Anyone who knows me even moderately well knows that I am among the millions of long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans. My precious young daughters endured long, chilly April afternoons at Principal Park with dad watching the AAA Iowa Cubs play. They did, however, get to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame for a local news story about the ubiquitous “Businessman’s Special” (forgive the extremely poor VHS archive footage):
Taylor even dutifully went along with me on my first visit to Wrigley Field.
When Wendy and I married she allowed me the joy of teaching her about baseball, about the Cubs, and she has walked this journey with me for over a decade. She’s endured the chill winds blowing in at Wrigley with me. We try to watch or listen to every game, often recording it and watching it late if we have to, and planning our travel to the lake to coincide with Pat and Ron calling the game on the radio. My wonderful wife has become such a baseball fan that while I was on a business trip a few years ago she was watching all of the major league roster moves on the MLB network at the trade deadline and texting me up-to-the-minute news. Man, I love that woman.
Our family and friends have had to live with (endure, really) the reality that the Cubs are always on at our house. It’s just the way of life at both Vander Well Manor and our Playhouse at the lake. I’m happy to say, however, that more than a few have embraced our crazy. It’s been a blast to share the fun together.
Every year hope has sprung eternal. Opening day is a bit of an annual rite of passage at our house. Wendy has hot dogs, nachos, and cold beer ready. We put it on the calendar and make watching a priority.
I crank Eddie Vedder’s Someday We’ll Go All the Way and dream quietly that it just might be a day this year, this season.
Every autumn hope has ended with acute, even horrific, post season tragedy or the painfully slow, obtuse seasons in which there were far more losses than wins.
There’s been more sorrow than joy over the years, but it hasn’t really mattered. We still watch, listen, follow, cheer, scream, and cry. Then we grieve the long months of winter until the sounds of a Cubs game can once again resonate through Vander Well Manor each day.
Ask any Cubs fan and they’ll tell you that this season was special. There was something different about this crew of bear Cubs. There is the zen, hippie manager who organized pajama parties on road trips and petting zoos at practice. There are the expensive free agents that the front office were willing to sign. There are the talented free agents who passed up more money and longer contracts because they wanted to play for this team. The National League infield in the All-Star game were all Chicago Cubs. And, there were wins. A lot of wins. The “W” flag risked getting tattered from consistent exposure to the elements. We’d experienced some great seasons, but we’d never experienced a season like this season.
There’s this thing I’ve learned about hope when all you’ve experienced is disappointment. You want so desperately to give yourself wholly to dance with hope, but you’re always waiting for disappointment to show up, tap hope on the shoulder, and cut in. We’ve been conditioned to expect that our hopes will be dashed. The rug will be pulled out from under us.
Our team swooned in June before the all-star break and we thought, “Oh no, here we go again.”
Our team won more games than any other team, and we were told “the team who wins the most games rarely wins the World Series.”
Our team lost to the Giants in 13 innings, and we thought “The momentum’s gone. Here we go again.”
Our team couldn’t eek out a single run against Kershaw in Game 2 of the NLCS, then we get shut out again in Game 3. We thought “Surely, this is the beginning of the end.”
Our team gets shut out in Game 1 of the World Series, then loses two of three at Wrigley. We have to win three straight, and win the last two in Cleveland. We’re reminded incessantly by Joe Buck and the rest of the baseball talking heads how long the odds are, how improbable it would be, and how many times the Cubs have blown it before. And, we think, “The dance with hope is over. I see disappointment making its way across the gym floor to cut in. Again.”
Then we win Game 5 at Wrigley and salvage one victory at home. At least we won’t have to endure watching Cleveland celebrate a World Series victory in the Friendly Confines.
Then we win Game 6 in Cleveland and relish the thought of having pushed the series to the limit. Still we have the talking heads reminding us of the improbability, the long odds, the history of our dashed hopes.
Then comes Game 7. Lead off homer by Fowler. Strong effort by Hendricks. 5-1 lead. The Indians get a couple of runs but we’ve got a lead and it’s getting late in the game. Hope is dancing. Hope is literally cutting the rug, and we are feelin’ fine. Put on the dancing shoes.
Nine outs away.
Six outs away.
Four outs away.
Two down. Bottom of the 8th. Bases empty. Just one more out and we’re on to the 9th.
Indians Home Run.
There is disappointment tapping hope on the shoulder. “Excuse me. I’d like to cut in.”
Rain delay. Seriously?!
Texting with Madison in SC.
Texting with Kevin M.
Texting with Chadwicke.
Texting with Kevin R.
Texting with Matthew.
Texting with Harry.
Then comes the top of the 10th.
Cubs score one.
Cubs score two.
The Cubs are doing it. They are defying the odds and the naysayers and the talking heads and the curses and the nagging disappointments.
Carl Edwards Jr., the kid we watched pitch at Principal Park for the Iowa Cubs just a month or so ago, is in to close it.
Indians score one. Disappointment is still trying desperately to steal the dance.
Texting with Taylor
I have always dreamed of this day. I had always envisioned being in Chicago. I imagined driving to Elgin and taking the train into the city and the Red Line to Wrigley. But, there was something so right about being here at Vander Well Manor. It was just Wendy and me listening to Pat and Ron call the game while we watched the muted television feed. This is where we celebrate Opening Day with hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and beer. This is where we listen and watch and cheer and groan and cry nearly every day from April through September. Now it’s November. It’s the last day of the baseball season. Game 7 of the World Series. The Chicago Cubs were the last team standing. We won the big one.
Hope shrugged off disappointment this time. It’s time to dance, really dance, for the first time in 108 years. Wendy and I hugged, and cried, and went outside to #FlytheW.
Someday was TODAY. I can’t describe how much fun it was to exchange calls and texts and messages and posts and tweets with friends and family. And, most of all, with the little girls, now grown, who endured chilly April afternoons at Principal Park with dad watching the AAA Iowa Cubs play and learning to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
It’s root, root, root for the Cubbies, if they don’t win it’s a shame…
No shame tonight. We won. It’s time to dance.