“Its only a game.”
I find myself saying these words every year around this time, and on a few monumental occasions, in October. It is my attempt to sooth an aching heart, broken once again, in a way that only a Cubs fan can understand.
If you really think about it, the whole idea of it is rather silly. Sitting around, watching a bunch of grown men swinging bats, chasing balls, running around bases. Grown men, by the way, who are being paid a whole lot of money to do so. Why am I so invested in these grown men and how they perform at their jobs? And why do I let myself endure this heartache year after year, over a game?
Because actually, it is so much more.
Baseball is so much a part of America’s pastime, ?that it is currently being used as a treatment option for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Its called baseball reminiscence therapy. Created as a way to improve cognition, as well as mood, it involves recreating the experience of a baseball game. The patients listen to audio of the National Anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” They smell and taste hot dogs, peanuts, and crackerjack. They watch footage of the teams they used to watch and love. And studies have shown that this therapy produces significant results. Just goes to show how deeply ingrained baseball is, in America’s psyche.
For me, it is the Cubs. The experience starts on the red line. ?As the el pulls in to the Addison Street stop, I am greeted by the images of some Cubs legends. The doors open and out pours a sea of blue which swiftly flows into a larger sea of blue, that is the thousands of fans entering the gates of the historic Wrigley Field.
The street musicians are playing an upbeat tempo, the vendors are selling shirts and hats and other Cubs memorabilia. The streets are lined with bars and restaurants, every table occupied, every television playing the pregame coverage.
I am instantly flooded with so many memories. Memories of being in this very spot, so many years ago, as a little girl, accompanied by my grandmother and my brother, when we used to watch the games, way up at the top of the stadium. As a child, I felt like I was on the top of the world looking way down at the tiny players while we cheered them on.
I remember chanting “Jo Dee Jo Dee” every time my favorite player at the time, number 7, Jody Davis went to bat.
I remember hearing Harry Caray wishing me a happy 7th birthday, and wondering how and when I became famous.
I remember when my 1984 park district T ball team won a championship that allowed us to play a game in the outfield of Wrigley, before an actual game. (Must be how I got famous)
I remember my dad volunteering to “coach” that game, and the look on his face as he stood on the field soaking in the beauty that is Wrigley Field, while gently brushing his hands along the ivy.
I remember that same year seeing the Cubs make it to the playoffs for the first time in my life. (First time in my dad’s life too)
I remember standing outside the park after the games with my hat and a black Sharpie, and yelling the player’s names, in hopes for some autographs, as they left the stadium ?and walked to their cars.
I remember in sixth grade, when my friends all had posters of ?the Coreys hanging on their walls, mine was decorated with a giant Ryne Sandberg poster above my bed.
I remember the magic of the night the lights went on.
And that it got rained out.
I remember the feeling of awe and excitement watching Sammy Sosa and the homerun race in the summer of ’98.
I remember taking my daughter to her very first game and the feeling of pure joy that I felt as I watched her experience those same childhood moments for the first time.
And that it got rained out.
I remember standing in front of the television in 2003, my heart racing, my hope soaring, thinking ?”This could really be our year!”
I remember the feeling of confusion and disbelief over what unfolded during that game. You know the one. I stood there silently, in front of the TV, staring blankly, long after the game was over.
I remember the following year, in September, calculating how ?”mathematically they still have a chance,” while in my heart, I knew the season was over.
I remember the countless games spent with friends in those stands, sharing drinks and the euphoria of an energy that can not be produced anywhere else in the world. Dancing and singing our way down the stands singing “Go Cubs Go”
So here I am, once again my heart filled with hope as we wait for the rest of the league to claim a spot in the playoffs. Holding the highest record in baseball, my “hope” has some real validity.
I already have visions of that moment. The moment so many have been waiting for, for so so long. The moment that so many, never got to be a part of. I long to share that moment with my grandmother, one of the millions that have been born and died without ever getting to see the Cubs go all the way. What I wouldn’t give to be at Wrigley for that moment. In the ballpark, joined in spirit by Harry Caray, Ron Santo, and Ernie Banks. While fantasizing about that glorious moment , I can feel their presence and can actually hear Caray screaming. “Cubs win! Cubs win! Holy Cow, The Cubs have won The World Series!!!” and I have tears streaming down my face as the players rush the field from the dugout, and the cheers of the crowd radiate throughout the city.
I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
And then I realize that I have done it again. I left myself vulnerable to the very real pain that accompanies a postseason disappointment. I have to remind myself that mathematically and historically the odds are not necessarily in their favor. Ironically, it is actually rare that the team with the highest record wins the World Series. And, well, its the Cubs we’re talking about. There is still a long road ahead of us, and as we all know too well, anything can happen in postseason baseball.
I have to hope for the best but prepare myself for the worst. I am an eternal optimist, (a prerequisite, I think, to be a true Cubs fan) but I have also been burned before. This team…this city…these fans…deserve a World Series win more than ever, and there is a VERY real chance that they can make that happen, but….if history repeats itself….Yes, we would once again endure the heartache, that we have grown to know all too well. ?But we are strong. We are resilient. We are Cubs fans.
And of course, there is always next year.