Cubs Ready with Hot Bats to Avenge Reds’ June Sweep

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“While the Cubbies search for starter and bullpen reliability remains a challenge with an improving outlook, there’s no mixed messages at the plate. Simply put, the bats are swinging, and making all kinds of contact. It’s not hard to win six games in a row when the players collaborate for 56 total runs. As of the time of this writing, the Chicago Cubs have eight regular guys hitting .280 or better. In reverse order, they are Tommy La Stella, Kris Bryant (who should be coming off the DL any minute now), Addison Russell, Willson Contreras, Javy Baez, Jason Heyward (finally looking worth that huge contract), Ben Zobrist and of course, Albert Almora Jr.

Almora, whom Joe Maddon refuses to start everyday, to the great frustration of many fans, is currently hitting .329. That’s good enough for second place in the National League, a mere two points behind Scooter Gennett. This guy should be making a trip to the All-Star Game. But I digress…”

Read the full post at Wrigleyville Nation.

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This Holiday Season, Spring Comes Early for Chicago Cub Fans

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“It’s a season of comfort and unreserved giving for Cubs fans. At the time of this post, the thermometer registers an unseasonably terrific 59 degrees Fahrenheit – two days before Christmas. Throw in intermittent pouring rain and if one closes their eyes to the encroaching late afternoon darkness, it feels an awful lot like spring.”

Read the full post at Wrigleyville Nation.

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. 

The Year After “Next Year” (December 31, 2014)

In 2006, filmmaker Ouise Shapiro released the documentary, Wait ‘Til Next Year: The Saga of the Chicago Cubs. IMDB.com describes the movie as follows:

“Using the frame of opening day, 2006, this documentary examines the Cubs’ 100 years without a World Series title.”

The film is almost a decade old. Midnight tonight officially marks 107 years since the Cubbies last found themselves in the winner’s circle. There is no one alive who remembers that glorious day. Yet the consistent elusiveness of victory has not proven deterrent enough to dampen diehard enthusiasm. Each fall, fans exit the Wrigley Field turnstiles for the final time until spring, proudly offering, “Just wait ‘til next year.”

I’m not quite 107 years old. But maybe because I grew up in the Windy City, and was born into a family situation that was consistently defeating, “Wait ‘til next year” carried special mantra significance. No matter how tough the current moment, I survived it by mentally moving the goal post. In fifth grade, when I thought the isolation and intellectual stagnation of a botched home school experiment might kill me, I looked forward to fighting for a classroom return the following year. When I was 15 years old and tired of waiting for a persistently tardy father to collect me from school or choir rehearsal in his latest trash-filled hoopty, I anticipated 16, when I could legally acquire my own driving privileges.

No matter how bad things got, it was usually easy to formulate a vision of something better that would encourage me to grit my teeth. I wasn’t who I wanted be, didn’t have the life I desired, didn’t necessarily know how to get there, but I would dammit…maybe next year.

At the close of 2014, I find myself wrestling with an unprecedented psychological dilemma. What do you do the year after “next year” arrives? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got plenty to anticipate in 2015 and am bursting with energy to get her started. But 2014 was seismic.

I’m pretty sure now that I know who I am and what my limitations are. I accept them. I’ve grown fond of my quirks. I’m often creative, usually a hedonist, individualist and passionate. I have a hard time sitting still. I’m not great with romantic relationships, but make a pretty solid friend/aunt/sister/colleague. I hate failure. I am stubborn, clumsy and sensitive. And I’m finally ok with not being perfect. Not that I was ever close, mind you. It’s just stopped frustrating me.

The life I always wanted? Check. I could be younger, richer and healthier. But I am free. I do exactly as I wish for the most part, with a clean apartment that has morphed from a post-divorce prison into a sanctuary of peace, kitty cuddles and Pilates. I write, which is a must. But more often than not, I get paid to do it. My words are my profession. Enough people have chosen to read them. That’s more than I ever dreamed possible.

As for how to get there. I am still traveling, but learning to enjoy the scenery and finally beginning to trust the internal compass. A solid year of slower, adrenaline-free decision making will do that.

I’m not miserable. Most days I’m pretty content. I don’t need saving. Dread and anxiety are no longer constant companions.

The only way to weather the past was to live for the future. Today I quite enjoy the present. I’ll see next year soon enough of course because time moves on. But I’m no longer urgently waiting for it as reprieve from now.

Now’s just fine.

Bicycle Bumper Cars (October 5, 2010)

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Today’s post is brought to you by revered lifestyle columnist Miss Manners, or rather Becky Boop, assuming the authoritative social grace haughtiness of Mme. Manners, nee Judith Martin. My simple piece of etiquette opinion goes something like this:

“If one makes an illegal left turn and slams into an unwitting bicyclist, one should have the decency to slow to a complete stop and ask the mangled individual if they require any assistance before driving off to one’s final destination.”

Around 7:40 PM last night, I was enjoying my routine, thrice weekly neighborhood bicycle ride. Though I am avowed Looky Loo and tend to get lost in my own thoughts quite often, I pay very close attention at traffic stops, the more so as the Fall evenings tend to darken at an earlier hour.

I was sitting at a red light at a busy intersection just north of Wrigley Field in Chicago, awaiting the “green” go ahead to continue on my merry way. I briefly noticed, as I tried to stay attuned to my surroundings, a Red Car (as it shall henceforth be referred) prepared to head south on the same street once the light changed. It must be noted that this car was NOT in the turn lane, NOR was there an indicator flashing. So naturally, when I saw green, I began to pedal furiously.

I think we all know what happened next: the driver decided to turn left from the wrong lane after all. In the next ensuing hour (or so it felt, but in reality, about 30 seconds), I was very pleased with myself for the following:

1. Remembering that I have been told numerous times that if your car is on a crash course with a deer, the last thing you should do is hit the brakes, I spared myself the bodily tension of clamping onto my handles so I could devote my energies to bracing for impact. There is a scientific foundation for this advice that I have since forgotten. The point is that this advice is repeated so oft with good reason. Rather than whipping my head back and feeling the crash, in effect twice, I landed against Red Car with a dull and rather quiet thud.

2. I had a split-second to notice that the impact of my vintage blue Schwinn plus all 135 pounds of my brute bodily force, left a sizeable dent in the passenger side door. The guilt-ridden, worrying default of my personality feared insurance claims and trouble from my husband, before my person and bicycle skittered off the chassis and onto the pavement. I am pleased with this because it shows that even in a time of crisis, I retain the essence of my selfhood.

3. After #2 I completed my accident in what I thought was a petty sweet way if you must know. It involved a classic Magnum P.I. tuck and roll move.

I don’t know who was behind the wheel of Red Car: their age, sex or ethnicity. I did not have the chance to ascertain Red Car’s make and model. All I know is that he or she was driving about 15 MPH, and with my bicycle traveling about 10 MPH at the same time, the crash could and probably should have been more serious. Miraculously, except for a slightly scraped left elbow (thank you old corduroy jacket!), a bumped knee and a few scraped fingers, I am absolutely fine. Even my trusty old blue Schwinn was none the worse for wear. However Red Car did not know that and it never will, because after taking two seconds to be certain no one had witnessed the crime, Red Car sped off into the night. Bastard.

A couple of lovely passerby immediately ran to my side and apologized for not getting the plate number. They asked repeatedly if I were alright, needed medical attention or wanted them to call somebody. After discovering that my tote bag and Blackberry were in fine working order as well, I assured them I would be OK and thanked them genuinely for their concern. Miss Manners would have approved of this part of the exchange.

But oh Red Car! Karma have no mercy on you!

What? I survived being hit and run by an automobile and was studly enough to dust myself off and continue the rest of the way home with no (minimal) whining. Do I have to take the high road (so to speak) too? I think Miss Manners would have my back on this one.