Friday, November 4, 2016

World Champions

Well, they did it.

Did I ever think it would happen?  That is hard to say.  Of course, when you think about it, the odds of the Cubs not winning a World Series over the course of a lifetime has to be pretty low, but it happened to my grandfather and my dad, so who am I to think that I am so special?

My relationship with the Cubs is special.  Not special in the way that would make a great story on the news, but special to me.  My dad was obsessed with the Cubs. From the day I was born, it was clear that I would never be able to avoid being a Cubs fan.  Born in suburban Chicago with a die-hard dad?  No chance.

Then we moved to Texas when I was starting first grade.  This would likely kill any chance of fandom for almost any kid.  Proximity builds fans more than anything.  Just ask the thousands of newish Texas Rangers fans after 2 World Series appearances.  A lot of these people didn't even know what baseball was a few years ago, now they are buying personalized license plates and wearing customized jerseys.

As much as I credit my dad for instilling a love of baseball and the Cubs in me, there is one other entity that receives equal, if not more, credit.  Those three little letters that every Cub fan knows: WGN.  The superstation from Chicago, for whatever reason, had the foresight to get themselves placed on the basic cable tier of all American cable companies, guaranteeing that the Cubs would be seen across the land.  Combine that with the propensity for the Cubs to have more day games than anyone else (they didn't even have lights at Wrigley until 1988) and you have a sure-fire formula for creating masses of rabid fans.

I remember coming home from school, day in and day out, and the Cubs were on TV.  My formative baseball years were around the success of the 1984 version of the Cubs, with Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Dernier, Ron Cey, Leon Durham, Sarge Matthews, Rick Sutcliffe, Larry Bowa, Keith Moreland and Jody Davis. Even now, I can recite those lineups by heart.  I would drop my backpack on the floor, fire up the TV, and watch.  Hell, I even pretended I was part of it.  I would throw a square pillow on the floor, and if any Cub were on first base, I would lead off with him, diving back to the bag if the pitcher threw over.

I don't recall the heartbreak of the '84 season, though. Either I was on another planet, or I blocked it out.  I don't recall dying at the Cubs losing to the Padres in the NLCS.  Nothing...blank space in my brain.  But I was only 8.  Every year, coming home from school and they were on: constant baseball for a burgeoning baseball fan.  I played baseball too, and I loved the game.  I had trouble concentrating at the end of a school day when I knew there was a baseball game to be played that evening.  I loved the ritual of getting ready for the game, hopping on my bike to ride down to Bartlett Park in Burleson, TX...dirt infields and all.  I loved getting a ticket at the end of the game which would get you a soda or candy bar, your choice (we always went for the "suicide", which was a combination of all of the soda flavors).

Remember now, this was in suburban Fort Worth, TX.  I didn't have any real friends at the time who were Cub fans...just me and my Dad.  Then, when I was 11, my parents got a divorce and my Dad and I were separated from day to day contact.  He started a life with a new family, and we just didn't have the level of contact that we had before....but there was always the Cubs.  Always.  I could pick up the phone, and that is all we would talk about.  Jerome Walton, Tuffy Rhodes...any big news was worthy of a phone call.

When I got to junior high school, I was extremely fortunate to gain a group of friends from church and the tennis team, and to my surprise, there were some Cubs fans amongst them!  I still remember meeting my friend Sean, and when he showed me that he had a pair of shorts with the Cubs logo on them, my head almost exploded.  There were people out there like me!  People who lived as far away from Chicago as you could imagine (at that age) who were also fans.  Friends like Ryan who lived and died with the Cubs' every game. Friends like Kevin who lived in Iowa before moving to Texas, so he rooted for the Iowa Cubs. As we grew up together, through high school, college, marriage and death, the Cubs were always there for us. Some of them married other Cubs fans, and now I had a real stable of friends who I could share in my joy and misery.

My dad and I grew further and further apart, talking less and less, but there was always the possibility of news right around the corner.  The Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano!  They hired Lou Piniella!  We wouldn't talk for weeks, then one day, the phone would ring and we would fall right back into discussing the latest news of the Cubs. He moved to Chicago for a while, and then back to Texas to be closer to his first family's kids, and we were able to get closer again. That went on for years and years.  Heck, I still remember him calling me, freaking out that Starlin Castro hit a 3 run homer in his first game. We knew we were on to something there.

During this time, I got married, had a couple of kids, and just lived life. I was lucky to find a woman who, even though she had ZERO prior interest in baseball, was willing to wear hats, shirts, towels, bikinis, sunglasses...anything she could find with a Cubs logo, she bought.  Not because she loved the team, but because she loved me.  All the while suffering right along side of me.  Now, as a bit of an aside, I can be a terrible person to be around when the Cubs are playing.  I am not abusive or anything, but I do get into the games quite a bit.  Worse than that, I am a HUGE believer in the superstitions and karmic circle of the game.  Never tell me the Cubs are winning....never say, "Boy, it would be great if he hits a home run here!"...It makes me crazy.  I have lived too long with the Cubs to put up with that.  My friend Sean and I used to joke that his wooden coffee table would explode from all of the built up bad karma that had been purged by "knocking on wood".

She always stuck with me.  Road trips to see the Cubs AAA team in Austin, TX.  Buying me playoff tickets in 2005, only to have the game not happen because the Cubs were swept by Arizona.  Hats, shirts, sunglasses...anything with a Cubs logo, she couldn't help herself, and that is everything I could have asked for.  Someone to share in the ups and downs of fandom, but would never judge me for my lifelong passion.

After a few years of marriage, I tried to explain to her what the Cubs meant to me.  It was hard to put into words...I asked her to name one thing that she had been passionate about since she was 8 years old.  Naturally, she couldn't do it, but that is OK.  That is why it is so hard to quantify what sports means to us.  The roots of passion go very, very deep and quite a few people can't understand it.  It isn't the same as having a child, or growing old with a loved one.  But those scars run DEEP, and they never quite go away.  I look forward to growing older with her, because she completes the circle of my life that I never even knew existed when my fandom was getting started.

Then, the inevitable happened, and my dad passed away in 2013, just a few days before the season started.  There was a huge hole in my heart, as I had lost the one person in my life who truly got me.  Even three years later, my first instinct when I hear exciting news about the Cubs is to pick up the phone and call him.  My dad joined that very popular club of Cubs fans who never got to see their team make it to the promised land....and I won't lie that I was terrified I would join him at some point.

Last year, when the Cubs made it to the NLCS, I burst into tears.  All of those years of pent up frustration, anger, joy, madness, etc. all came out of me all at once.  It killed me that my dad wasn't there with me. My daughter, 13 at the time, looked at me..."Are you crying?!".  Again, there is no way that she could understand that in one moment, all of the phone calls, late night discussions, all came back to me in an instant. The Cubs were swept in the NLCS by the Mets, and I was stuck with another "Wait 'til next year" October.

With the Cubs being the prohibitive favorite going into 2016, the weight of expectations were suddenly on me.  See, being the "Cubs Fan" in your social groups gets you immediately associated with them no matter what happens.  Friends, neighbors, co-workers all start jumping on the proverbial bandwagon as the season progresses and it starts to look like the Cubs will, in fact, be pretty good.  People who knew me years ago start tagging me on Facebook.. "Cubbies look pretty good this year!".  All season long, I enjoyed the constant discussion...but in the back of my mind, the threat always loomed.  This is probably going to be just another year of disappointment.

This is how Cubs' fans identify with one another.  The Loveable Losers.  Always heartbreak.  Hell, even making the playoffs was something to cheer about.  Constant reminders of 1945, 1908, black cats, billy goats, Steve Bartman...never stops.

Then this happened.  Kris Bryant, smiling all the while, throws a bullet to Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the 10th in game 7 of the World Series, and in one instant, the entire lifetimes of Cubs fans were legitimized.   Harry Caray, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux...all of it, gone.  Poof.  Just like that.  Watching MY TEAM jump around the mound at Progressive Field was something out of a dream. I kept looking at my son, 20 years old, and saying "I don't know what to do".  Because I didn't know what to do.  How do you react when something that you have hoped for, prayed for, lusted after for almost 40 years actually happens? I suppose that there is no playbook for that, but I just sat, stunned.  I knew it wasn't a dream, but it also wasn't quite reality yet.  MY CUBS just won the World Series. I doubt there has ever been an easy World Series win, but this must have ranked in the top 3 in difficulty. The Indians were sooooo good.  Every turn, they got the hit, the pitch, the catch that they needed to turn the tides.  They were up 3-1 (by the way, thanks Lebron for the good karma in posting about your team coming back from 3-1)! That doesn't happen, but it did!

For those of you still with me, thank you for letting me get this off my chest.  It has been a long, long time in the making.  I know that sports is not the end-all be-all that a lot of people make it out to be, but it does mean a lot to some people.  Just know that for most of those people, it isn't about the ball and bat, or about the millionaire athletes playing a game, or the is about those life-long relationships that mean SO much to them all coming to a culmination of ecstasy in one brief, shining moment...that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

"Nothing has changed, but everything has changed"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Things I am tired of:

  • Blog posts about choreographed wedding dances.
  • PR people who clearly sit down at their desk in the morning, search for the name of their client, and Retweet 15 tweets in a row.
  • Linkbait headlines:
    • What he does next will shock you!
    • You won't believe how...
  • The Cubs losing
  • People who don't blog enough
  • People who think astronomy is a real thing
  • Truthers
  • Antiquated Blackout policies from sports leagues
  • Bloggers who make it their personal vendetta to rip apart every word of another blogger.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Things I Find Ridiculous

  • People who get excited about going to a sporting event to drink beer.
  • How it is a standard practice to pick the thumbnail of a clip on YouTube based on the hot girl in the video, and not have anything to do with the actual content of the video
  • The new Star Wars movies.  Seriously, is there ANY chance they will be great?  No...likely they will be decent, but forgettable. Just like the new Star Trek movies.
  • Lake Granbury rising over 4 feet in one day...and poor Lake Bridgeport.
  • Companies who say that their prices are equivalent to "a cup of coffee a day".
  • Coffee that is more than a dollar a cup.  It is water strained over beans, people!
  • People who leave vague, cryptic Facebook statuses then get mad when someone doesn't explain to them what is going on
  • Steampunk.  Anything and everything steampunk.
  • Senators and Congressman who single out the President like they aren't part of the problem and he is the only reason we are in any mess anywhere
  • People who put "Breaking:" in front of tweets that are just a stupid joke. 
  • The fact that the FCC allows car horns and police sirens in radio commercials.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

High Tension!

Last night, the family was jazzed to attend the Dallas Stars game vs. the Winnipeg Jets.  The Jets had embarrassed the Stars the last time they met, so the Stars needed to put together a good effort to remain in the playoff race.  The amazing wife somehow scored FREE tickets to the game.  The seats were in the rafters, but I didn't care. Hockey is hockey.

We get to our seats, and the seats start to fill up with Stars fans.  A few rows in front of me, a family shows up, about 12 people strong.  They mill about, getting seated, figuring out their positioning, etc.  The game starts, and we are having a good time.  It was clear to me that this family really hadn't been to a lot of hockey games, because they had the WORST timing of when to stand up and sit down.  In fact, most of them were looking at their phones for the majority of the game. They also had an apparent addiction to the concession stand, because they got up for food quite a bit, always returning with another basket of fries or a new soda.

This is where the problem started.  Every time they got up, they talked to each other.  They didn't do the talking when they were sitting...they would stand up, then poll the group about what they wanted, where they were going, etc.  Unfortunately for all of us, they only seemed to do this when the puck was in play.  Never when there was down time.  In fact, it seemed as if they knew the game so well that they planned it to stand up only when there was something interesting going on (not really, just bad timing).

About halfway through the second period (not quarter, as I had to remind my wife and daughter over and over), a man and his wife who were directly behind The Standupertons finally said something.  Apparently, the wife said "Sit your ass down!" to the mother of the group.  She was having none of that.  Some serious attitude was put on display at that point.  The Mr. Standuperton tried to resolve the situation by trying to calm some people down, but Ms. Standuperton was not interested.  She launched into a tirade about how she will "stand up whenever she wants" and that they "paid for these seats just like they did".  The situation never got to violence, but there was one point that really stuck out.

Ms. Standuperton's apparent main complaint was that the wife behind her "cussed" by using the highly offensive word "ass".  This was the crux of her argument back.  After a few back and forths, though, she said something to the effect of "this bitch don't tell me shit to do" or something similar.  At that point, I said something to everyone to try and keep the profanities to a minimum.  There were quite a few younger kids around, my daughter included.  It really diffused at this point, and everyone sat back and watched the game.  About 30 minutes later (nice response time, AAC), an usher came by and politely lectured the couple of rows that were involved.  Nobody got kicked out, nothing else was said.

Mr. and Ms. Standuperton left near the end of the 2nd period, but quite a few of the party remained.  It was a never-ending stand up fest.  Not kidding, they must have spent $300 at the concession stand, because they were just back and forth, back and forth all night long.  I just wished they would have had some better timing of when to stand up and when to sit!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hall and Oates

About a month ago, I took the wife and mother in law to Durant, OK to see Hall & Oates.  Fantastic show, but the venue leaves much to be desired.  It is like a large metal barn with the stage at the wrong side.  They did it so they could sell more front row seats (It is at the Choctaw casino) which makes it more difficult for the sides to see what the heck is going on.

Attending a concert that you wouldn't necessarily go to yourself allows you an opportunity to people watch.  My observations led to this diatribe on Facebook:

1. If you are standing up, and no one around you is standing up, you should probably sit down, especially if the seats are on a non-elevated surface. There is one exception to this: if you are dancing, stand up, dance, and have a good time. But make sure to sell it...don't fake dance. DANCE.
2. Take a second and go back through your videos on your phone and find the footage from the last concert you attended. Unless you are in the front two rows, it probably looks like hot garbage spilled into an old diaper. Put your f*cking phone down (sorry mom, this needs emphasis). Take a picture, fine...take a short video...fine. But don't video the whole show. Videos and pictures are intended to enhance our memories, not replace them. Your memories will be of you looking at a phone screen all night...and so will the people behind you.
3. Remember that every single thing you do affects everyone else's ability to enjoy the show. Just because you don't recognize the song that is playing doesn't mean you can talk loudly to your friend during the song. Unless you are talking about the show, keep your conversations to a minimum.
4. To add to point #1, if someone in front of you is standing up, and won't sit down, realize there isn't much you can do about it. Don't spend the next 3 songs bitching about it to your wife. You are making it more difficult for the people around you to enjoy themselves.
5. Taking pictures of the video screen? Seriously?
6. Turn off the flash on your phone! Most people don't realize this, but even good camera flashes only go about 15 feet. If you are that close to the stage, you don't need it. If you are too far from the stage, it won't do you any good. Plus, your camera pre-flashes and lights up the entire section, making the experience more difficult for others to enjoy.

I sat there for three songs and listened to the guy next to me bitch about the people in front of us standing up.  He made the experience miserable for everybody, dropping F-bombs constantly.  Please don't be that guy...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Raised Right

I see lots of Facebook "memes" (I put that in quotes because people think they are memes, but aren't even close) that lecture people on "growing up right".  You know what I am talking about...

I drank from the water hose as a kid.
I went and played outside as a kid.
My mom beat the shit out of me as a kid.

I would like to say that I grew up right.  My mom taught me life lessons along the vein of "I accept people the way they are".  Sure, it frustrates me from time to time that my kids don't play outside even 1% of how much I did as a kid.  I also remember when the Nintendo came out...I wouldn't have gone outside for 5 minutes if I had owned one of those things.  In fact, I can remember going over to a friend's house and sitting in a room with 10 other 5th graders watching someone play Super Mario Bros.

Probably the best thing my mom ever did for me was refuse to buy me a video game system.  Mostly was because we couldn't afford it, but she also didn't want me spending all of my time indoors.  But there were kids who did stay indoors...and they turned out fine.  The second best thing my parents did for me was to buy a computer...and I spent a lot of time on it, and it shaped who I am and made me good at what I do.

You have to just trust that your kids will be who they are.  You can guide them, but forcing them to do something they hate will only generate resentment.  The number one thing you can do for your kids is to just be there.  Be there when they need you, and be there when they don't.  Trust but verify.  Keep them out of trouble with your presence.  Ask them question after question about their life, their loves, their problems.  You may not get much out of them, but they will remember when they are older that you talked to them and genuinely cared.

That is all it takes!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ocwen = Trouble

For the last several years, the wife and I have owned a rental property. Not because we are real estate moguls, mind you, but because when we bought our current house, we were so upside down on that house that the only choice was to become landlords.

Anyway, we finally sold the house this week, and are relieved to no longer be landlords.  But here is some advice:  If your mortgage statement goes to a company named Ocwen, be careful.  Not saying that they will try to screw you, but if you need anything done (such as payoff letters, statements, etc.) give them an extra 5 days or so...because you will call them, and get someone in Bangladesh who has no authority to do anything.

So give it a few extra days if you can.  Just a short, public service announcement.