10.07.2003

 
As the fall descends upon us, I hear not the turning of leaves, of winds shifting from the north, of days growing shorter and mornings clinging to their darkness just a little bit longer.

I hear baseball.

On the radio waves I hear stories of State Troopers deciding not to give a driver offending the speed limit a ticket because she let the emotions of the bottom of the eighth inning get to her right foot and push the speedometer past an acceptable level. On the streets I see people have reached into their closets and dug to the bottom of drawers to pull out faded blue t-shirts noting that every team has a bad century. In the hallways at the Cornfield College of Law, I hear whispers of "Sosa" and "Ortiz" and "frightful collision" bounce around the walls. I meet with affirmations that Mark Prior is certainly the best young pitcher in baseball, and may very well have become the best pitcher in baseball. I can feel Kerry Wood aching to slip in right behind him and let those who hold up the 2001 World Series as the greatest ever played know that Schilling and Johnson have lost their spot at the top of the pantheon of dominating pitching duos. I see Dustiny placing smiles on those around me who feel it all as well.

Yes my friends, I feel baseball as much as anything else in my life right now. The stars have aligned this October, giving us two league championship series that the collective conscience of baseball fans have always wanted. On the one hand, we have two of the most bitter rivals in the game competing for a trip to the World Series, both traditional powerhouse teams, one team of haves and the other a series of disappointing have nots. We have a balance ripe for upheaval. And on the other side, we have two unlikelies, one team that had fallen 10 games under .500 at one point this year, another team only 5 years short of extending the 0-fer to a whole century. We have Goliath and mini-Goliath going in one league, and two laughable Davids who suddenly have the force of Israel behind them going against each other.

To say that this post-season has effected a major change in my life might go too far. But my days certainly have a new feeling, a new music that creeps out of my alarm clock in the morning. And I see it in those most close to me. My parents, who largely abandoned their interest in baseball, have taking to calling me at the end of the 8th inning to check my excitement level. They have gotten closer to the brink of living pitch by pitch, a most delightful sort of chaos.

But I see it most clearly in the eyes of my beautiful Hose Mistress. Dragged to boring summer games in her youth that lasted beyond forever turned her affinity for sports away from baseball, and as I talked about the Cubs in the early months of the summer, I could sense her casual tolerance of my desire to talk about the team. But being the most wonderful person in the world, she bought me tickets to Wrigley for my birthday, and beginning with our trip, her first to the stadium, she began to feel it on a personal level as well. To understand the magic behind the Cubs, to appreciate fans who love their team because they are simply their team, to feel that fans like those of the Cubbies deserve this October joy. During the stretch run she worried vocally how I could handle a Cubs playoff run. Her concerns about my health and how wound up I get during the games have diminished as she has begun to get a little wound up herself. She knows the Cubbies by first name, can tell you what position they play and when they bat in the order. The other night we discussed the strategy of the double switch and agreed that taking Eric Karros out in the 7th inning after he had hit two home runs in the game made a whole lot of sense. (Just as an aside, seriously fellas, can you see why I have found the greatest girl in the whole world?)

This catharsis comes at the best of times for me personally, as Thursday I interview for a job I really want and in some part feel that I really need. My focus on the day-to-day tasks of my life has waned a little. The Cubs have given me a much needed reprieve from real seriousness with a little dose of fantasy inching ever closer to reality.

I desperately hope this ride continues for a while longer. I hope that blog readers will continue to indulge Tony Pierce, and to a lesser extent, myself, as we let the magic carrying the Cubbies seep ever deeper into our guts. And I hope to have the chance to soon write on here nothing but "Woo Cubs, woo Cubs" and have everyone understand exactly what that means.

But in a larger vein, whether my team wins or loses, I know some undeniable change has occurred in my microcosm of a world and out on a larger macro scale as well. I can feel a whole culture begging for a Cubs-Red Sox World Series, and I can feel the beginnings of a belief that curses do not last forever. And I see cursed fans who have received the hope that has evaded them for so long, like we have all started to live our own personal versions of The Shawshank Redemption.

And so I beg for the author to write a Cubs World Series ending. But I have become so caught up in the telling of the story that I do not even want to know the ending just yet, and that, my friends, has some amazing value by itself.