Magic Number 11
(Before I begin, let me offer my sincere yet grudging congratulations to the White Sox. I didn't think you had it in you, and you did. Congratulations. I didn't think you could hold off the Pirahnas, and you did. I didn't think you could sell out your park in one day, and I didn't think you could pull off the "BlackOut", and you did. The BlackOut was pretty damn impressive to see, as was the John Danks pitching performance and the 34th tater this year for Human Battleship Jim Thome. You are the 2008 Central Division Champions, as we are. Congratulations. Now go to Tampa and die like dogs.)
Hello, Cubs fans and other interested parties. A special greeting to all of you brought here from Dodgerland, thanks to the LA Times. Welcome to Goatrider Central, the "sickest Cubs blog out there" according to Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune beatwriter for the Cubs. Whether this is your first visit to our humble abode or your 14,000th, you realize that we aren't overly talented or creative, nor are we graced with deep inside access to the inner workings of the Cubs. Jason swilled wine one night with Ernie Banks, and that pretty much covers the extent of our influence.
One thing I always thought we did have a surplus of, though, was the depth of our feeling for the Chicago National League Ball Club. I thought we CARED more than most, and I still think that, as a matter of fact. However, as I sit here today in an office, a timeclock buzzing somewhere on my behalf, there are countless thousands today, as we speak, at 8 in the freakin' 8AM, currently getting 'ready' for tonight's 5:30 first pitch. Murphy's, Sports Corner, Cubby Bear, Yakzies, Casey Moran's, they're all open, right now, serving it up. Kegs and Eggs. And tonight, while I sit down to watch the game in my wife's foofy "living room" with the quilt racks and the candles (because the Basement of Love is still a shambles), over 40,000 of you will actually BE THERE, jacketed, coated, and ski capped! 40,000 more of you will then show up tomorrow, when it will be latered, coldered, and more jacketed.
Now, it would be very easy for me to sit here today and say "I can't go. It just wasn't possible". That's crap. I know that simply isn't true. I could have gotten off early today, or called in sick entirely. My job would still be here tomorrow, all recessions aside. It WAS possible for me to miss work today. No, I didn't win the "lottery", but fortunately, I have the wherewithall to have scraped up the $500 or so it would have cost me to get a seat tonight. I could have a ticket if I really wanted it. I could have gotten there. There are several options I could have employed to get my actual body from Central Illinois, where I currently sit, to BWF, where it is all happening at 5:30.
I went to Game 3 last year (for face value, thanx yet again to Kurt). It was absolutely one of the things on my "Bucket List", to attend a Cubs game in the post-season. In many ways, it didn't go well, but in many more other ways, it was an incredible experience I will never forget. The thing I remember most was that I felt it validated my status as a Cubs fan. The Cubs only played one playoff game last year at home. There is only one Wrigley Field Bleachers, and the people sitting in the Bleachers for the One playoff game last year where the Fans of All Fans, as far as I was concerned. And I was right there, 8th row, literally next to the hitting backdrop shrubs.
Depending on who you are, what station of life you are in, you grant yourself the title of World's Biggest Cubs Fan. If you are 85 years old, living on a fixed income, and can only afford one big extravagance a year, and you choose a trip to Wrigley? Or if you are 23, and have structured your entire life around Cubs games, by renting a Wrigleyville apartment with four other guys, working a off-shift job so you have afternoons and weekends free, and going to as many games as humanly possible? How about the people who travel to the away games, who plan their vacations each year to coincide with Cubs road trips? Alternatively, you could be someone like Kurt, who lives in a whole other COUNTRY, for God's sake, and comes to Chicago just to see the Cubs? Or you can be just a normal guy, with a family, a job and a mortgage, that doesn't live convenient to the park. But you grew up a Cubs fan, you live and die by the scores of the games, and you still consider yourself the Biggest Cubs Fan in the world, even though going to games isn't the top priority in your mind?
Without giving away any secrets, the last guy is me, of course. Do I have the RIGHT to think of myself this way? I'm watching all the games, sure. I won't miss a minute. But I'm not going tonight, I'm not going tomorrow, I'm not flying to LA for games there, and barring some sort of miracle meeting with the Ticket Fairy, I won't be going to any Game Fives (if necessary) or NLCS (if necessary). And so many of you are going. My theory always has been: if you have the means to go, if you have the money, the time, and the ability to be there, then a true fan should go. By definition, that makes Those Who Go bigger fans than Those Who Don't, right?
Yes, it does.
Honestly, it would cause strain in my marriage if I took what I needed out of the bank to go to the playoff games. It would drain my savings if I were to go to all the NLDS and NLCS games, but I COULD go. It would probably require a loan of some sort for me to attend the World Series, but I COULD get a loan. I would end up sleeping over at one of your houses for awhile, because I would NOT be welcomed home. (Before you suggest, "just take her with you", hey, I'd love to. She even fancies herself a Cubs fan. But she is a bigger fan of our savings account, and she would not go to a game that she didn't think we could afford, so I would have to go myself, at my own risk). But out of the 80,000 attending the first two nights, there has to be several people risking something like that in order to be there, right? That would make them bigger fans than I am, I guess.
You know, I understand that the emphasis today is on the Cubs themselves, their ability to get past the Dodgers, then the NLCS and the World Series. I haven't lost track of that, regardless of what the last five paragraphs say. If you came here wanting to know how we are going to do tonight, hey, Colin is going to run some numbers, Kurt took his shot at previewing the series, Andy over at Desipio gave his unbiased look at the series, and The Trib and The Bright One and the LA Times all have matrices and charts and in depth interviews of all the participants. I ain't gonna tell you who's gonna win. By all accounts, the Cubs should win this. They have home-field advantage because they have the best record because they have the best rotation and the best situational hitting in the entire league.
But I believe in Curses. I believe in karma, in the supernatural, and the will of a supreme being. We have been better than the other guy before, and it didn't work out. I don't think a black cat or a Gatorade-soaked glove or a mope listening to his Walkman lost for us...because these were all just symptoms, just manifestations of the larger cause. SOMETHING up there is working against us. It's a trend, and while trends CAN be broken, they shouldn't be ignored, either.
I know we aren't going to win 11 more games this year unless we can somehow lift this veil. How? I wish I knew. You don't think I, the attention whore than I am, would step up and present the Magic Cure to Ernie Banks and Dutchie Caray and Grant DePorter and Ron Santo and Paul Sullivan and everyone else who would be interested if I knew how to Reverse the Curse? Who knows why it is how it is? Was it mistreatment of a man and his goat? Was it a flaunting of the rules (the Merkle Boner play) in 1908 by Johnny Evers, the AJ Eyechart of his era? It is thought that Cubs players were throwing games long before the Black Sox did their deed - could THAT be it? You can blame Wrigley mismanagement all you want, but the Wrigley era passed nearly 30 years ago, definitely long enough to right the ship, if that was the cause. So even though we should win, I can't employ normal regular logic to make my case, because I honestly feel all logic is thrown out when discuss our post-season hopes.
Maybe this is why I don't test my marriage to attend October baseball games. I guess I still feel like it isn't merely enough for the Cubs to beat the Dodgers; that they are still fighting a far stronger opponent, a beast that rarely loses. I admit to you all today, it has cut into my resolve. I admit to you all, there are fans out there, many thousands of you, with more faith than I have, for whatever reason. Maybe you've thought it out further than I have; maybe, on the other hand, you haven't thought it out very far, just as far as you're comfortable with. All I can promise you is, that I use all the faith I have.
That means that, for the first time in my life, I must admit that I am not the biggest Cubs fan. I am the biggest Cubs fan I can possibly be. Right now, today, 11 games to the Championship, I am absolutely feeling like that ain't enough. I can give my best, and my best ain't feeling like enough today.
I hope yours can help make up for mine. Help out a brotha. Magic Number 11!