
2) Because Parenting Is More Than One Play. The Cubs didn't miss out on the World Series because of Steve Bartman, Leon Durham, or a cat (or a goat). A game and a series are made up of many moments, like Alex Gonzalez booting a sure double play moments later that would have preserved the lead. You won't be a success or a failure as a parent because of one moment; it's your body of work that matters. Kids want you to try hard, do your best, and be around. We're all going to boot double play balls, the key is to make sure that Derrek Lee doesn't tie the game in his next at-bat because we're so focused on what we did wrong ... or because we never developed coping skills because we're Yankee fans.
3) It Teaches You How to Commit. We live in an age of instant gratification. We want it streamed to us on five screens RIGHT NOW ... with DONUTS ... for FREE! Cubs fans have waited over a century. So when they do win it'll be that much better. Admit it, you'd rather be in Chicago when the Cubs win than in New York the next 12 times the Yankees win. Being a parent is all about the long haul. The secret to getting people to commit? Passion. Passion is contagious and Cubs fans are passionate. You won't believe Javier Baez's bat speed or Kris Bryant's maturity or Jorge Soler's hamstrings! Share your passions and show your kids the value and satisfaction that comes from long-term commitment.
4) It Teaches You the Power of Optimism. Cubs fans are born with a hope gene. We are also born with a "whatever would be the most soul crushing way to lose this game is sure to happen" gene. We prefer to focus on the first. Instilling the idea in your child that anything is possible -- that he or she can do or be anything -- is tough. So show them that you truly believe in the impossible, like that the Cubs will win the World Series some day despite an overwhelming body of evidence that proves otherwise. I'm not blind to the vast differences between us and the Cardinals and Yankees. But I still believe. Don't give your kids false hope, but if passion is contagious, then hope is soul quenching. If I share my hopes, then maybe, just maybe, they will realize that they can do something they didn't think possible.
5) It Teaches Your Kids To Define Success For Themselves. The Cubs will lose 100 games this year, but it can still be a successful season. Young players will gain valuable experience, Starlin Castro might draw a walk, there's the trade deadline, and we'll have another top pick in next year's Draft. I'm not advocating low standards or eliminating ambition, but we too often look to others for validation. Teach your kids to define success for themselves. That definition can change -- success for the 2014 Cubs looks a lot different than success for the 2018 Cubs (that's the year!) -- but it should come from them (with lots of encouragement from you).
Being a Cubs fan is an investment, and one dividend is that it will make you a better parent. Plus your Octobers are usually wide open (so are your Septembers and Augusts ... and pretty much everything after Spring Training). Optimism in the face of failure teaches you that it's okay to mess up sometimes if your heart is in the right place, because you know what? Maybe if they win 60 of the next 62 games the Cubs can do it this year. You never know.
Matt Fotis is an assistant professor of theatre at Albright College in Reading, Pa., where he is quite possibly the only Cubs fan. He is the author of "My Fragile Family Tree: Stories of Fathers & Sons." This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.