Prior to Saturday's 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs played 14 series without winning one, a streak that stretched back to early September of last year.
I'd like to think that my presence at the ballpark had some sort of metaphysical impact on the outcome, that the Cubs sensed my desire to see them extend their win streak in games I attend to 5. Or maybe they knew that this was the kick-off to the bachelor party for my great friend and they wanted to send him into matrimony with a W.
Whatever the case, the Saturday matinee at Wrigley was a game I'll not forget anytime soon, and for more than just the win. You see, I've been struggling with some existential questions of what it means to be a Cubs fan, with why we are what we are. Not that I've doubted my own status, just that I have been seeking to rediscover the magic I once felt.
And to that end, Wrigley Field might well have been Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry this weekend. You see, this had been months in the planning stage and it was all starting to come together. I'd been tasked with putting some things together for my buddy Rob's bachelor party and was a little nervous about how it would all go off.
Ten guys would be congregating; 8 carpooling up from Indiana, 1 from Chicago, and 1 flying in from Nashville. I was worried about the moving parts, keeping everyone together, finding great seats together in the bleachers, etc. Basically, I wanted to make sure everyone had a great time. After all, this was a bachelor party for Rob and would be the first Wrigley Field experience for 6 of the attendees.
And as the forecast of 63 and rainy gave way to 65 (or so) and mostly sunny, I had the feeling that this would be a great day. We met up at the Harry Caray statue and made our way in, immediately finding a row of 10 just to the left of the batter's eye. Sitting there just to the leftfield side of center and looking out over the ballpark, it all came into focus for me.
Sitting next to a friend of mine who had never been to Wrigley, I was able to see the place as he was. This didn't feel like some cookie-cutter stadium in the middle of a parking lot. It was more like neighborhood park, an intimate little venue on the corner of your street. Old Style in one hand, dog in the other, I felt like a little kid again.
Well, except for the fact that little kids shouldn't drink beer. Also, I didn't like hot dogs as a kid; and this one even had onions on it; sauteed, but still. And I still don't like hot dog, or onions, but this one had apparently been bathed in the same waves of pure awesomeness that continued to wash over me.
Not even the guy in the Mike Piazza Mets shirsey could ruin my mood, and I'm normally a really hardcase about stuff like that. Oh, sure, I pointed it out, but I didn't let it harsh my mellow. Just two days before, I had been floating in an innertube along the lazy river at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and here I was doing much the same in the bleachers at Wrigley.
I was just so locked in to the experience that I felt Junior Lake's home run before I saw it or heard it; after all, the speed of emotion is far greater than those of sound and light. I sensed the ball coming as soon as it left the bat, could see the seams as it arced toward us in slow motion. And that's really saying something for a guy who couldn't have judged a curve from a fastball as a kid.
You can see our group in the featured image of this post, just across the upper border of the shot, most of us missing heads. Well, I'm the guy in the upper right with his right arm up in a show of celebration. The bachelor is on my right and the Wrigley first-timer I had specifically mentioned earlier is on my left. In any case, tell you this to give a point of reference for the video below from the broadcast.
The moment the camera cuts to the view of the bleachers, before it's even zoomed in, you can see a small figure in a white jersey with his arm up, well before the rest of the crowd had come to the realization that the Cubs were about to take a lead they would not relinquish. The ball didn't quite make it to us -- the guy with the scorecard and sweet mustache in front of us was closer -- but that's not the point.
The point is: never underestimate the power of intuition and Old Style, my friends. Okay, that's not really the point. Well, not the whole point. That afternoon, feeling the joy of being at Wrigley on a sunny Saturday and seeing that same joy on the faces of so many others, really got me dialed back in.
And so the game ended, we sang (very badly) Go, Cubs, Go, took pictures, and headed over to O'Malley's to hand out excess beers to Cardinals fans. Seriously, the failure to properly coordinate bucket purchasing duties resulted in about 10 extra Miller Lites, which we distributed while the DJ layered 50 Cent's In Da Club over Closer by Nine Inch Nails.
I felt a certain pleasure in handing out Milwaukee beer to St. Louis natives, even if A-B does pay the Cubs a lot of money and neither brewer is really true to its hometown roots any longer. But it was a symbolic gesture, so I think we can let all the issues of facts take a back seat.
Lou Malnati's and Lucky Strike finished up the night, but the Cubs game was the crown jewel of the trip and it wasn't even close. I wasn't worried about records or rebuilds, Epstoyer or Clark the Cub, or even what might happen in the next inning. I was enjoying every moment of just being a fan, of the childlike enthusiasm I had listening to Harry Caray call the game and watching Ryne Sandberg turn a double play.
Of course, now I'm back to the reality of watching the game on TV or listening on the radio, absent the unmistakable allure of the ballpark. But I've polished a little of the patina from the surface of my fandom and it looks kinda bright and shiny again.
Here's to hoping for more days like that, for more wins and more fun, for a team that lets us feel like kids again, even if it's only for an afternoon.
Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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