The 2018 MLB All-Star Game and Trump’s Overseas Trip: Two Complicated Breaks

Baseball

“Of course not all of the press coverage around the 2018 All-Star Game will surround toxic political air and infrastructure debates. There’s always plenty for sports pundits and fans to grumble about related to the NL and AL team lineups. This year is no exception. Rucker Haringey writes of Blake Snell and the 5 Biggest 2018 All-Star Game Snubs. His list includes the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher as well as the Washington Nationals’ own starting shortstop Trea Turner.

Certain Chicago Cub fans, who might also happen to be Contemptor contributors, are miffed at the absence of rock star outfielder Albert Almora Jr. from the NL roster.  Among all National League batters, Almora sits in third place with a current average of .317. However, Almora is a victim here, not of subjective fan voting, but rather mismanagement by Windy City favorite son Joe Maddon (Yes. I said it. Come at me, Internet).

Next week offers mid-summer breaks of several sorts. Although President Trump will be overseas potentially signing over what’s left of our national dignity to Vladimir Putin, he will at least be out of American airspace. This era of deregulation notwithstanding, the oxygen always smells a bit sweeter when the Very Stable Genius decamps. And on the lighter side of U.S. life and continuity, baseball fans can enjoy a couple of days with stakes no higher than selecting game time snacks (no more of this World Series home advantage stuff). We deserve the psychological reprieve.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

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Cubs NLDS Game 4: A Fan’s Four-Mile Fugue

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Very early this week, Major League Baseball made the supremely frustrating decision to schedule Game 4 of the Cubs/Cardinals Division Series at 3:37 PM Central on Tuesday afternoon. Working stiff citizens of Cubs Nation, such as myself, groaned inwardly (ok, outwardly too). I’d be stuck behind the desk when the first pitch was thrown.

Making matters “worse” (tragedy is all relative during this most excellent post-season run), I’d exhausted my digital data plan the previous Saturday evening. Enjoying the unseasonably warm Chicago weather, Bob and I invited some friends over for a BBQ. Our iPad was docked on the picnic table, transformed into the world’s most exciting centerpiece. As we noshed and gabbed, the whole group (which included some supportive South Siders) watched the Cubbies come back from Game 1 disappointment, beating the Cards 6-3 to claim Game 2. When my provider sent a system-generated email informing me I’d reached my data limit for the month, I shrugged. Totally worth it.

One of the pitfalls of being so fully enmeshed in the Cubs’ fortunes is a stubborn inability to think ahead. All that usually matters is NOW, that moment. But on Tuesday morning, the dawn of Game 4, I realized my folly. My thought process went like something like this: “Sure, I’ll be at the office, but I can’t be the only person sneaking peeks of the game on my iPhone….OH BLOODY HELL I’M OUT OF DATA!”

As I left the house, additionally hampered with an after-work commitment I could not escape, the dejection was all over my face (Botox shots shall never be strong enough to counter the emotions of a long-suffering Cubs fan). Bob promised to text me with scoring updates, and the venue for the post-shift event would certainly have a television. But, but…bah. Is there any substitute for watching every exhilarating, excruciating second for yourself?

Diligently I worked through the morning. I could do this. I am a full grown adult with responsibilities. It’s not as if the Cubs couldn’t finish off the Cardinals without my eyes on the action. However as the afternoon approached, the façade crumbled, much as it did on November 6, 2012.

On that evening, I was riding my bike home from a kickboxing class in Lincoln Park. President Obama faced a tight re-election campaign against Mitt Romney. I’d been cool like Fonzie all day but as class ended (and my adrenaline pumped), I pedaled furiously to reach home and watch the returns. Obama needed me. Yes we can…run a yellow light at the corner of Lincoln, Ashland and Belmont. I shattered my tailbone and sacrum when I met the business end of an SUV, and it took nine months to heal. Obama won of course, but my frenzied superstition lost big time. I vowed to learn a lesson.

Back to Tuesday evening. My work day ends at 5:00 and the Cubs were down. The event started at 6:30. Google Maps informed me that it would take 40 minutes to reach the venue by train, 80 minutes to walk. In my squirrely state, without a data plan, I could not handle the CTA. Not then. So walking it was. How responsible right? I’d channel my nervous energy into positive exercise, staying out of the road and avoiding an “Election Night” (the new metaphor for self-inflicted disaster) in the process.

The walk was four miles, the weather continuing unpredictably pleasant. I had no control over my Cubs-less situation, but I could control my feet. And I had Bob’s reliable text updates to fortify me until I reached the event (sample: “Schwarber smash! Babe effing Ruth baby!”).

Four miles is a lengthy stroll at any time. But when it comes with the challenge of trying not to think about something consuming every conscious reflection, it might as well be the Appalachian Trail. Total agony. However I ended up with an unforeseen and satisfying byproduct.

I am a Windy City native. I attended a small Lutheran school in North Center as a child before graduating proudly from the CPS system as a high school senior. There is no corner of the north lakefront area and due west disassociated from a memory. As I continued my feverish pace to the event, I paused periodically to stare at a place infused with the ghosts of Cubs past. Thoughts of my paternal great-grandmother, who died before I was born, endlessly thirsty for the Cubbies to go all the way. But she never stepped inside the park. My father’s mother, who worked for decades as a waitress at several Chicago establishments, often serving members of the Cubs roster. But as a single mother with six kids to raise on no budget, a day at the game was a rare luxury. The undying passion of my father for the men in blue through so many disappointments.

Before I finally arrived at my destination, in time to witness the Chicago Cubs send the St. Louis Cardinals packing (I will NEVER tire of writing that sentence), I realized I was carrying a lot through my four-mile fugue state. The hopes and dreams of others whose blue Cubby blood courses through my veins. I wanted it for them as much as myself. Maybe more. And perhaps that’s not so crazy after all.

 

Wait ‘Til…Now?

Wait Til Now
1984

The Chicago Cubs are Division Champs! I’m six years old, my father not yet 30. Two kids jumping around the living room. We’re living in our old apartment at Byron and Leavitt in the North Center neighborhood. My grade school and maternal grandparents are a reasonable walking distance from our place, and there’s still six months left before the wheels completely fall off my immediate family’s functionality wagon. I don’t even know it’s coming. I have never seen my daddy so overjoyed, so euphoric and full of hope. I will again during other manic moments – later – but for now the whole North Side of the city has the fever. Cubs fever.

The Cubs led the Padres 2-0 in the National League Championship Series, but go on to lose three straight – and a trip to the World Series. A ground ball got by first baseman Leon Durham during a disastrous Game 5. Durham was one of daddy’s favorite players. How could he do that? This is the first time I ever remember seeing my dad fight tears. It takes him days to recover. I sit next to him helplessly, knowing something tragic has happened to Chicago. Daddy says it’s not the first time, and unlikely to be the last. This seems horribly unfair.

1989

The Cubbies are Division Champs again and I’m the perfect age – 11 – to truly appreciate the wave of excitement that once again sweeps the city. By now I have the 1985 Bears Super Bowl Shuffle under my experienced belt. Let’s do this. Daddy’s out of work again and the house we bought is trashed, but if the Cubs win the World Series (oh my god!) everything will be ok. Dad will be so pumped. We’ll all clean up together and he’ll be in such a good mood. Go Cubs go!

The Cubs lose Game 3 of the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants when reliever Les Lancaster gives up a two-run homer. The Giants take a 2-1 series lead and the Lovable Losers are unable to mount a comeback. Daddy is upset. But it’s not his mood that’s crushed me. One of the post-mortem sports shows plays a video montage against the backdrop of Peter Gabriel’s mournful tune, “Don’t Give Up.” I feel like I’ll never stop crying. The disappointment literally hurts.

1998

I’m a junior in college, sharing an off-campus apartment with Theresa. With interesting classes, a decent part-time job, a recent breakup behind me and a new set of friends, Champaign feels possible for perhaps the first time. And Sammy Sosa’s record-setting home run derby with Mark McGuire has been a lot of fun this season. Just a few years away from the 1994-1995 Major League Baseball strike that hugely disappointed my father. Said he’d never been more ashamed of the sport. I try not to talk to dad as much these days. It always leaves me upset, but I’ll definitely call him if the Cubs pull off an upset.

The Cubs lose the National League Division Series to the Atlanta Braves, 3-0. A few years later we’ll all learn that Sosa was juicing. Another huge black mark for the sport. Eh. The Cubs didn’t really belong in the playoffs. I’m sure dad knows that too. There’s always next year.

2003

I’m a married woman now and all season long I’ve forced Mark and my long time best friend Gary to watch, really watch the games. Like almost all of them. I believe. I’ve made them believe. I know every player, follow every nuance, injury and farm report. This is fucking it bitches. Cubbies! I see my dad and talk to him now and again. He never seems to be quite on track, always has his hand out for more than he gives, but we agree on this. Now.

Game 6 of the NLCS. The Cubs are five outs from the World Series. The city is electric. It’s our time. Moises Alou. Bartman. A man’s life ruined and I don’t need a Game 7 to know how this ends. Finished. More tears. I avoid my father. I don’t want to listen to his tirade. I just want this self-inflicted loserdom to be done.

2008

Marriage number two to the dashing, distant Eddie. He’s more of a cricket fan but I manage to get to him. The Cubbies are in the playoffs for the second year in a row! I still don’t understand why Piniella removed Zambrano early in Game 1 of 2007’s NLDS but no matter! This is going to be it. Finally. Eddie works a lot, even on the weekends, and needs quiet time. So I’ve been to a few games on my own. I like what I see. I pretty much avoid Gregg (I don’t call him “dad” anymore) like the plague but I don’t have to talk to him to know how he feels. For me personally though, if the Cubs choke again, I’m out. I’m starting to believe what they say. Wrigley Field – the world’s biggest tourist attraction. Not the home of a serious baseball team. Prove me wrong guys.

The Dodgers sweep the Cubs 3-0 in the NLDS. I cried again last year but this year? Furious. I actually talked Eddie into going to Wrigleyville with me to watch Game 3 from a bar. Eddie rarely likes my entertainment ideas. Fooled again. But I drank so many PBR tall boys and I am pissed in every sense. As Eddie and I walk home, I decide that every orange cone in my path gets it. To my surprise, he even points a few out for me. This whole evening has been surprisingly supportive. But this girl? Done with the Cubs.

2015

I enter the park for the first time in years. The story goes that it’s because my company paid for the tickets. But in reality, Bob has been working me for months.

During the long break I took from Wrigley Field, I also evaluated, ripped up and rebuilt a lot of other destructive patterns in my life. The result, a good man by my side in a Cubs jersey, both of us happy and feeling excited about our future together.

Gregg’s out of my life but I know he’s somewhere rattling off statistics in that encyclopedic way of his. The fortunes of a baseball team no longer bind us.

As I repeatedly declare my hard-earned skepticism, Bob momentarily checks his mild manners. Tomorrow is the Wild Card Game. “Shut up and enjoy it Waldorf! I’ll be surprised if Jake Arrieta doesn’t throw a perfect game tomorrow. Cubbies!”

And somehow I know that even if the Cubs make a muck of it like they always have throughout my lifetime, I will enjoy it.