I confess to not getting it, at all, but clearly the Cubs seem to be the enemy-du-jour for Reds fans. Certainly that's the take I get looking at this board's reaction to the Cubs. We disagree about lots of things around here, but most everyone seems to take particular delight in beating the Cubs.
But why the Cubs have become the new Dodgers is something that leaves me baffled.
For instance, the Reds-Dodgers rivalry was built around constantly warring for the NL West over the course of two decades. It was built around there being something at stake.
Yet what have the Reds and Cubs ever battled over? You pretty much have to go back to Hod Eller vs. Hippo Vaughn to find a time when both teams managed to be simultaneously relevant. Or maybe we're still angry about the whole King Kelly deal.
Have the Cubs had an easy-to-hate team in recent years? Well, Dusty Baker can work a nerve, but people didn't seem to hate the Giants when he spent a decade in San Francisco. Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace were personable, easy-going guys. Sammy Sosa, roids or no, was a generally congenial, happy guy. He didn't get along with Dusty so well, but wouldn't that wind up in the plus column for most folks? Derrek Lee? Nice guy. Nomar Garciaparra? Nice guy, cute wife. Todd Walker? Hell of a nice guy. Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano? Well, I'm jealous, but that's about it. Kyle Farnsworth? Sure he was a jerky guy, but he was a short-timer and he was right when he called the Reds a second division club.
So maybe it's the fans. I've got to admit, being from the east coast, I don't bump into a lot of Cubs fans, though the ones I've known have been generally good-natured about how lousy the franchise has been for the past half century. Maybe I'm meeting the exceptions, but I vastly prefer the pathology of the Cubs fans I've met than the Phillies fans I've known (and often am related to).
Though Cubs fans do seem to take over the GAB these days when the Baby Bears are in town. I'm not sure what's so wrong with that. So they care enough to show up. Seems to me that the GAB turning into a homefield advantage for Chicago says at least as much about Reds fans as Cubs fans.
Then there's geography. Chicago's close to Cincinnati and in the same division. Then again, Pittsburgh's closer and the Reds actually have a history with the Pirates. Plus, the Cubs have a rival. They and the Cardinals are mortal enemies. It's one of the best rivalries in sports in terms of fan intensity. Kind of bad form to be chasing after a married franchise like that. The Reds will never be more than a fling for Cubs fans. In fact the Reds might never be more than second runnerup because Milwaukee's just a hop, skip and jump away from Chi Town.
And that gets me to market size. Chicago's a big city, a cosmopolitan city, and it dominates the midwest. As I once heard someone say, "You don't fly over Chicago." Of course if you're on a Delta/Comair flight you don't fly over Cincinnati (or at least northern Kentucky, but I digress). Good or bad, Chicago teams get inordinate attention. The city has a sports media horde that probably outnumbers the sum total of the other five cities in the NL Central. So I can understand the "Shut up already about your lousy franchise" reflex. That said, small market fans making a to-do over the nearest big market is a little too much like locker room envy for my tastes. It's like saying, "Take your skyline, your nightlife and your international prominence and shove it." I've known Red Sox fans who react that way to New York, not the Yankees, the city. It always comes across as desperate and hollow when I run across it.
As you can tell, I'm still groping for why this Cubs thing has developed. I'd really like to see the Reds and Indians get in the same division somehow. Then the club would have itself a rival worth sinking your teeth into.