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All Good Things in All Good Time

November 6, 2016

“The trouble with love is its other face
You just want the cup, but you don’t want the race
No, you don’t want the race

Run, run, run for the roses
The bigger it opens, the sooner it closes
Man, oh, man, oh friend of mine
All good things in all good time”

– Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter, from Run for the Roses

As long as a kid would be content watching the games on TV and unconcerned about of scraping up an obscene amount of money to buy a ticket to enter Wrigley Field, this was a good year to be an eleven-year old Cubs fan. It was also the year for the adults.

On the very slim chance that you haven’t heard, let me bring you up to date and tell you that the Chicago Cubs won the world series last week. Ok, you already know that. If so, you’ve probably heard a hundred times a day or more the past couple weeks that it’s been a very long time since a Cubs team won the world series. Just how long? On a count of three, all together now, “108 years.”

That’s a long time. How long? You’ve heard about that too. Teddy Roosevelt was president, Henry Ford was getting started with his car, the Wright brothers were working things out with their plane, and people still walked around without a paper cup filled with expensive coffee in one hand and a death grip on their cell phones with the other.

If you are not a Cubs fan, you probably know one. If we’re all six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, I’d bet each of us are a few steps closer to a Cubs fan (and certainly no more than six degrees of separation from one another, too). So even if you don’t follow the Cubs or aren’t even a baseball fan, surely you have heard someone say, “My Dad’s a big Cubs fan” or something like, “We’re all Red Sox fans, but my sister went and married a Cubs fan…”

Harris Polls tells us that 37% of Americans are baseball fans and that the New York Yankees are the most popular team. The Cubs are the fourth

My brother showing off his early 1980s Cubs hat Norman bought him out at Wrigley Field.

My brother showing off his early 1980s Cubs hat Norman bought him out at Wrigley Field.

most popular team according to their data. The curious folks at this website dug a little deeper and estimated that there are more Cubs fans than any other – nearly ten million. If Kevin Bacon is a Cubs fan, the path to six degrees of separation just became easier.

There’s a math equation out there to test my hypothesis that we’re all one or two steps separated from a Cubs fan. But let’s not let science or math get in the way. For now, I’m going to have to go with my gut to support my claim. It just seems like the numbers would fall in place if we ran them. Besides, I know lots of Cubs fans, so can make introductions to fill in some of the gaps if we fall short.

I’m a Cubs fan. I come from a family of Cubs fans. These days, I’m not your hold your breath on the throw home, live with every pitch, second-guessing Joe Maddon, worried about Kyle Schwarber’s left knee, yelling at the umpire sort of Cubs fan. More your “meant the world to me when I was a kid” fan who’s held those dear memories closely while also recognizing how talented the current team is sort of Cubs fan.

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Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub. Source: the scrapbook I kept when I was a kid.

I moved to San Francisco as a Cubs fan decades ago, but things change. This year, when the Cubs beat the Giants in the playoffs, I could swing back easily enough. The Giants are my team, but it’s not as if the current Cubs team was unknown to me. Because I spend way too much time watching baseball during the spring and summer, by the time the playoffs come around, I know too much about most teams in the majors. But watching the Cubs this year, isn’t like watching the Cubs teams of my youth. It couldn’t be. Nor would I want it to be.

There are lots of Cubs fans and every one of them has their own way to enjoy the team. Using the big event in Chicago as a marker, some of them take it pretty seriously and important enough to battle through the logistics and crowds of Cubs fans to revel with crowds of other Cubs fans within the crowd of five million Cubs fans. That’s a lot of Cubs fans bringing their mojo to bear on the last 108 years. Maybe there’s enough leftover to carry the team through 2017.

I saw Beautiful – The Carole King Musical when it came to San Francisco a year or two ago. The theater was full and everyone seemed to enjoy the show. And why wouldn’t they? Everything about it (although I am not a trained theater patron) was terrific. If this is your kind of thing, I recommend it. But in the end, I enjoyed it mostly because of the company of my host, K. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

I applauded for the cast, of course. K and I both did, just as everyone else in the theater did too. But there was something a little deeper about the emotions from the two women to my left. I swore at the time that they believed that they had just witnessed Carole King beat her professional and personal struggles right there on the stage. The same stage where Carole King shared her successes and pleasures with all of us. It was if they had experienced two decades of Carole King’s life in two hours. Not an actress playing Carole King, but Carole King. It was as if they had been carried back to 1971 and were whiling away a summer afternoon listening to Tapestry on their older sister’s turntable. There seemed to be a little sadness over there, but it appeared overall that they were happy that they came. Nothing unusual about that.

Whatever those two women may have been going through, happens to all of us I think. We’re not always able to separate the past from the current. Most Cubs fans must have started their journey with this team with someone else – brothers, sisters, moms and dads, uncles, grandparents, aunts, friends, neighbors, workmates. Someone was there first. Someone to show us the way – scorecard methods, team history, anecdotes about players and plays on the field, player trades, and most of all, share their lasting memories. And then there were those who were discovering baseball right along side of you, forming their memories of the Cubs just as your own were being shaped. And they too had someone to show them the way, someone to tell them all about the Cubs.

More amazing than the Cubs is the fact that I'm still watching the games with every one of these guys.

More amazing than the Cubs is the fact that I’m still following the games with every one of these guys.

JK too. I don't know what was more important to him than hanging around with us near the red VW bus that day. (That's LZ facing the photo in the background.)

We’re still watching the Cubs with JK too. To this day, he’s never told us what was more important to him than hanging around with us near the red VW bus that day a long time ago. (That’s LZ gracing the photo in the background.)

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These days, the kid on very left side of the VW bus hangs this flag when the Cubs win. Quite the moment for him after game seven last week.

This was a year Cubs fans remembered Cubs fans. While the talented kids on the field were playing the game for their own reasons, millions of Cubs fans watched with the emotional overhead far beyond the suspense common to a sport event. The exploitive structure of MLB and the big TV networks requires them to stretch the season on both ends as far as they can. This means that we’re still paying for and watching games into early November. Our emotional and sentimental connection to the past provided Cubs fans with an advantage, because the end of October and early November is the season when the curtains separating us from our departed loved ones flutters open with the breeze.

Hallowmas was an early Christian holiday to honor believers who had gone to heaven. It has since regressed to Halloween, a mostly commercial holiday on October 31, nut there’s still a background theme about spirits visit us from the beyond. Some Christians still celebrate All Saints’ Day on November 1 to honor the spiritual connection they feel with those in heaven. All Souls’ Day, November 2, is another Christian holiday to remember the departed. All three days. October 31 – November 2, Mexicans pray for and remember the loved ones they’ve lost with the holiday they call Dia de Muertos. There were a lot of Cubs fans remembering Cubs fans last week. The Cleveland Indians really had no chance.

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Found in Norman’s sketch book. Norman was the coolest older cousin a kid could want.

The wind blows every which way at Wrigley Field – sometimes to the advantage of the hitters, sometimes for the pitchers’ benefit. This year, all across the country, the winds blew the curtains wide open for 108 years of Cubs fans to join together. They blew in Cleveland during games six and seven. Cool rains in game seven, when the score was tied at the end of nine innings, gave Cubs fans and Cubs fans they remember all a few extra minutes to hold one another close. The goat and black cat were washed away for good. The outfield grass was rinsed clean for a perfect end to a long race. All good things in all good time.

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Norman’s favorite place on earth was Wrigley Field. He was there for hundreds of games through the years when the Cubs lost. Here he is during a rain delay in the mid-80s, possibly in his last year out at the yard. This year, I took off my Giants cap and joined him for the world series.

 

 

15 Comments
  1. You know, I don’t follow baseball at all, but even I was interested in the Cubs’ journey this year, and I enjoyed this post. I knew it had been a long time since they won — a really long time. Weren’t they the ones who were tagged the “lovable losers”? In any event: happy season to all the fans. Now: on to next year, with some quite new tales to tell the ones coming up.

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    • Hi Linda. Affectionate fans gave the team affectionate names such as “My Cubbies,” and the “Lovable Cubbies.” “Lovable Losers” certainly. During the darkest of times, sports fans being who they are, would less kind and generous. Not me. Part of the job of a sports fan is to learn how to enjoy the team when the win or lose. Appreciate the difficulty of what these kids out there on the field are trying to do.

      Like

  2. I have to confess, Bruce, when the Cubs won my thoughts turned to you. I also thought how wonderful it was to have something so positive to take our minds away from the dark political times, a true ray of light. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, thanks Curt. See, you now have locked in a one degree of separation from a Cubs fan. On to Kevin Bacon.

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  4. Well, you’ve got one reader who doesn’t know the rules for baseball, nor recognizes the Cubs. Didn’t even know that they had won the series. But it was nice reading a bit of your history. Congratulations on your favorite team winning.

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    • Hello Shimon, good to hear from you. No congratulations accepted. That’s for the talented and committed athletes on the field. I’m just a guy who’s hung around all these years watching the play on the field.

      Like

  5. Love this post. What joy in here. And how lucky are you to have that VW photograph!! I’ve got a favourite older cousin too – a pretty nice thing to have.

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  6. Congratulations!!!! … and they are very worthy … a very good team!

    My Cubs story (as a Reds lifer) … When cable came to Cincinnati in force in the late-70s, I watched Cubs games on WGN in the afternoons. A few years with Jack Brickhouse were fun. I recall how excited Brickhouse would get when they won. (although the team was going nowhere). …. Then came Harry Caray – who I recall listening to him call Cardinal games on KMOX. Harry was Harry … and I liked him. I knew I wanted to go to Wrigley so I could sing with Harry.

    We were at an orchestra or Pops concert one summer evening with friends, and I mentioned we were planning on going to Chicago so I could sing with Harry .. then the surprise … Our friend was an executive admin at the time, and she said two tickets came across her desk that day … and she would call me the next day …. We got them … two corporate seats in the lower deck on the infield … and we went, I sang with Harry, and Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win! …. and here’s one of my favorite commercials. https://youtu.be/IOhxnZSf1Fs

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  7. Thank you for taking me away, for a moment, from the political dirge…

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  8. We were kids once again, weren’t we? Living and dying on each and every pitch. I had the glove and bat arranged in a special shrine the last two games. Had to pull out all the stops. It was a blast sharing it with all the boys in attendance. Don’t know what I’d do without you fellas. PS – Where the heck WAS JK when that pic was taken?

    Like

  9. kdk permalink

    You’ve totally captured the wonderful combination of tradition, sentiment, joy, and wistfulness that the past few weeks of Cubs baseball has delivered.

    Those curtains to the past fluttered wide open for me too during the playoffs. I so missed being able to share the W joy with my dad who too-too-recently passed away at 94 years young as a Cubs fan. How could it be that after all that time he just missed this? But as a boy he went to games with his father, grandfather, and older brother. It made me feel better to believe that somehow, somewhere they were all watching together again on Wednesday night.

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  10. Great stuff Bruce. I enjoyed this immensely.

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  11. Bruce,

    I hope all is well with you. I miss your voice, your occasional comments on my posts and as I am working on one was aware you have been silent for months and that concerns me. Again, I hope all is well other than the alternative universe in which we live.

    Mat

    Like

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