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What do I expect as a Cub fan? It’s a question I ask myself from time to time. The answer is usually pretty bleak. I expect losing. I expect little support from upper management. A terrible and over-hyped farm system. I expect many people to attend games because they like “hanging out” at Wrigley Field.

And finally, I expect winning enough to get your hopes up and then destroyed.

But, the thing of it is, these expectations have started to change over the last few years.

Maybe it was the ’03 near return to the series; maybe it’s increased media coverage on everything sports including everything deemed ‘dynasty’ — but there has been a different feeling on the Northside the last few years.

This different feeling has been especially present in 2008. Losing has not been a big part of the equation at 29 over .500, that’s a fact. For the third straight year, Jim Hendry and upper management have made both the big off-season free agent acquisition and reasonably big trade deadline deals.

The Farm system has not only produced talent, it’s produced valuable talent: Zambrano, Wood, Theriot, Soto, Fontenot, Samardzija, Marmol, Marshall, Cedeno are all home grown. Fans still pack the house, but they actually pay attention as evidenced by standing ovations in the second inning and a chorus of booos when Bob Howry can’t hold a lead. The ‘08 Cubs have changed my expectations this year. They’ve changed it with their performance on the field, something practically unheard of outside of ‘84, ‘45, and 1908.

They’ve changed them all except for one: I still expect that they will win enough to get our hopes up only to see those hopes destroyed. That expectation has yet to be changed. It’s the final question on our minds, the wonderment that crosses in a passing thought when thinking about October 2008.

Will this be the year that Cubbie dreams are not destroyed?

Looking at how tight the Cubs played this week, a week in which they went 1-5 and looked like they were playing not to lose, one might still wonder if Cub fans are eternally doomed to endure hope crushing endings and/or simply quit and throw in the towel on their Cubbie relationship.

It was a disappointing week. I think about the ’05 White Sox’s September slump that almost cost them the playoffs and the shower of relief after the regular season that then catapulted them to a 12-1 playoff run to the title. I think about a four game lead in the division and an 8 game lead in the wildcard with 19 games to go. I look at the remaining schedule and wonder about Big Z’s shoulder.

No, the final expectation can only be changed in one way.

Playing tight with a lead in September is nothing new. The Diamondbacks are doing it, so are the Brewers and Tampa Bay. Is this year different?

The answer is yes because for the first time in 100 years, to those who actually care, anything less than a World Series title will be unacceptable.

C’mon Cubbies: change our expectations.

Cubs Magic Number: 16