I have to remember this year, 2016, this ride, this emotion, this excitement, because who knows if and when it will happen again – that’s the fate of a Cubs fan, as my fellow fans know all too well. I mean the Cubs are known as “The Lovable Losers.” But we’ve never gotten this far before, well in our lifetimes, anyway. My dad was just two years old in 1945 so he doesn’t remember the last time the Cubs were in the World Series. So here we go, letting our hopes rise . . . cautiously.
We’re just 40 minutes from GAME 7 OF THE WORLD SERIES, 2016, WITH THE CHICAGO CUBS AT CLEVELAND TAKING ON THE INDIANS!!!!
I already have on my blue v-neck Cubs shirt and will don my Cubs hat as well; after all, we’ve won the last two games with me wearing those.
The game has started. Let’s hope Dad and I can make it through the next 6 innings with us trying to watch in-sync as he pauses his TV and gets in-sync with me watching on a webpage and listening to The Score on 670 am radio via my iPhone as I sit and watch the game at 1:38 in the morning in Barcelona. Dad’s iPhone is low on juice as we Facetime, he’s searching for the iPad, oh god let us all get through this game unscathed.
The last time I went to a Cubs game I attempted the impossible – it was just two years ago and I was home from Spain and wanted to capture “The Cubs Experience” to bring back and share with my students. Every summer at camp I try to do the same, while I wear my Cubs tshirt and hat, I show my students one of the greatest movies ever, 1993’s “Rookie of the Year.”
But the full Cubs experience is made up of intangibles . . . The smells hot dogs, of cotton candy, of spilled beer all over the place and then the feeling of your shoes sticking for the next week. It’s the trudging up the ramps until you finally reach your level. It’s catching your breath as you look out at the streets and taking in the sites of the souvenir vendors, the bars, the rooftops, the fans milling about. I went with Dad and recorded everything I could. Standing at Clark and Addison, taking a picture with the marquee behind us. Going through the turnstiles and handing our tickets to the workers in their pristine and shiny blue and red Cubs jackets. Passing the older guy hawking the programs with those tiny little pencils.
The atmosphere. That almost impossible to describe feeling – the moment when you walk up the tunnel, passing the old-timey signs that warn you to be aware of foul balls, and then you see it, that perfectly gorgeously groomed green field, the ivy clinging to the brick walls in the outfield and the manually controlled giant green scoreboard.
I remember when Arnie was 11 years old he got to be bat boy for a day. That was 1984! I was eight years old and so jealous. He got to go in the clubhouse and meet Ryno, Rick Sutcliffe, Jody Davis and Ron Cey. Unbelievable! I remember the whole family and extended family sitting together on a sunny, perfect day at Wrigley.
When I was in 8th grade we had to write letters to ourselves that our English teacher, Mrs. Soffer, would mail to us a couple of years later. In that letter I wrote that I wanted to be the first woman to play professional baseball. At some point I realized that dream wasn’t going to happen, but on my 21st birthday I got to pretend for a little while that I was taking the mound for the Chicago Cubs. On August 1, 1997 with my first legal hangover, I walked towards the pitching rubber, looked up and saw my name on the scoreboard and turned to wave to the crowd. I try not to remember the devastating part where the ball bounced in front of home plate (I had neglected in practice to account for the rise of the mound). After the catcher scooped up the ball, I bent down and grabbed some of the dirt from the mound and stuck it in my jeans shorts pocket. I kept that dirt labeled in a ziplock bag for years.
When I was around eighteen years old, I remember going to a game with my dad and my two younger cousins, Bradley and Lee when they were about 8 years old. I wanted them to feel the excitement, to understand how magical the Cubs were. But Lee just sat and played on his calculator (it was around 1994), which apparently was quite telling and paid off as just this month he got his PhD in math.
I remember freezing opening days while I played hookey from school (when I was a teacher). I had to be a part of the eternal optimism looming in Wrigley every April.
And countless Cubs memories with Dad.
I remember going to a Cubs game with Dad and sitting a few rows behind home plate to see the rookie Kerry Wood get 20 strikeouts in one game. I’ve looked it up and see that that was May 6, 1998. Not sure how I could have been home from college to go to that game, so I start to think that some of my memories might be blending from one to another or deceiving me altogether. What did I experience first hand and what do I wish I had experienced? . . . This happens again as I swear (or maybe not) that at the game when I threw out the first pitch, August 2, 1997, Ryne Sandberg hit three homeruns – but again, I can’t find that documented anywhere.
I took Dad to watch a game from a rooftop – another experience I had to have at least once. Always one to invest wisely (although maybe not in the conventional sense of the word), in 2000 I used my credit card points to get seats for Dad and me in a suite. I don’t remember a thing about the game that day but I sure remember the dessert cart they wheeled around. Dad and I also attended a talk at Wrigley and then we got a tour of the field – press box and new clubhouse included. And I know we’ve benefitted from the Benjamins offering us their seats at least a couple of times.
And 2003. That magical season. My friends and I would gather at each other’s houses to watch the games. They were new teachers to school just the year before and the Cubs helped us quickly bond. A friend and I spent hundreds of dollars to go to one of the games against the Florida Marlins in the National League Championship Series. We sat near home plate, next to the Marlins’ players’ wives. I held up a sign in Spanish that my students had made. And then, I remember watching the final game of the series from Sports Corner, the bar across the street from Wrigley at Sheffield and Addison. I was on the phone with my dad just after we saw that year’s hopes go up in smoke. I saw a grown man fall to his knees on the bar room floor, head in hands, crying. And that’s when Dad explained to me that that’s what it feels like to be a Cubs fan.
What will happen tonight? Please, make this the night that Cubs fans rip off the Lovable Losers tag and become the Eternally Optimistic!