My infatuation began in late spring 1984. As trees budded and flowers bloomed and birds sang sweetly above, I was swept away. Surely the Windy Cityscape didn’t hurt: balmy breezes and warm sunshine, climbing ivy and fresh-mown grass. (And probably some peanuts and Cracker Jack too.) I was a college freshman, up to my neck in lecture notes, textbooks, and study guides. But I found myself abandoning my stuffy library buddies for “fresher, greener pastures” with increasing frequency. I hopped the “L” train from Evanston every chance I got.
By September, my crush had developed into a full-blown romance. I was completely and irreversibly smitten. And to this day, my heartfelt devotion is undeterred, though I married another. I know it seems duplicitous. However, my incredible man has not only acknowledged my unabashed affection; he has given his blessing. And occasionally, box seats. Like John Mayer, my guy gets it: you love who you love.
And I love the Cubs.
Baseball is America’s pasttime. And the Cubs are, I daresay, America’s team.
All decked out in red, white, and Cubbie blue.
Sure we have a history of losing, choking, sputtering, faltering… failure. Sure there’s a curse. Sure tickets are scarce. And pricey. And yes, we are mercilessly mocked, jeered, teased and taunted by MLB fans everywhere. But… once you fall for the Cubs, you remain spellbound for a lifetime. (Or, in my case, 32 years and counting.)
Even the naysayers and Cardinals fans (and at least a handful of southsiders) will tell you: this ball club is iconic. Its ballpark is historic. And the left-field bleachers are nothing short of… epic. Anyone who’s been fortunate enough to view a game from that section of the stadium wears the name proudly:
Wrigley Field Bleacher Bum. (Still waiting for Common or Kanye to write and record a “Bum Rap.”)
I’ve heard all the Cubs jokes and digs. Chicago scrubs. Loveable losers. Basement dwellers.
What is the acronym for CUBS? Completely Useless By September. What’s the difference between a dirty floor and the Chicago Cubs? Nothing… Both always get swept. What do you call 25 millionaires watching the World Series on tv? The Chicago Cubs.
And, yes, I’ve repeated all the desperately hopeful refrains:
“It’s early. Plenty of baseball left to be played.”
“Just brushin’ off the infield dirt.”
“Let’s play two!”
And the motto of every Cubs fan for the past century or so:
“Wait ’til next year!”
Even my own kids have given me grief about raising them as Cubs fans. Cruel and unusual punishment, they say. How could we subject them to the ongoing anguish and agony of defeat, year after year? It’s a life of torture, they tell me. But none of them have wavered, either. They too are among the Wrigley Field faithful. And they remain steadfast, immovable, and true-Cubbie-blue. (My job is done here.)
A couple years ago, I saw a fan wearing a Cubs t-shirt emblazoned with these words:
JUST ONE BEFORE I DIE.
I almost LOL’d… and then went straight to the interweb to procure one. No luck. (I’m sure there’s a metaphor here somewhere.) Apparently, many of us shared the same sentiment. Though some were unable to score the apparel to prove it. (Yet another metaphor… I’m on a roll.)
Former Cubs player and announcer Steve Stone put it this way: “People always come up and ask me if the Cubs are going to win in their lifetime, and I always give them the same answer: How long are you planning on living?”
I’ve watched and waited and cheered and hoped for more than three decades. Still no trip to the Series. (We did take a family trip to spring training, though. A consolation prize of sorts.)
But, lo and behold, here we are. Right smack in the middle of the NLDS, trying to get past the Dodgers and maybe… just maybe… make an appearance in the 2016 World Series. Well, whaddya know?
I’m giddy with excitement and wracked with nerves, all at once. I’ve been staying up way past my bedtime, wearing my jersey, wringing my hands, and yelling at the home plate ump (and occasionally at #9: Less swag, more speed, my man. “RUN, Forrest!”) I fly the W after every win. And hum a little Taylor Swift after a tough loss. I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake… shake it off, shake it off. (And switch my socks. Just in case.)
As we head back to Wrigley to (hopefully, pretty please, JUST ONCE BEFORE I DIE) finish off the Dodgers and win the division title, I thought I would offer a little alphabetic ode to my boys in blue:
A: Ace. Arrieta. Addi. Awesome.
B: Bleachers. Buckner. Bartman. Billy goat.
C: Curve. Curse. Cubby Bear Lounge.
D: Dexter. Diamond. Dugout. Division series.
E: Elia. Epstein. Ernie (Mr. Cub to you).
F: Fastball. Flyout. Fielder’s choice. Friendly confines.
G: Greatest fans. Grand slams. Grandpa Rossy. (He ain’t afraid of no GOAT!)
H: Home team. Homerun. Harry Caray. Holy Cow!
I: Innings. Infield. Ivy. Idyllic.
J: Jam. Jack. Junk. Jorge. Javy (as in Baez, as in BOOM!)
K: Kris. Kyle. Keepers.
L: Lackey. Lester. Light’s out. Let’s go!!!
M: Maddon. Miggy. Murphys. Mojo.
N: Northsiders. National league. Nineteen-o-eight.
O: October… and we’re still playin’, baby.
P: Pat (Hughes). Postseason. Pickoff. Putout. Play ball!
Q: Quest for a division title. (And history.)
R: Ronnie. Ryno. Rizzo.
S: Sinker. Slider. Splitter. Screwball. Seventh-inning stretch. Sweet-home-Chicago.
T: Tag. Triple. Turn two. Try (not to suck).
U: Umpire. Up and in. Ugh.
V: Vines. Visitors. Velocity. Vienna beef.
W: W. Wrigley. Walkoff. World-freakin’-series!
X: Ex-lovable losers, thankyouverymuch.
Y: Yogi (Berra. I know he didn’t play for, manage, or coach the Cubs. But he’s a baseball legend, incredibly quotable, and his name starts with a “Y” so gimme a break.)
Z: Zany coach. Zestful players. Zobrist. Zingers. ZEAL!
Happy Friday, baseball fans! And wishes for a winning weekend in the Windy City!
Root-root-rooting for the home team… GO CUBS GO!
P.S. Love is the most important thing in the world. But baseball is pretty good, too. (Yogi Berra)