That time my buddy caught a foul ball while holding his baby at a Cubs game

You have probably seen the replay by now. The catch. The reverse-Bartman. The play that if, IF, Back to the Future is right and this turns out to be the year the Cubs end the streak, this catch could be that symbolic moment when everything turned around.

The only thing that could have made the moment more purifying was if he had been holding a baby goat.

I went to bed that night completely unaware this all happened. My brother had sent out a link in the O’Brien extended family group text with the message, “Coolest dad ever!”

But my brother lives in the Pacific Time Zone and I’ve got the sleep cycle of an old man. In the morning I was running late for work and forgot about the text. At work, someone sent me the link but the link was not in a clickable form so it was like oh come on, now I’ve gotta edit copy paste this? 

Sometime around seven or eight o’clock that night I got on Facebook and saw my wife had posted a link to the story. Wait a second!? Wait. Is that… Keith?

It was like that scene from Finding Nemo when Dory remembers who Nemo is and all the images flash through her head. My brother’s text. The link at work. P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.

The catch that everyone in Chicago was talking about involved our friends, Keith and Kari.

I watched the replay a couple of times. Saw the Twitter posts. Saw the memes. But the best part was the next time we were over at their apartment getting to hear the story directly from Keith and Kari. Then hearing about when he was a guest on a radio show. And how now when they hop on a bus or walk around Chicago, people would say, “Hey, hey, you’re that guy! And that’s your baby!”

You can’t beat hearing a good story in person. I actually wish I wouldn’t have seen anything about the catch at all, just continued on oblivious until we were hanging out with Keith and Kari again. How cool would that have been, if that standard conversational ice breaker of “how have you been” resulted in me and Ashley finding out about the catch for the first time.

The surprise makes you feel like you are experiencing the event live. And these surprise moments tend to happen less and less these days.

For instance, a few months back I was walking down Belmont Street, mind wandering. thinking about writing a post about escalator etiquette when I heard, “Chris?”

I turned around. It was a girl from high school. Hadn’t seen her in… seven years? “How are you?” I asked. She proceeded to say, “Good. I hear you live in this area. And you got married. Are you still working at the Tribune? Or no, you’re at that Jellyfish place right?”

At that moment, I felt incredibly self-conscious because I didn’t have three facts about her life ready to launch.

I mean I remember who she dated in high school, but how awkward would that be: Hey, are you still with, oh that ended five years ago? Welp, looks like my bus just got here, so… 

Compare that to twenty years ago, a couple of Midwesterners would have slapped their knees and said, “Wow, what are the odds. What a small world. How ya been!” Nowadays, this chance encounter is a pop quiz and Facebook was the textbook I hadn’t properly studied from.

I sizzled of course and ended up noticing her and her friends were carrying pizza boxes so all I could come up with was, “Pizza. How, uh, how is that pizza?” I left the conversation knowing more about her pizza order than the last seven years of her life.

I Googled the definition of Encounter and there are two definitions that come up. The first: A meeting, especially one that is unplanned, unexpected or brief, a chance encounter in the park. The second: A hostile or adversarial confrontation, a tense naval encounter. Side-by-side those definitions are the perfect explanation of the modern day encounter.

With everything shared on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever else, a lot of times I feel more like I’m a fact checker than a listener. What I mean by that is I’ll say something like, “Oh, I saw on Facebook you guys celebrated your kid’s 3rd birthday,” and I’ll hear back, “Yeah! It was a lot of fun.” Then the story is over. There’s no retelling of anything. I received a confirmation, not an explanation.

However, asking that question (you do anything fun over the weekend) is admitting to having not followed their Facebook page for three days. What if you missed an update about a funeral. Now the innocent “you do anything fun?” makes you the biggest jerk in town.

So what is the Medium Rare solution? I think I may have found the answer at Fogo de Chao. 

Every year, Jellyvision celebrates CEO Amanda Lannert’s birthday with Mustache Day. We all grow mustaches, or tape on mustaches, lot of people come in costumes and we all go out to eat at Fogo de Chao. This year we noticed our founder, Harry Gottlieb, was nowhere to be found. Out in the parking lot taking pictures you could hear people saying, “I wonder where Harry is” or “Too bad Harry’s not here.”

We get to the restaurant. Everyone’s settled in and the waiters start coming around with skewers of meat. I hear someone say, “It’s Harry.” I look up thinking he’s walked into the room. “It’s Harry!” Others have joined. Ok, where? They point to one of the waiters. I look closer. Oh, that is Harry! The guy who just served us food.

Table by table my friends were figuring it out and the room erupted in cheers and clapping. My instinct reaction, pull out my phone, take a photo and send it out to my wife and parents.

But I caught myself. What makes for a better story: the grainy photo with the text, “Look what our founder did!” or waiting and telling the story in person. Later that night when I told my wife, I got to watch her face light up as she went from, “Ok, where is this story going?” to, “Oh that’s so cool!” Same with my parents the next day, I couldn’t see their faces but could sense the same reaction over the phone.

Sharing is at its best offline. Looking back at that chance encounter now, I wish I would have asked non-pizza related questions. The fact that I didn’t know as much about her life was all the more reason to ask questions and learn more.

The “did you do anything fun over the weekend” question is most often met with, “We just kinda hung out. How about you?” which isn’t that exciting, but it at least gives them a chance to share. Yes, there is that small chance of being accidentally offensive in the case of the funeral example above, or being late on news of engagements, or babies, or breakups that happened five years ago, but so what? Worst case scenario, you make a fool of yourself and now you have a good embarrassing story to share to someone else.

Kind of interesting, I wrote this post back in 2015 and didn’t revisit it until May of 2019. I can see now the seeds were already starting to form into what eventually became Long Overdue; a publishing business that helps people record and preserve their stories in a more engaging way than social media. And who was/is there to help build this business? Keith Hartley, aka the guy who caught a foul ball while holding his baby at a Cubs game. 

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