I don’t have a long history with the Cubs. And I don’t have much of a history with baseball at all.
I moved to Chicago twelve years ago, and was largely amused by my new Cubs-fan friends. (Hi, Dan!) If the Cubs were winning, “Don’t worry, they’ll get over it!” I’d assure them. And I told them, “Going to a game at Wrigley Field is on my Chicago bucket list, but if they win, can I get my money back? I want the real Chicago experience!”
I’ve been cheering for and with those friends this year, and particularly the past few weeks during the post-season. As game seven approached the 9th inning, I began to make my way down to Wrigley with thousands of other fans, and I’m thrilled beyond words to have celebrated with them after we watched that final catch peering through bar windows to try to follow the action in Cleveland.
For so many of my friends, loving the Cubs goes back generations. Following the Cubs and always hoping for “next year” is the stuff of family rituals and memories.
I realized this week that my affection has similar associations.
My daddy died just after my third birthday. He had ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a young girl, I watched Gehrig’s own story, The Pride of the Yankees, with the intensity of a detective looking for clues to who my father was – and would have been. And Gehrig was a worthy designated hitter.
The feel of vintage baseball became inextricably associated with Daddy, with a warmth and goodness and affection that only comes with the memories and associations of childhood.
I didn’t feel it when I went to a game at the concrete behemoth the White Sox call home, but it was there the first time I went to a game at Wrigley Field. One of only two Major League parks left where Gehrig played, it’s a place where vintage baseball lives. The joy and disappointment and hope of decade upon decade echo in its confines.
And there’s something about the fans. They waited their whole lifetimes to see the Cubs win the Series, and when they finally did, they covered the brick walls of Wrigley Field with the names of those who didn’t live long enough to see it. The walls have become a memorial to those the fans wanted to share this day with. Loved ones who taught them to love the Cubs – who shared so many games. But not this one.
This city that I love has been filled with the aroma of history this week. History shared together – every player who wore the uniform in the past 108 years, and every fan who cheered. The Cubs are about that continuity. It’s something that’s as big as and bigger than baseball.
I was here when the White Sox won the World Series, and blessings on my Sox fan friends, but it was nothing like this. Even the joy that a Blackhawks championship brings the City is totally different.
Nobody was writing names on walls.
I will never be a life-long Chicagoan. But in an accidental and convoluted way, my Daddy taught me to love the Cubs. And this week has taught me that I belong to this City.
Maybe I should go write his name on that wall.