Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza pauses during a break in play against the Washington Nationals during the third inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 7, 2011, at Nationals Park in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
"Just one game at a time."
It's the most annoying cliché in sports, isn't it?
I think it's probably taught at whatever seminar to which team officials bring rookies before they start their careers.
"Just say this, kid, whenever you can, and no one will ever get angry with you," is what it seems they say.
I think I get it now though. There is some truth behind it. It doesn't fit in all the thousands of areas that it's applied, but it has a place. As I alluded to earlier this week, this is the first lost baseball season for Chicago in a while, or shaping up that way.
As for the Cubs -- my preference -- this is the first time the little hope I had was erased before the leaves were on the trees.
Despite what logic and practicality says, you can't totally shake the Cubs fan out of you. Every year, despite the raft of stats and predictions, you hold out hope that everything will go right and you'll have reason to watch. Losing streak in April? Plenty of time to get it back. Injured pitching staff? Well, all we have to do is stay afloat when those guys get back. No one hitting? Well, that can't last forever, right?
I gave up on all that about May 1st this year. It was pretty obvious that this ship wasn't getting out of the reef. And I spent a couple days, combined with no local hockey, in a depression. What was I going to do if I couldn't waste my time watching sports?
The answer is obvious: Continue wasting my time.
Sure, these games no longer have a context for the whole season. The Cubs are going nowhere, and they're getting there pretty fast (they'd need a fuzzbuster at this rate). But lately, I just enjoy each game for the event and that's it. Just that game.
Thursday night's comeback from eight runs down wasn't a harbinger of a charge up the standings that would be akin to William Wallace and his warrior poets. It was just an entertaining game to watch.
Matt Garza's pitching? Well, except for Thursday night, it's always entertaining. Is Starlin Castro learning to hit for more power? Will Darwin Barney get more patient? Can Geovany Soto start hitting for average to go with his on-base? Each day I tune in to watch that and more, and as soon as that game is over I move on. No longer do I worry about long-term meaning. It's like a TV show. It's over when it's over.
Baseball, for the true fan, is still worth watching, no matter if there's a lack of context. I have the MLB Network and ESPN when I need that.
No, this season won't end in glory. But it's still baseball, it's still the Cubs. I think it's still worth watching.