Sunday, October 5, 2008

The boys of summer are gone

The Cubs, once again, went 0-3 in the playoffs after winning their division. I sort of knew in my bones this was going to happen, but I didn't want to believe it. I've always thought that being a Cubs' fan is like being a Jew- you're always waiting for a redemption that refuses to come. And yet you still believe, because Maimonides told you to; because it's in your blood.
This year felt tenuously right and I don't just mean in the over-hyped 100 years way. It somehow felt redemptive. I was at Wrigley in early April at a freezing night game. There was a lightness in the air, that I hadn't felt before; an exuberance that comes with confidence, though it was a close game, and still very early in the season. Kerry Wood took the mound in the 9th and the crowd rose, chanting his name with every pitch. I have followed Kerry Wood's career since he first started with the Cubs in 1998. When he was young, he reminded me of the hero of J.R. Tunis's great baseball book, "The Kid from Tomkinsville", if only because both of them were young and could throw a deadly fastball. And when he was older, well, everyone knows the story of his freakish stints on the DL. But I had faith in him. In Tunis's book the Kid, the star pitcher and the hope of the Brooklyn Dodgers, injures his elbow coming out of the shower. His pitching career comes to an end in a way that does indeed bring the accident prone career of Kerry Wood to mind. But the Kid comes back, not as a pitcher, rather as an outfielder and helps his team to a championship. So even though last year, after nine frustrating seasons it looked like Kerry's career was done, I hoped that he would come back ala the Kid. And he did, not as an outfielder, but as an All-Star closer. When I saw him take the mound in April, it felt right. It felt like this year was the year. It wasn't just the new faces- the great Geovanny Soto, or the stellar starting pitching. It was the sense of redemption; of a team coming together to put to redeem all the failures of past years. And when the Cubs clinched the division a few weeks ago, it was Wood on the mound, thronged by his teammates. Tunis couldn't write it any better. Too bad life's not a book.
Didn't he deserve it? Didn't we deserve it?
For the past two days I've thought that maybe this time the scar runs too deep. Maybe this team is irredeemable. Nobody, not Lou Pinnela, or Carlos Zambrano, or Lee, Soriano, and Fukodome nor Aramis Ramirez and a Dempster-Wood switch, could save these Cubs. There is no messiah. Maybe there is too much betrayal and bitterness in this failure. It could be that it's time to fold up and turn my back on the Cubs. But I know that come March the rains will taper here in Jerusalem and the ground back in Chicago will still be hard and tinged with frost, but there will be something in the air, and I'll start to think about Passover and Chicago and of Wrigley. I'll cock my ear to the general murmurings of the baseball world.
Who knows what next year will bring? The team will certainly look different, with a new owner and probably some beloved faces gone. It may very well be that Wrigley will be silent and somber and wary of disillusionment; that this team will lose itself under the weight of these past two years and fall back into petty mediocrity. Or, alternatively, we, both fans and players, will get caught up in the days and the rhythms of baseball; in the standings and the pitch count; in the satisfying smack of a ball hitting a glove; in the beauty of a well turned double play; in the wind blowing off the lake and thin thread of hope will rise. Maybe we will become so used to being good, that we will be great. Who knows?
I started this blog well into the season with a Cubbie Watch. Looking back on the little comments I made, I realize how wary I was; how every little slide gave me reason to panic. I guess I knew that these Cubbies would manage to break my heart. They always do. Next year I will probably be even more wary. After all, baseball isn't so important. It isn't going to fix the economy, or save Darfur. But going back to my opening paragraph, there is a sort of spirituality in baseball; a sense of hallowed ground and unity of spirit; a belief in a world that can change for the better. Those things are important. My Cubbie watch is done. Until next year.

Book Rec: J. R. Tunis, "The Kid from Tomkinsville"

Thesis Watch: 16 pages, and a meeting with my adviser. He wants to publish. Scary yay.

1 comment:

Miri said...

mazal tov on the publishing dude! that's amazing!!!
by the way, I think the analogy between religous Cubs fan and religious Jew is extremely apt. There certainly is a similar belief without reason isn't there? And stemming from very similar causes.
Well written. I like the title, too.