Go, Cubs

September 19, 2011

N and I probably would have fallen in love without baseball, but it so happened that we began dating in the magic summer of 2003. The Cubs were brilliant that year. Prior, Wood and Zambrano were on the mound and our big bats were swinging away. Northsiders held their breath as the loveable losers claimed the wildcard spot in the playoffs and proceeded to work their way toward the world series. In Dusty we trusty, we chanted, hoping that the end to decades of dashed hopes and big losses were in sight. A dear friend and her mother watched each playoff game together, holding onto a little plush goat.

And N taught me about baseball. One of the reasons I knew he was the one for me was the way he answered my questions without laughing at me, the way he’d say, “You know, that’s a good question,” and then proceed to explain to me one of the finer points of the game. After years of being laughed at when I asked sports questions at home (admittedly they were often naive questions, but still), it was wonderful and welcoming to feel so comfortable asking about they mysteries of baseball, to not feel like an outsider when faced with a sport. I got to know the players, to see the beauty in a group of very different individuals coming together as a team. I learned about pitching and curve balls and sliders and forced outs and the kind of crazy hope that is known to all baseball fans, but that is particularly strong in Cubs fans. I learned that some beautiful, amazing, and incredibly unlikely things can happen at key moments in baseball, and came to appreciate the beauty of statistics. And I accomplished a lot of this in the midst of afterglow, which I highly recommend, if you can arrange it.

Also, the fact that N loves both Jane Austen and baseball? I still find that sexy as hell.

When I was living in Champaign, I’d drive up to see him in Chicago on weekends, and we’d order a pizza and eat it on his bed, cheering on our Cubbies. We listened to the games on the radio when driving back & forth to see each other, and one magical afternoon as we were driving to Chicago together, we stopped at a chain burger place, asked if the game was on their television, and it was. It was a magical summer, a magical autumn, a magical year. And the Cubs were a part of all that.

They didn’t win the World Series, of course. Baseball can be brutal and ruthless and random. Much like, well, life. Any pitcher can have a bad day, or even a slightly off day, while the batters he faces down all seem to be having their best day ever. A fan can reach over the side of the bleachers and grab a ball that is still in play. A rival team can suddenly cohere in ways that are beautiful to see unless you are on the side of the other team. The magic of a season can fade.

They say that Cubs fans deal better with disappointment than non-Cubs fans, that the annual experiences of dealing with disappointment somehow prepare you to face other disappointments in your life. If that’s the case, I wonder if being a Cubs fan has helped my grieving process along in ways I don’t even know. I know it’s been a part of the grief – the piece of Teddy’s clothing I cried over the most was his infant-sized Cubs hat. That hat signifies so much – the ache of a lost son who would have been another Cubs fan, who would have played catch with his father and seen baseball parks, and played little league, and had favorite players. Who knows, maybe he would have been able to see them win someday.

His sister has just stopped wearing that hat. Her head is finally too big for it and she’s moved on to a new favorite – a denim newsboy cap with a flowered band above the brim. It looks adorable on her, but I miss her wearing her brother’s hat. It hurts to think of packing that hat away again. Not as much as it hurt the first time I packed it away. Still.

Oh, little hat. I wish you had twice the amount of wear and tear on you. I wish Teddy had been able to wear you. I wish he’d been the one to teach Dot to say, “Go, Cubbies!”

But here’s another gift baseball gave to me: just because the magic of a season is over doesn’t mean that there isn’t still magic. Disappointment, even grief – they aren’t the whole story though sometimes it feels like they are. I would have loved you forever if you’d been born to a long life of wearing baseball hats, Teddy, even if you decided to become a Yankees fan as an act of teenage rebellion (though I might not have laundered your Yankees cap very carefully), but I will love you forever now, too.

And, who knows, maybe where you are the Cubs always win. Save us a seat, my love.



  1. I am in tears over that last part. It makes me think of a print I recently ordered, with a quite from Emily Dickinson: “Love is like life, merely longer.”

    I feel compelled to add here that I’m a Cardinals fan, so we are technically sworn enemies, but please don’t hold that against me.

  2. Beautiful post. Sometimes it can be the little things – like a hat. I can very much relate.

  3. Oh that little hat. I do so wish that both your children had worn it.

    Baseball always seems mysterious and glamorous to me as I know so very little about it. I’m not even all that clued up on the typically English sports.

    Wishing the Cubs many wins. Wish that your Teddy were here to see them.

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