It’s a right of passage in our family. That first baseball game at Wrigley – the Cubs versus the Cardinals. We’ve been at it now for three generations. My words of advice, going back 20 years is – Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be Cubs fans.
It’s really tempting. The allure of Wrigley and the ivy. The patriotic red, white and blue uniform. The scoreboard. But, here’s the deal…it’s the beginning of life in the black hole of sports. Sucks you in, bleeds you dry and spits you out until next season.
My oldest nephew made his first trek to the friendly confines the summer of 1998. The year of the great home run derby. Sammy Sosa – Mark McGuire – both homered his first ever game. We sat in the bleachers and Tyler even went home with a souvener ball from the warm up that Sosa threw into the stands and the young men next to us caught and handed off.
Sunshine. Extra innings. Cubs loss. It’s an omen suckers.
But then, the Cubs ended up with an amazing season. Won a special playoff. Wildcard series against the Braves. I got tickets to my first ever playoff – Greg Maddux versus Kerry Wood. Scottie Pippen singing the seventh inning stretch. All kinds of excitement with the same end result – swept and out.
Hook. Line. Sinker.
Don’t fall for this drama. It’s the beginning of the road to broken heart.
The first season I remember was 1969. That makes me a true glutton for punishment.
Then came the summer of 1984. I graduated from college and the Cubs graduated to the big leagues. Ryno and the Red Barron made us believe and got the Cubs to the playoffs. Nine outs from the series…dream unfilled.
In 1989, another thrilling season. I moved to Chicago and Wrigleyville just in time for them to move into first place. Danced outside Wrigley the night they clinched the division. All short-lived. Thank you Giants.
2003 – five outs away. Sat at the pool side bar in friggin’ Maui as I watched by World Series dream slip away. The biggest heartbreak of all time.
2008 – tickets to the clincher game – one section away from Blago – another omen. Best record in baseball. Out of the playoffs in one fell swoop. Won’t even discuss the next playoff.
Two of my nephews are die hards just like I am.They start off believing, just like I did, that this would be the year. A small hot streak anytime in the season gives you an adrenalin rush…then reality sets in and you check in one more time to the heartbreak hotel.
It’s started to sink in for Tyler, the oldest, that the Bulls of the ’90’s were it for us. He’s in grad school and already smarter than I was at his age – and he’s seen the Cubs in four playoffs (I was at one then).
My younger nephew still has that wild eyed hope. Thinks each April that this is the year. Has two Cardinal fans for brothers and is still holding out strong. It’s a curse…and there’s not even a billy goat in the room.
My husband who gave up on the Cubs about the time Mr. Cub retired says our magic number is 2000-never. He may be right. (Don’t tell him I just said that). It’s the last weekend of the season and this week we had the indignity of watching not one, but two teams clinch their playoff spot.
I really want to roll back the clock to my nephews’ first games take them aside and fill them in on the next twenty years. Give them a break before they get sucked in and under in the life of a Die Hard Cubs fan. Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be Cubs fans.
And then I realize that it would do no good. Rolling back the clock, filling in the blanks, bandaging the heartbreak before it happens.
Because Die Hard Cubs fans are born, not made. We bleed Cubs (not Cubbie) blue and go our own way anyway. Being a Cubs fan isn’t for the weak or faint at heart. It does take a special person, a special kind of loyal being to be a die hard fan. So, as much as I’d like to roll back the clock to 1998 or 2009 or any of the years in between…they would never believe what I have to say because they already believe in the Cubs.
Wait until next year.
Writers note: As of Friday, we hit the trifecta – three teams clinched against the Cubs in a week.
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