White Flag Warriors

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By Paul Schmidt

“We’d rather make our children
martyrs than murderers
We’d rather make our children
White Flag Warriors…”

–“White Flag Warriors,” Flobots, featuring Tim McIlrath of Rise Against

With apologies to the Flobots, whose song White Flag Warriors (I think) is about a generation who would rather not fight the wars our government is sending us to and parents who don’t want their children going to these wars, they have inadvertently written what I propose to be the theme song to the 2010 Chicago Cubs.

Non-Chicagoans are probably thinking…”What????”  Let me explain. Former Cubs announcer Chip Caray, the grandson of legendary announcer Harry Caray, took to saying, after home Cubs wins, ‘White flag time at Wrigley!” The White Flag refers to the flags that are raised on the flagpoles on top of Wrigley Field’s scoreboard, the white “W” flag in the event of a win, the blue “L” flag in the event of a loss.

This tradition dates back to the 1938, when the team would fly the flags over the scoreboard to let commuters on Chicago’s elevated-train Red Line know the outcome of that day’s game. The original flags were actually reversed in their color scheme — a blue flag with a white W originally told the tale of a win, with a white flag with a blue L denoting the loss — or, quite literally, waving the white flag of surrender. The flags were replaced in the 1980’s and the colors were reversed.

Flash-forward to 2010, and hundreds of flags are waved by ecstatic fans after games while singing, “Go, Cubs Go.”

We truly have become a nation of White Flag Warriors.

The games never seem to come easy. In fact, it seems like every day’s game is a battle, a battle against history, against time, against non-existent curses and above all else against precedence.

The crowds have to constantly battle derision from other teams’ fandom, whether it is that they are just a bunch of drunks, or completely uninformed about baseball. Despite this, win or lose, the team is at or near the top of attendance in the National League, despite having one of the league’s smallest stadiums. They know when their team needs praise, and when they need to hear the criticism. They, we, are loyal to a fault.

“Like swords in the war , let me bleed on that
But they feed on that , so we need strong backs
Crawler’s weakened or redeemed contracts
But the speech wont last when the beast attacks
The sons and the fathers will be free at last
This is love , It’s not treason…”

So the question becomes, why do we persevere? Why do we put ourselves through this? With the Cubs currently mired in a losing streak in Pittsburgh of all places, it’s a good one to ask.

It’s so that those sons and fathers will be free at last. Free from the label of “Lovable Losers” that we so dutifully carry around, not as a badge of honor, but as a the necessary offshoot of all of our losing. We cannot shed that “Lovable Losers” label until we are losers no more.

An even better question — one I had to pose to myself — was why do we subject our kids to this? I recently took my son to his first Cubs game.  At the time of the game he was five months old. The Cubs lost. Better to get them indoctrinated into the culture of losing as quickly as possible, right?

In all seriousness, he obviously didn’t know what was going on. But Cubs’ fandom is more than just rooting for a team. It’s about passing that love of a team down, from grandfathers to fathers to children. It’s about pulling for something greater than you as a unit with 40,000 others. It’s about being loyal beyond winning, being loyal despite not having that World Series Title. It’s a life lesson, one that is so much more important than baseball itself.

Maybe it’s somewhat cruel to expose my son to that…he did, however, make it the full nine innings. He cried when an opposing player hit a home run. He watched the game intently.

In other words, maybe he knew a little more about what was going on.

Maybe he is one of the White Flag Warriors after all.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    And he no doubt knows more about baseball than most of the cub fans in the bleachers! – heyyo…ok that was lame to use the old stereotype people use to deride cub fans.

    Cuz I know plenty of baseball geeks, sabermetricians, seamheads etc that are within the umbrella of cub nation

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