Doesn’t it just make you wanna grin till yer face splits?

Well, maybe that’s just me. Having grown up with the notion of Chicago sports teams as a bunch of lovable losers was fun, but ultimately unsatisfying. A Bears Super Bowl win in 85 was great, but it didn’t make up for decades of heartache and frustration. The White Sox went through their “Winning Ugly” season in 83 and looked set to take it all, but it wasn’t till 2005 that they finally redeemed themselves as the south siders swept the ‘stros. In turn the Bulls and the Blackhawks brought home championships in the NBA and NHL respectively.

Ah, but the Cubbies.

First of all, True Confessions Time: I did not grow up a Cubs fan, and for a very particular reason. You see, as a child I was required by my Mother (a die-hard Cubs fan if ever there was one) to take my nap about the same time as Leo Durocher and Company (for he was the manager then) took to the diamond. The Sox generally played in the evening, so I just sort of naturally drifted in their direction.

Still, it was hard not to like the Cubs. For one thing, they had this wonderful field, with ivy-covered walls. That cool scoreboard that had people crawling around in it, for heaven’s sakes. And best of all, they had ERNIE BANKS. Mister Cub! Ol’ “Let’s Play Two” himself! Not like the Cubs? Impossible! So much so, that when a local publisher printed a pair of books and titled them, Stuck on the Sox and Stuck on the Cubs, why, I went and bought both books.

I never finished the Cubs book. And for a particularly galling reason: I took it with me when I went to Marine Corps Recruit Training so I would have something to read on the plane…not knowing it would be confiscated from me as soon as we hit the ground. I never got it back. Much like I never got my High School diploma back after having carried it to Chicago for my USMC entrance examination and NROTC scholarship stuff (but that’s another story.)

I got out of the Corps in 84 and moved to Riverside, California to live with my Mom while I sorted my life out. That also happened to be the year that the Cubs looked like they might be contenders, and in fact they went all the way to the National League Championship Series against the San Diego Padres. The day games weren’t televised locally, so I listened to the games on the radio and kept score–I have always been a stat junkie and am quite adept at scoring baseball  games. Then I’d go to Grandma’s house and read through the game, just like it was happening. The first two games, we all loved. But…

…well, you can guess the rest. My radio ended up in pieces in the lot behind the turn six grandstands at the late, lamented Riverside International Raceway, where I’d been watching a Can-Am face and following the game. As the last out was called, I couldn’t help myself and flung it downward some hundred feet, passers-by be damned. Fortunately I didn’t kill anyone.

Time marches on. There were several close calls over the years (anybody else remember wanting to murder Steve Bartman?) for the lads from Wrigleyville, but they didn’t get hold of the brass ring proper till this year.

Now, I could say that it’s a shame that my Mom, who started it all, wasn’t around to see it. Her remains perpetually are covered with a Cubs cap. Or Grandma, who till the day she died kept a picture of her with Ernie Banks on her mantle along with the rest of her family…you see, he was family!

But still. I believe in a beyond, and I know that both of them were watching. In fact, I can picture them sitting on either side of Mr. Cub as Kris Bryant made that last out , and all three of ’em with those face-splitting grins.

And I was right there with ’em.


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