Why We Cheer: butthead edition
Editor's Note: Best known on the Desipio Message Boards as Butthead, our next guest contributor tells a tale from 1984. Incidentally, if you would like to join in this series, feel free to either post a blog entry or EMail something to me at kjsevans (at) gmail (dot) com.
Jody Davis hit a home run in game five of the 1984 NLCS. I was eight years old. For some reason, this is the only vivid memory I have of the Cubs in the playoffs that year. The regular season is a different story. I remember watching Sarge and Ryno and Dernier and Cey almost everyday that summer, or at least listening to the games on the radio in the backyard while my dad grilled and my brother and I played catch. But the playoffs are a blur.
The thing that stands out about Jody’s homer was my dad’s reaction when it went out. I was sitting on the floor looking up at my dad who was sitting in his recliner as usual, and as the ball went over the fence he clenched and pumped both of his fists and cheered. It wasn’t a loud cheer, but more of a quiet but intense “Yes!” The seriousness of his reaction made an impression on me.
I didn’t quite get it at the time, but he…obviously…. really wanted a win that day. Up to that point I understood cheering for my teams. I was excited when they won, but not really heartbroken when they would lose. But after the Cubs lost that game five, and seeing how depressed my dad was, I kind of started to understand how much you really fall in love with your favorite teams. He had waited 41 years to see the Cubs have a chance to win a pennant…I’m not counting the World Series appearance they had when he was a toddler. He saw a lot of shitty baseball up to that point, but he waited patiently for his Cubs to win something. Just winning the division had to be a thrill. I’ll never be able to relate to that. I’m only 32 and have seen the Cubs in the playoffs five times. But to wait 41 years to see them win anything is amazing. And to see them get so close to a pennant, to have it right there, but not get it after waiting all those years…. well that is heartbreaking.
Sports were a big part of my life growing up. I don’t think it would have been possible for my brother and I not to root for my dad’s teams. He had a lot of passions in life…but he didn’t love anything more than Notre Dame football, the Chicago Bears, and the Cubs. And he took it seriously…maybe too seriously. My mom is still amazed at how upset he would get when he was distracted while watching a game, because his lapse in concentration was surely the cause of the Bears giving up a touchdown. He was always the angriest when the phone would ring on Sunday afternoons. I can still hear him…”who the hell would call during the Bear game!?” I learned early on that if I wanted to watch a game with him I had better sit still and really pay attention to the game.
Even though I’ve been pretty lucky as a sports fan so far….I’ve seen championships from the Bears and Irish, plus six Bulls winners….it’s that damn pennant and World Series win I really want. I think I wanted it more for my dad than me though. I figure I have a lot of time still to see the Cubs win. In ’03 it was really close. I was living on the west coast at the time, so I wasn’t able to watch the games with my dad and brother….we always watched important games together. Before game five of the ’03 NLCS I was pretty cocky. I had a good feeling about the game and decided to call home to talk about how the pennant was going to be ours later that day. The only problem was it was on a Sunday, and the Bears were playing. The conversation went something like this….
Me: “Hey Dad, this is it! This is the day you’ve been waiting for your whole life! We’re winning this thing today! We’re going to the World Series!”
Dad: “Why are you calling me during the Bear game?”
So I guess he wasn’t as excited as I was that day…at least until the Bears were done. Of course things did not work out that game or the next two games either. A few weeks later I was talking to my mom on the phone and she told me dad told her he felt bad about the whole Cubs thing. She basically said he was sorry my brother and I had to watch all this crappy baseball. But there was no way we were not going to be Cubs fans, and I can’t imagine it any other way.
One of these days the Cubs are going to win the damn World Series and it will all be worth it, except my dad won’t be around to see it. He passed away a few years ago, and since then I’ve thought a lot about what it will be like when the Cubs finally win it. I’m sure I’ll cry like a baby when it happens, partly because I’m happy, and partly because he won’t be here to see it.