Mike Gold: The Real Fan


While watching the baseball game Saturday night, it occurred to me that the difference between pop culture and geek culture is sports. Sports are part of our pop culture but not generally thought of as a component of geek culture.

Our cohort Martha Thomases might say (I haven’t asked, but this seems to follow her logic) this is because when we were in high school the cool kids were into sports and the uncool kids were into comic books and science-fiction stuff, and we, the latter, were the ones who were called geeks. In recent years that line has been blurred significantly.

For example, take the ComicMix crew. Adriane Nash and I are hockey fans. Adriane and Robert Greenberger are New York Mets fans. Mindy Newell is a fan of the New York Giants football team and she is tired of my proselytizing that since they play in the Meadowlands they really should be called the New Jersey Giants. Marc Alan Fishman is a WWE fan, as is Mike Raub. Arthur Tebbel is a Yankees fan, or at least he used to be the last time the subject came up – which was about 15 years ago. Bob Ingersoll is a Cleveland Indians fan. John Ostrander and I are Chicago Cubs fans.

albert-spalding-premiumOh, oh. Well, it looks like Mr. Ingersoll, Mr. Ostrander and I will minimize our conversation for the next week or so… election notwithstanding. Then again, John and I were raised in an environment where politics and sports were indistinguishable.

John Ostrander and I are both Chicagoans, as is Marc Alan Fishman. John and I were raised on the north side, which means that being a Cubs fan is a matter of birthright as well as choice. And we both had a hell of a Saturday night, watching the Cubs win the National League pennant for the first time since, as Steve Goodman sang, “You know the law of averages says anything will happen that can… but the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.”

Not only did our beleaguered Cubbies win, but they won on a double-play and shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers with five runs. That’s the way to do it.

I’ve waited 71 years for this moment, which is five years longer than I’ve been alive. The only people who can readily appreciate that logic are comic book and Doctor Who fans (and John and I are both), scientists with degrees in theoretical physics, and Cubs fans.

As the game started the ninth inning, the cameras caught quite a number of people in the stands who were crying. Adriane later told me she was as well, and she’d only been to Wrigley Field two or three times – and one of them was to see a New Year’s Day hockey game (for which I shall remain forever grateful, but that’s an entirely different story). My own thoughts drifted over to my late aunt, Francis Goldberg.

Fran GoldbergAAunt Fran was born about a year after the Cubs had last won the world series; she lived 94 years. We were close, as everybody who knew her was close. She was smart, funny, and affable; the most worthy of role models. She was also the greatest Cubs fan I had ever met, and that says a lot. The last time I saw her was at a family function perhaps a year or so before her death. By this time she had succumbed to Alzheimer’s and she didn’t really recognize anybody in the room. However, she was no less intelligent, funny or affable

So I tried something. I asked her if she still followed the Cubbies. Aunt Fran took mock umbrage, as if I had asked her if she were still a woman. She began to rattle off how the Cubs did that season, proud that they had won the won the National League Central Division championship. And she went back through Cubs history, comparing contemporary events to earlier happenstance. I distinctly remember that if I had more time, she would probably take me back to the days of Albert Spalding, Cubs pitcher / manager / co-owner and sporting goods macher, circa 1876.

That, my friends, is a fan.

The story of the Chicago Cubs is the story of hope and promise. That’s always a vital story, that’s always a saga for our time, no matter when that time might be. I infuse that story with the spirit of my Aunt Francis Goldberg, who missed seeing the Cubs clench the pennant by a dozen years but never, ever had any doubt they would do just that.