CUBS WIN!A year (or 20) in the life of a diehard fan
It still seems hard to believe, THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES! The Maddon-isms and life-parallels stacked up all season. Joe said “Embrace The Target” but I couldn’t help but think don’t get your hopes up – which is unusual for an eternal optimist. I guess the last few years – and playoff appearances – have tainted my rose-colored glasses. Which makes it all the more poignant. So, what did this win mean to me? To put it in context, we should really go back a ways… but I’ll skip past the years of cheering for Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston as my mom ironed clothes, and watching Sox games with my dad.
It’s September, 1996. I started my sales gig in Chicago radio, selling Howard Stern and Steve Dahl ads to vendors of Viagra, penis-enlargement pumps, and other products and establishments targeting upscale men. It wasn’t long before I moved in with my college roommate at the corner of Sheridan and Dakin, and began the tradition of going to the Cubs Home Opener ‘for work’. From our living room window, you could see the lights at Wrigley Field. I don’t remember much about the 1997 Cubs season but I think it was the year our friend dated “Riggs”. Forget he was the Cubs Manager, that old guy was twice my age; I didn’t get the mystique. But 1998 was a different story.
KKKKKerry Wood drew me to Wrigley Field. 21 years old and dominating. You could hear the roar of the crowd from our apartment when he struck out batters (and when Sammy Sosa hit homers). Watching Wood do it 9, 10, 20 times in a game was remarkable. I’d walk down the street to buy a day-of-game ticket, happy to go solo and stay til the end. The stands were often half-full for night games. My radio friends with season tickets and I were probably the only ones sitting in their section one night, when a concession woman walked straight up to my seat and handed me a steaming hot, meat-free Giordano’s pizza. I happened to be sitting in the winning seat.
June 13, 1999, I was not as lucky. It was two days after my sister’s Big Fat Greek wedding, and the whole Katsaros-Moshovos contingent and then some went to Wrigley to enjoy the Crosstown Classic. There were some Sox fans in our midst, but it was THE PEANUT that would kill the game for me. We were THREE HOURS into a rain delay, the final game of the series, and one the Cubs HAD to win. We were (again) the only people in our section by this time, and our cousin Jimmy was making up games to keep us amused. At the moment in question, I think his friend Walt was several rows in front of me, trying to catch my peanuts in his mouth… with some drinking rule for the familial spectators. A bored usher came by and insisted we stop. We may not have listened, so he came back and tempted me to “throw one more peanut, and I’ll kick you out of here”. I called his bluff… but he wasn’t bluffing… so we left. And wouldn’t you know it, the game started 15 minutes later, and the Sox hit a 2-run homer in the 8th to win 4-2 and sweep the series. I always wondered if my family’s cheering might have helped us win the game.
Like Wavin’ Wendell, I’m always hoping they’ll score. We’ve had some rough moments, like Gary Galleti pitching that 21-1 (??) blowout loss, or the unsportsmanlike Michael Barett landing the right hook we all wanted to give Pierzcyski. I almost wish I could forget the 2003 NLCS game AFTER the Bartman game – with no spirit and no offense, Kerry Wood hit a 2-run homer and we still lost. Or watching us get swept by the Braves. But my Wrigley Field lows are way outshined by the highs. Topping the list: our Opening Day wedding… and the Pennant win. [EDIT: And the surreal day of the Cubs Championship Parade + Rally!]