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Friday, November 4, 2016

Backstory: About the Cubs winning... anything

Daughter Jill and one of the very young Cub players

Before the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, before time began, there was a hope that the Cubbies could do it again, just 108 years after their last world championship. My daughter Jill wondered why we cared, though she was not immune to caring. So why do we care? rationale says that, in the end, we're all crazy so why is worshiping baseball gods (small g) any worse than the real world? This is her take:

I’ve been con-vincing myself that tonight doesn’t really matter with simple thoughts of relative importance. My children are all healthy and decent humans to this point. Nate Silver still has my political candidate up. We will have a good meal tonight and many nights into the future. I can be placated, temporarily.

But my stomach is still in a knot.

As I sit in this coffee shop with my laptop open, a clich├ęd picture of somebody who wrongly assumes they have something important to think, I worry about the Cubs. I know I’m not alone.  All over Facebook, friends from Illinois and even friends who’ve never set foot in Illinois seem to feel that this moment touches them in a special way.

For me, every bit of cynicism in my being is grounded in the bedrock of Cubs Fandom. Though my Dad has always been my cheerleader of positivity around the largest of life issues, whenever the dog poops on his carpet, he takes a wrong turn, or he fails to fix the vacuum cleaner, a deep disappointment in life saturates his surroundings. I remember trying to move out of its way when I was little, the disappointment so pervasive and long-lasting like the coating on the inside of your mouth when you finish a donut or the superglue crust that doesn’t come off your fingers no matter how many times you wash them.

I know the foundation. I learned this deep, perhaps misplaced disappointment before I could even identify the chatter of the baseball announcers or the voice of Harry Caray. Though I never met my Grandfather, within my bones, I could feel him walk heavily across the wooden floor of his Uncle’s Chicago grocery store after a Cubs loss. I imagine him going through the inevitable ups and downs of life as his Italian family settled into their American world, looking toward the Cubs as an iconic symbol of hope, success, and victory. In the beauty of baseball, he always had next year. He had next year until the day he died on his walk home from his work in the bowling alley. He was probably around my age – 47.

I think I know how he must have felt around then, having moved through the ascent of life, the fantasies of meeting the incredible love of your life and creating enormously brilliant and beautiful children, the dream of finding a meaningful career that vaults one into either important notoriety or quiet peaceful satisfaction. At 47, one realizes that love is complicated, children bring worries, and work satisfaction is as mercurial as the moods of colleagues. When the Cubs lose, one must settle in for another year of recognizing that life is just like that. It can be a little disappointing.
Not that the sun doesn’t rise in the morning or anything. It does and it can be really beautiful with the haze and the heavy morning air and all that, but really, this game matters.

Tonight, as you attempt to calm yourself with those stories about how lucky you are that you have the ability to even watch a ball game, don’t kid yourself. All hope rests on this evening.

PS from me: World Series this year, Universe Series next year. Will this never end?

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