Last night, I walked to Wrigley Field from my home to catch a Cubs game.
If 10-year-old Joe Grace knew this one day would be a possibility, he would be jumping up and down and clapping excitedly. (Ten-year-old Joe Grace has an odd way of celebrating. I blame his youth.)
While I grew up in southern Indiana hundreds of miles from Chicago – Cardinals country, really – I was a Cubs fan from the beginning.
1. They were my great-grandfather's favorite team, and I got to watch them on WGN when I visited as he smoked his pipe and called the players unflattering names. (In southern Indiana, we call this bonding time.)
2. I started watching baseball around 1989, the rookie year of Mark Grace. How could I not root for a team sporting what very well could have been my long-lost uncle. Sadly, this turned out not to be true, though when other kids asked me whether we were related, I simply would shrug my shoulders as if to say, "Who knows? Stranger things have happened."
And I've stuck with the Cubs ever since through thin and thinner.
• Through the loss to the Giants in the 1989 playoffs and the subsequent loss of Greg Maddux.
• Through Mark Grace's departure to the Arizona Diamondbacks. (I did bandwagon with them during that time and got to feel somewhat what it's like for your team to win a World Series. Not quite the same thing, more like the Chicago Taste version, but delicious nonetheless.)
• Through when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named got in the way of a foul ball during the 2003 playoffs and then You-Know-Who botched an easy double play soon after that and then – let's just say their names – Mark Prior and Kyle Farnsworth collectively decided, "You know what? Let's just go ahead and implode now."
• Through the none-and-done playoff runs during the Lou Piniella era.
• Through the current year in which the Cubs are in a tight race with the Pirates for fourth place in the division.
I'm a Cubs fan and always will be.
Despite a below-average team and little hope for the next few years, it's still magical for a lifelong Cubs fan to live so close to Wrigley Field that he can look out his window and see it from his home.
And last night's game was wonderful. A win as Geovany Soto decided driving in runs might make him more popular than striking out. Pizza and a soda, my ultimate Wrigley Field treat. And, for one night, keeping the division out of the Brewers' hands.
If he were still alive, my great-grandfather would have appreciated the game, too, from his recliner, pipe in tow. He might even have refrained from calling any of the players unflattering names. Well, maybe not, but it would have given him hope for the 2012 season. And as every true Cubs fan knows, there's always next year.