Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Cubs Win! Holy Cow! Go Cubs Go!

            In 1988 I was a five-year-old boy, trying to follow in my father's footsteps as a Cubs fan. Holy Cow! I screamed repeatedly. Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Shawon Dunston, Mark Grace, Greg Maddux, and Harry Caray, were the first six names I learned as I became a fan of the game.

            Later that season my competitive nature kicked in and I realized it would be more fun to root against my father's team, at least for a couple of series each year, than to cheer with him all season long. Back then we didn't have this endless litany of channels providing access to every baseball game on the planet. If I wasn't going to watch the Cubs on WGN, the only other option was the Braves on TBS. My mind was made up, I was a Braves fan, and so the cubs became my #2.

            At that time the Braves were just as bad as the Cubs. But, I had no qualms cheering for the underdog. As I've learned throughout my life, it's the role I was born to play. I rooted for Ron Gant, Dale Murphy, David Justice, Deion Sanders, Fred McGriff, and Chipper Jones as they became some of the best in the game. In the early 90s, it became fun to be a Braves fan as they built the best rotation in the history of baseball - Tom Glavin, Steve Avery, John Smoltz, and of course, former Cub, and my favorite pitcher of all time, Greg Maddux.

            In1995 I pulled for the team of budding superstars for the last season because when they won the title, I instantly knew, rooting for the champ wasn't something I could do. After the season I went back to those lovable losers, my cubbies.

            In 1998 I watched with amazement in shock and awe as "Slammin" Sammy Sosa launched bombs while he battled it out with Mark McGwire for the single-season home run record. To this day I'm still on the side of the argument that that was the most exciting season in baseball history. I know it's not a popular stance but, the fact is, steroids didn't ruin the game, they brought it back from the edge of darkness after the strike had turned many away from the sport.

            In 2003 I thought for sure this was our year. We had the great Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Kenny Lofton, and my second favorite pitcher of all time, Kerry Wood leading a pitching staff of Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement. At the end of the season, I yelled, screamed and choked back tears as we gave the NLCS to the Florida Marlins on the heels of the Bartman excuse. Just to be clear Alou wouldn't have caught that ball anyway, and it's certainly not Bartman's fault the team fell apart from that point on.

            In 2016 I made it to my first in-person Cubs game. Game five of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium was the highlight of my baseball experience. Nine years after getting out of the army where I made several great friends, I got to watch my Cubbies kick butt against my battle buddy's Dodgers on his home turf. I felt joy in my soul every minute of the experience. After the game I gathered with hundreds of fans behind the visitors' dugout singing "Hey, Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are gonna win today!" That season ended with their first World Series win in 108 years, an excited hug with both of my son's, and a celebratory phone call to my dad to share the joy of the Cubs victory. There was no choking back the tears this time, our dreams had come true.

            Since the World Series title, I have done what I didn't think I could ever do and continued to root for the favorite. The Cubs will always be my team, our team.

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