Michael Glab moved to Louisville, Kentucky, early last year, but like many a displaced Chicagoan he found a way to stay close to the city and his family and friends through his connection with the Cubs.
He also found that the Cubs, with their ignominious history, were connected up in his mind with his own personal history of clinical depression. His attempt to explore that connection in a season-diary format produced his first book, Coping With the Cubs: A Life of Depression, a Year of Hope. In an era of best-selling confessionals, it would seem a natural subject, especially given the Cubs' depressing performance this fall, when, yet again, it was supposed to be "the year."
Was the writing therapeutic? "It kept me up with Chicago," Glab says, "and moving to another state and city is a lonely experience. And it just made me think that I still had friends and family right with me. My Cubs were right there."
For better or worse, but mostly—well, you know how that one goes where the Cubs are concerned. And that's the way Glab's temperament has tended to go, from growing up in the Gresham neighborhood and falling in love with the 1969 Cubs at 13 to moving downtown and working as a writer, contributing to the Reader, among other publications—living and dying with the team while suffering from catatonia and the other debilitating symptoms of depression he chronicles.
Published electronically and available through ebookmall.com, Coping With the Cubs opens by offering "Hope for the Hopeless" in the form of the mantra, "I'm gonna kill myself." Acknowledging that the pain could end is intended somehow to be comforting to Cubs fans. "Welcome to my weird, weird world of optimism," Glab writes.
From there he relates a tale of suffering that makes the mantra look even grimmer. Glab writes about nearly slashing his wrists in 1979, and contemplating suicide by touching the third rail of the el in 1983. He discusses panic attacks and a fear of bridges that brought a road trip to a complete halt in the early 1990s.
Glab's psychic history is interwoven with secondhand baseball news gleaned from the Web and rehashings of the daily ups and downs of Cubs Rich Hill and Jacque Jones during the 2007 season. Talk about morbid fascination.
Will this strange stew resonate with the way Cubs fans are feeling now? "My guess is a lot of people are going to say, 'This guy's an idiot.' And they're right," Glab says. "And I also think a lot of people are going to say, 'I feel the exact same way.'
"Look," he adds, "I don't believe in God, but for some bizarre reason I believe in the Cubs. What the hell is wrong with me? Being a Cubs fan is like being in an abusive relationship. Seriously. You get hurt. You get beaten up. And then there's the apology. And then there's the promise to never do it again. And then there's all the wonderful treatment. 'Next time will be better.' But it all starts all over again. What the hell is wrong with us?"
Where a self-help book might try to wean its readers off the thing that's bringing them down, Glab doesn't even try. He says Cubs fans are paralyzed by the knowledge that "the year we abandon them is the year they'll win." The book ends on the old "wait till next year" note, and in conversation Glab falls back on the religious parallel.
"It's faith," he says. "Look, nobody can explain why they have faith in God. God is a totally irrational concept. So is this." He buys the idea that the human brain is hardwired to embrace such contradictions. "We have to have a belief system that we share that can't be explained," he says, "because our brains demand it."
Glab has found peace in Louisville thanks to a new love who prompted him to move there, and to Zoloft, so I ask if he thinks fans should be handed doses of the drug on their way into Wrigley Field, the same way concertgoers were recently given earplugs on their way in to the My Bloody Valentine reunion show at the Aragon.
"You know what? They get drunk," Glab says of Cubs fans. "You've got to self-medicate."v
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Coping With the Cubs: A Life of Depression, a Year of HopeMichael G. Glabebookmall.com, $6