Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Why It's More Than Just A Game Today.

Little Tommy, ten years old, a child both mischievous and pleasing to his parents, holds out his hand as his tiny, softhearted mother presses two dollars and fifty cents into his palm. She kisses her eldest child, towheaded and wickedly smart, on the top of his head and tells him to be careful. Tommy bounds out the door, headed for the Chicago Transit Authority bus, where he would pay his ten cent fare and his transfer, to take him to Clark and Addison on the North side of Chicago from his solid brick house at 1711 N. Harding Avenue.

He was going to watch the Cubs today, and he couldn't wait. Today he was by himself, so there would be no jumping and hanging on the cables that the buses ran along, causing mayhem for the bus drivers, as it was no fun without an audience of friends to egg him on. 

Boarding at Pulaski and North Avenue, taking it to Addison and then east to Clark, while riding along Tommy saw the familiar looming building of the Pioneer bank, and the Morrie Mages Sports store where his family purchased their Cubs gear, or, for his father, White Sox gear.

 He had enough money for his game ticket and for the hot dog and Coke he'd purchase, diet staples that would continue throughout his life, even as he later cruised around as an elected Sheriff 1,800 miles away and in a completely different century. Little did he know, that it would be fifty-seven years, a beautiful wife, two kids, seven grandkids, an entire career, a retirement and a move to Phoenix before he would see his Cubs in a Game Seven of the World Series. His darling mother, aptly nicknamed "Birdie", short for Bernadine, but fitting for her small, sweet, birdlike qualities, would live 90 years and never see it. 
Clutching his worn out little league glove, Tommy entered the confines of Wrigley Field, settling in his seat among the ivy-laden walls, and waited in anticipation, having no idea today, a sticky summer day in 1959, he would be waiting until November 2, 2016 to see the Chicago Cubs in a game seven. 

This genuinely feels like a magical day. It dawned on me yesterday that only times I've felt this kind nervous anticipation was January 26, 1986 and February 4, 2007.
The first time, probably the greatest team of all time hoisted Buddy Ryan and Mike Ditka on their shoulders and the world was in awe of the Chicago Bears as they brought the Lombardi to the city of Chicago. I was ten years old and I cried. I loved that team. I had spent many days pleading with the Jim McMahon poster on the back of my bedroom door, and sneaking out to the living room with my Dad, lying on the floor under Dad's legs--hiding from Mom--so I could see the end of Monday Night Football on school nights.
The second time, I was pregnant with my daughter and was running around my parents living room screaming when Devin Hester opened the Super Bowl with a returned kickoff. Unfortunately Peyton Manning ruined our day, but Urlacher and the boys were there. They were in the big show again and as fans, we were right there with them.
Today, I think of a Grandmother who watched the Cubs for 90 years and passed away in June, missing this. How the last thing she did alive was have all of her kids and most grandkids in her hospice room watching the Cubs win a hot June game, cheers erupting down the halls of the hospice home. I thought of my Dad who rode the bus alone at 10 years old to Clark and Addison, in 1959, watching the lovable losers and never seen anything like what we've seen in October and November 2016. I think of how I have lived in Arizona since 1981, but was born in the suburbs of Chicago. You can't take the Chicago out of the girl, no matter how much time passes. Early memories of sitting on the shag carpet in the basement of our house in Wheaton, snapping green beans with my Mom while Dad yelled at the Cubs and Harry Caray's voice carried through the house. Chicago sports are special. They don't always win, but it's an exclusive club. It brings people together. It doesn't matter who the guy next to you is voting for, if he's wearing a Santo jersey and a beat up and sweat stained Cubs hat or is still clinging to his Italian Beef in his washed out Singletary jersey.
In our family, it's a running joke. My grandfather was a lifelong White Sox fan. The only memories I have of spending time with just him and I are the two times he took me to old Comiskey and he carefully plucked firework ashes from my hair after a White Sox win. I can still smell his Old Spice and feel his work-worn hand protectively clutching mine as we crossed through busy parking lots.
He passed away in 2004. The next season, 2005, the White Sox won the World Series. And now here we are. My Gram, being the good, feisty Catholic woman we loved, has a little more pull in the heavens. She's trying to one-up my grandfather and cause HER team to win it the SAME year she graduated to angelic status.
Many of us know that sports are more than a past time. They are what makes us feel good on a bad workday. They give us blessed moments with our kids when they take on the same teams that we love. They give us hope; because when we're the underdog in life, we can remember all the times the underdog won. The Cubs haters are going to continue to hate. They are going to throw out repetitive and tired remarks about barn animals and quiet men in headphones and green turtlenecks. None of it matters to us. None of it changes anything, not a win, not a loss. We are Chicago sports fans. It's for life. It's akin to marriage vows; for better or for worse, and we're sticking to it. 
2016 Chicago Cubs, you have brought our family together. You have given us so much to cheer about. As fans, we couldn't be prouder. It will break our hearts if you don't get it done tonight, but my God, you fought like hell to get us to probably the most exciting event possible in sports: the World Series Game 7.
Thank you for the ride.
But, please. I just have to ask, can you please win this one for my Gram? And all the rest of the Grams and Papas who never got to see this? And the Dads and the Moms who have been waiting all these years? 
Just another nervous fangirl,


  1. I may have teared up when we won the pennant. This is amazing to watch as the Cubs make baseball history.

    1. I had my hands over my mouth in shock and bawled. And smiled and rejoiced with my Cubs nation! What a special, special ride!