Cole Hamels — a native of San Diego, who had pitched in the major leagues for Philadelphia and Texas before being acquired by the Chicago Cubs on July 28 — declared on Labor Day that Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers is “not a rivalry yet.”
“I know the rivalries I’ve had in the past, you can definitely feel it,” Hamels said. “When you have majority Cubs fans in the stands, I don’t know if that’s a rivalry yet.”
Mr. Hamels, you’ve been a Cub for what, 5 minutes?
Maybe you should spend a little more time here in the Upper Midwest before you render judgment.
Those of us who have been here since 1998, the year the Brewers joined the National League, can assure you that yes, this is a rivalry. It’s Packers-Bears on the baseball diamond, with fans of both teams on the “wrong side of the border.” Around here, we all know somebody who’s a Cubs fan, just as we know Packers fans on the other side of the state line.
It is true that when the team from Chicago pays a visit to Miller Park, Cubs fans do seem to take over the place.
We can’t blame them, especially the ones who live in Lake County, Ill., or have Wisconsin license plates: If you could see the Cubs play without having to fight Chicago traffic, pay the steep prices on the secondary ticket market or deal with the utter shortage of parking near Wrigley Field, wouldn’t you? In Milwaukee, a “traffic jam” means you might have to slow down to 30 on the Interstate; once you get to Miller Park, there are literally thousands of parking spaces surrounding the stadium.
As for the deficit in Brewers fans at Miller Park for games with the Cubs, we have a couple of working theories:
- While the vast majority of Cubs fans who turn up at Miller Park are there just to cheer for their team and have a good time, it only takes a handful of loudmouths, looking to antagonize anybody wearing blue and gold, to ruin the experience. We’ve talked to fans of the Brew Crew who say they don’t want to go to a Brewers-Cubs game because of obnoxious Cubs fans.
- We suspect that Brewers season-ticket holders are turning a profit by selling their tickets to the Cubs games on that secondary market. If you’ve ever bought tickets to a sold-out event, you know the websites of which we write. If you’ve watched a Cubs-at-Brewers game on TV, recall how much Cub gear you’ve seen people wearing when they show the fans behind and alongside the dugouts. Those are the choice season-ticket seats, and they don’t end up in the hands of obvious Cubs fans unless a Brewers season-ticket holder put them up for sale.
Of course, memories for both teams’ fans are still fresh with regard to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, when we heard all about “Fly the W:” Cubs fans everywhere displayed white flags with big blue Ws on them, following the practice of the team with the flagpole atop the Wrigley scoreboard when the Cubs win. When the Cubs lose, a blue flag with a giant L is flown.
Brewers fans hope they don’t have to wait 108 years — the span between the two most recent Cubs championships — to see a World Series win for their team. But from 1998 through the 2014 season, the Brewers had as many postseason victories as Cubs: Six each. So it’s not as if the Cubs have a long history of being superior to the Brew Crew.
This season didn’t start well for the Brewers with regard to the Cubs, losing seven of the first eight games between the two.
But last week the Brewers kept themselves in the driver’s seat for the top wild-card playoff spot by winning two games out of three against the Cubs, including an 11-1 rout on Sept. 4.
On the night of that blowout win, we hope Mr. Hamels noticed the visual proof that this is most definitely a rivalry.
He couldn’t have missed it, hanging as it was above the TGIFriday’s restaurant beyond the left-field fence: It was 25-by-15-foot blue flag with a white L on it.
The standard definition of “Cubs lose.”
The owner of the flag, Jay Ryan, 29, of DeForest, Wis., said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report that he’d had it made overseas with the intent of displaying it a Brewers-Cubs game.
“As soon as I heard the Cole Hamels (comments), I had to go to the game,” Ryan said. ‘If you’re going to say that, I’m going to go.’”
So yes, it’s a rivalry.