Did we get the wrong egomaniac when we got Soriano? Seems like we might have been better served putting our money on Manny Ramirez. Then again, he would have been a Cub, so... --Frank J. Palumbo, Cicero, Ill.
Look, it's a long way until mid-February, and the long-range forecast for Chicago calls for a colder than average winter. Sorry, Cubs fans, but let's face it. You're in for a miserable four months before pitchers and catchers report. This is not your year.
But some of us veterans have gone through this a time or two before. We know how to get through a post-collapse winter without spending hour after hour moping about the seven walks, the round-the-horn errors, or waking up in the middle of the night crying: 'Oh-no-Soriano,' like Frank probably will do.
To help the poor, the tired and the afflicted, we've developed an easy, nine-step program to help get Cubs fans through the nuclear winter of '08-'09. Just print this list, tape it to your fridge, follow the directions as written, and your mental health with eventually stabilize by next spring.
1. Take all your Cubs paraphernalia -- jerseys, T-shirts, "It's Gonna Happen" posters, "This is the Year" books and other reminders of the Chicago National League Baseball Team -- and get them completely out of sight. This includes photos of friends and relatives wearing Cubs stuff. Put them in a closet, or down in the basement, or under the mattress... anyplace where they won't be in your line of sight on a daily basis.
2. Erase the videotape, or delete the TiVo, of Games 1, 2, and 3. Save the comeback game against the Brewers where Geovany Soto hit the three-run homer in the ninth, save Big Z's no-hitter at Miller Park, and save Ted Lilly's collision with Yadier Molina that woke the Cubs up from their mid-September malaise. You can revisit those glorious moments some day next summer. Just make a promise to yourself not to watch any Cubs-related tape until after April 6, 2009.
3. Put the V-Chip on ESPN Classic, which frequently shows programs relating to the Cubs, which is considered a "cursed" franchise by East Coast network executives (and apparently the chairman of the Cubs). The grainy video of the black cat is an ESPN Classic staple. Don't watch this channel.
4. Cancel your subscription to Sports Illustrated. It was one thing to put Kosuke Fukudome on the cover with the headline "It's Gonna Happen." But then the national sports magazine came back in September with a cover story perpetuating every imaginable stereotype of the loud, inebriated, overdramatic Cub fan. Jinx me once, shame on you. Jinx me twice, shame on me.
5. Stop going into Cubs chat rooms and reading Cubs-related blogs, including Desipio, Goat Riders, Bleed Cubbie Blue, Thunder Matt and, of course, Hardball. (But please wait until you finish reading this before you stop reading Hardball). Cubs fans love to vent, and there is no better place for venting than in the comments section of a blog, wherever everybody knows you by your fake name. Reading this will only cause excess angst. Just to be safe, hit the power button on your laptop if you see the word "Cubs" on your monitor.
6. Write a letter to yourself relating your feelings at this particular moment in time. Place it in a sealed envelope and write "Do Not Open Until Opening Day" with a black Sharpie. Put the envelope in a drawer you don't often use. When April 6 arrives and you remember you'd written yourself a letter, you will spend hours of fun going from room to room trying to remember where you put it.
7. Boycott sports-talk radio. Even though the Bears will eventually take over as the No. 1 topic, the Cubs will always come up in some conversation, comparing a dropped pass to a Cubs error, or Lovie Smith to Lou Piniella. You'll thank us later.
8. Cancel your reservations to next January's 2009 Cubs Convention. Yes, this will be the mother of all Cubs Conventions, with everyone back together for the first time since the collapse. Bloggers are probably already forming a line in the Boulevard Room of the Chicago Hilton to grill Jim Hendry and Piniella in their Q&A. You won't want to be there to re-visit the past. Get rid of your tickets now, or forever hold you peace.
9. Stop sending e-mails about the Cubs collapse to Ask Paul or to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will not only preserve your mental health, but his as well. Have a pleasant off-season, and thanks for all the relevant questions.