For me, writing is cathartic; it’s a way to purge my thoughts and emotions, both negative and positive. But lately, it’s been a lot more of the former than the latter, something that the readers of this blog have noticed and commented on.
And don’t think I hadn’t noticed it well before being referred to as Gordon Wittenmyer Jr. And while the tone I’ve taken lately might resemble that of the sour Sun-Times scribe, I much too good looking to be his progeny. At least, that’s what my wife tells me.
With that in mind, I wanted to set out on a more positive path, even if just for a little while. Rather than some sort of long-form mea culpa, this is my way of pushing my personal Cubs boulder up the side of the hill before its inexorable descent.
But who knows, maybe this time it’ll stay at the top. So I’m going to put on my ’84 Ryne Sandberg throwback and maybe throw back a beer. It’s time to align my chakras, center my qi, and clear my thetan.
There was a time when the Cubs and Wrigley Field still held for me a sense of awestruck fascination. Even into early adulthood, heading to the corner of Clark and Addison made me feel like a little kid again.
But somewhere along the way, a patina developed on the silver luster of my awe, eventually dulling it to a discolored matte smudge. My youthful exuberance and hope were long ago replaced by burdens of responsibility and reality.
But man, to go back to the days when that yoke was but an unknown enemy. Sure, there are moments here and there when I can revel in the unadulterated joy of Cubdom, but if I could put my greasy little finger on a point in time where my love was still pure, it would be the Fall of 2001.
The date, I believe, was September 29th and it was supposed to be the last game of the season. I was still relatively fresh out of college and hadn’t attended a Cubs game in several years. So I enlisted my two roommates, along with my then-girlfriend and her roommate, for a road trip.
Now, I said that this was supposed to be the last game of the season. However, the events of 9/11 had served to rearrange the schedule a bit. So we drove up to Chicago on a beautiful, sunny day without a care in the world.
I remember almost crawling out of my skin with the anticipation of heading back to the hallowed grounds of the Friendly Confines, where even the urinal troughs would be a welcome sight. Everyone thought I was crazy as I literally bounced around while walking down Clark St.
My level of joy was exponentially increased upon discovering that it was Fan Appreciation Day, which meant that we were able to walk around on the field. I walked out and just sat in the outfield grass, confident in the knowledge that I could die in that instant and feel pretty good about my life.
Eventually, we had to make our way to our upper-deck seats for the game. But even the birds-eye view couldn’t stop my spirits from soaring. Nor could the obnoxious Astros fan seated near us.
Of course, he was overwhelmed in the 1st inning when Crime Dog blasted a Dave Mlicki pitch into the rightfield bleachers for a 2-run homer. And with the crowd still in full throat from the shot, Rondell White stepped in and yanked the very next pitch out of the yard.
Even at the top of the world, the noise level was deafening; it’s just too bad no one had yet developed the asinine concept of rigging decibel meters and seismographs up all over the park.
Ah, but that was nothing. Randy Hundley’s son was the next batter up for the Cubs and Dave Mlicki was still on the bump. Surely he’d be able to avoid grooving one again, right?
Wrong, and don’t call me Shirley. The shell-shocked pitcher put a heater right in the zone and Hundley promptly turned it around to give the Cubs back-to-back-to-back home runs on three consecutive pitches. Not something you see every day, is it?
Even Augie Ojeda, whose cousin has babysat my kids, got in on the action by scoring a run. Kerry Wood won the game and I lost my voice. It was perfect.
I’ve been to many games since then, but that was the last one I can remember during which everything seemed to go right. I felt weightless.
I want to get that feeling back, and maybe this is a way to remove one small burden at a time, to restore a little of the shine to my outlook. And I believe the opportunity is there, that the arduous process of the last few years can eventually yield a team onto which I can once again feel confident to cast my hope and expectations.
So where do you fall? Have you turned into a shriveled-up curmudgeon like the one that comes out in some of my work, or are you still the giddy not-quite-grown-ass-man who bounced his way down Clark Street?
Maybe, like me, you’re a little bit of both. If that’s the case, I sure hope I’m right about this rebuild…for all of our sake.
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