M & I watched last night’s game in a chain sports bar that had no sound on the TVs and terrible service. And with the scored tied at 1 with a man on in the bottom of the seventh, we got booted by a drunk bartender who needed to clean up. There were a few other Cubs fans there as well—two, actually—and M made the point that if we had been Yankees fans or Red Sox fans, there might have been violence. There certainly would have been some memorable language. But we are not Yankees fans or Red Sox fans. We are Cubs fans. We are Midwesterners. Which means we politely left and called him an asshole under our breath.
In the Washington Post this morning, David Broder writes, despairingly, of what it means to root for Chicago. In particular, he conjures the unpleasant memories of 1984. I was in seventh grade then, and I remember walking home from Sudlow Junior High wearing my Sony Walkman headphones listening to Harry Caray call the afternoon game from Wrigley. Broder was actually at the game.
On a perfect October day, I was one of 36,282 watching as the Cubs tried to get to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Amazingly, they won 13–0, with Rick Sutcliffe dominating the Padres, yielding only two hits and even hitting a home run into the right field bleachers himself—one of five the Cubs unloaded.
I remember Sutcliffe. He was slow & deliberate—you could mow the lawn between his pitches. But he dominated a game that way, making the other team’s batters restless, messing up their concentration. Carlos Zambrano, who pitched for the Cubs last night, is just the opposite. He’s the restless one, always twitching, circling the mound, pitching quickly, celebrating like a twelve-year-old kid when he gets a strikeout. Anyway, 1984. That Game 1 victory was sweet . . .
The next day, I watched as the Cubs won again, 4–2, and Thomas Boswell, The Post’s magisterial sportswriter, wrote that “baseball’s equivalent of divinity—the sacred breaks—are now running Cubward like a flood tide.” Boswell pointed out that no National League team had ever come back after losing the first two games of the five-game championship series. The Cubs flew off to San Diego needing just one win to be in the World Series.
They were swept, of course.
The next best chance the Cubs had was in 2003. And we all know about 2003. I lived in Korea then. The night games wrapped up around lunchtime the next day, Daejeon time, and with no TV, I was forced to follow along on the Internet by repeatedly refreshing the play-by-play screen on Yahoo Sports. Only a few minutes after Dusty & Crew blew Game 7 against the Marlins, I was thrust in front of a gathering of local businessmen who were bestowing upon me a bogus teaching award. I hadn’t been told about the award ahead of time. The certificate was in Korean and no one translated it. And I was introduced to the group only in Korean, after which my boss, the corpulent and dictatorial Mr. H, turned to me and said, smiling, “Okay. Make a speech.”
It was one of the saddest moments of my life. All I could do was cry.