On the Cubs in the World Series

I started out as a Red Sox fan. More or less, I was born into it, since half my family is in the Boston area, and at the time when the baseball section of my American brain began to fire on all synapses, the Red Sox were in the World Series. It was the era of Yaz and Jim Rice and the oft-forgotten Fred Lynn, and Red Sox Nation (before Red Sox Nation was Red Sox Nation) was abuzz. They didn’t win the World Series that year, or make it to the playoffs the following year, or the next, and then there was Bucky Dent and Mike Torrez, and that was that.

I was too young to understand such anguish. Next year could truly be the “next year” we all waited for, and I could say it without the world-weary skepticism that permeates that phrase.

Around this time, my cousin Doc, who came from the Chicago area, came to live next door to us. He had been weaned on the Cubs, and was nourished by a steady diet of broadcasts on WGN and Jack Brickhouse. Nobody believes me to this day, but Doc once fell off his Big Wheel and scraped his knee, and blood the color of Rick Reuschel’s #48 came leaking out of the wound. True story.

He believed that I should be a Cubs fan, and since I was younger and had no older brothers or sisters to give me such guidance for the first five years of my life, I agreed.

The first few years of my life as a Cub fan were pretty uneventful. Since the Cubs were mediocre at best, they were not often televised, and since this was the day before cable was so prevalent, they were even less televised.

My parents took me to Myrtle Beach for Spring Break one year and the hotel had cable, and more importantly, WGN. I found out that the opening game of the 1982 season was going to be on, so instead of playing on the beach, I was holed up in the hotel room, watching the Cubs at the end of the bed. Doc had often talked about Jack Brickhouse, how he was this legend of epic proportions, so I was looking forward to actually hearing the voice that had called so many games. It turned out that the legend had retired, and some new guy had come in. I was disappointed. Who was this Harry Caray guy, anyway?

My Dad came in and wanted to know what I was doing moping around in front of a television when the beach awaited. The beach could wait. The Cubs had a new second baseman, Bump Wills, and I had to see how he would do. Dad sighed and shook his head, or at least, I imagine he probably did, because my eyes were glued to the screen.

And here I was, on Saturday, in a hotel room, eyes glued to the set as the Cubs made it to the World Series for the first time in my lifetime.

Victory
Courtesy Jamie Squire, Getty Images

In between these two experiences, there were a few close calls, brushes with fate that ended poorly. 1984: the Cubs went out to a marvelous two-game lead in their series against the Padres, having destroyed them in game 1 at Wrigley. The Padres roared back in the next three games (it was only a 5-game series then, curse it), culminating in a moment where first baseman Leon Durham had a ball skirt through his legs in game 5, eerily prefacing Bill Buckner’s similar play two years later.

1989, they won the division, but in the playoffs, the Giants’ Will Clark essentially got a hit every time he came to the plate in the now-7-game series.

And of course 2003. I was at a wedding in Chattanooga that fateful day. They had the game playing on a bar TV where the rehearsal dinner was held, and at the time I was watching, no one had ever heard or ever dreamed of a Steve Bartman. I left that night, little knowing of the horrors to come. It would not be until the next morning that I heard all the gruesome details, that by one man’s sin, we would have to wait 13 more years for a measure of redemption.

Sidebar: those of the ESPN variety recently called on Cubs fans to exonerate said Mr. Bartman. Further, that other fans were also reaching for the ball that was untimely ripped from the womb of Moises Alou’s glove. Unfortunately for the radio personality who made such claims, there is photographic proof.

Bartman
Courtesy Fox Sports

No good way to defend that, still to this day. Despite that, I wish Mr. Bartman health, long life. Thirteen years is a long time to live with such a weight. I even wish him to one day, return to the ballpark that has defined him. But probably after victory is complete. In a game that matters little. And that he is seated far, far away from the action.

Anyway, now is not the time to remember the past. Good luck to my ancient heroes as they maneuver their way through uncharted waters. Next year appears to be this year.

And my cousin Doc? He’s still baseball mad and bleeds Cubbie Blue. Check out his venture, Ballparks of America.

We Have a Cat

We have a cat.

I never wanted a cat.

I’m pretty sure I never asked for a cat.

Growing up, my family had dogs. We had a collie named Heather, and then we had a cocker spaniel named Flurry. My grandfather had a dog, and so did my other grandfather. My uncles had dogs. Laura’s family: 85% allergic. They had some barn cats on the family farm, and one cat named Ralph who thought he was a dog. Laura’s favorite pet growing up was Bo, the black Lab with a penchant for bringing dead things home whenever her parents had company. We’re dog people through and through, so this would make you think that, even by some extraordinary accident, we would not end up with a cat. You’d think.

Last year, my brother-in-law was deployed to Japan, and it was assumed that sister-in-law Hannah and her cat would come alongside. Only problem was, the cat needed his shots to be let into the country. They were leaving soon, and since the cat also needed to be in quarantine for six months after his shots, there was no way they could put him on the plane. So we got a call, since we happen to be the only twosome in the family blessed to have neither member allergic, to see if we would be willing to take on a cat for six months. “This is only temporary,” said Hannah. “I’ll be back at Christmas to pick him up and take him back to Japan with me.”

Six months with cat. There are worse things. We said yes.

We cat-proofed the house. We wanted to make sure that there was nothing he could get into, because he has a reputation for destroying plants. We also wanted to make sure that there was no little crevice he could get into where we couldn’t get him out. First time in the house, Cat, whose real life I-don’t-respond to-that name is Coco-Nut, emptied himself out of his carrier and sprinted, as if led by a helpful star, to the one place we hadn’t taken care of, a small space between the cabinets and the radiator in the kitchen. He stayed there a day and a half.

cat
Cat

Eventually he came out. Sadder but wiser, we put a board in front of that space in the kitchen. With that spot off-limits, he decided the living room closet was more to his liking. That would be his home for the next week. We put out food and water, which Cat must have indulged in while we were sleeping. I caught him in the hallway once in that first week. He froze, wide-eyed, and looked at me as if he was positive I was going to grab him and take a huge bite out of his head. So I didn’t move, figuring any movement would scare him. We stood there for a minute. I thought about reasoning with him, telling him that eventually he was going to have to get used to the new humans, but there’s always that pesky language barrier. I gave up and moved slightly, and Cat disappeared without a trace, back in the sanctuary of the hall closet.

As time went by, Cat started to come out. He acknowledged our existence. He allowed us, on occasion, and if he felt like it, and if the wind was blowing in the right direction, to pet him. And over the following months, we came to an agreement: we would say nice things to him and treat him like the cat we never had, and in return, he wouldn’t stop eating and die. This system worked well, and everybody seemed happy about it.

Four months into Cat’s six month stay at Uncle Scott and Aunt Laura’s house, we received a call from Hannah. As it turns out, there was a flaw in the plan. She wasn’t going to be able to bring Cat with her back to Japan on a military flight. Moreover, even though it was possible for her to fly on a commercial flight to pick Cat up and bring him back, chances are he would be stuck in customs for days, if not months. Cat, being the sensitive flower that he is, wouldn’t take well to such delays, and most likely would void section 2 of our agreement, viz. eating and not dying.

So, really, there was only one solution.

We have a cat.

We never asked for a cat.

But there it is.

Some Thoughts on Back to the Future

Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies. It’s the first movie I watched in the theater by myself. It had been a while since I had seen it, and I was secretly worried that it wouldn’t hold up after all these years. Here are my thoughts, in numerical order:

  1. 1985 sucks.
  2. No, really.
  3. At least this version of 1985. I mean, there’s graffiti everywhere, one of the movie theaters is X-rated, they’ve pasted some monstrosity over the gorgeous Western Auto Parts store sign, and Marty’s wearing a padded vest you can get at Chico’s. Really, 1955 is much cooler.
  4. But that’s the big joke, isn’t it? History is much less kind to 1985, and it’s almost like Robert Zemeckis realized that it would. So kudos to you, Bob.
  5. Power of Love: still holds up, somehow.
  6. By the way, great cameo, Huey Lewis.
  7. Has anybody seen Huey Lewis lately?
  8. The Pepsi Free joke (“If you want a Pepsi, kid, you’ll have to pay for it.”) really only worked in 1985. Pepsi Free was discontinued in 1987.
  9. How many Pepsi references are in this movie? The clunker Pepsi Free joke, there’s a Pepsi box underneath Marvin Berry’s amp, Marty drinks a Diet Pepsi, the can on Marty’s shelf when he wakes up in the morning…
  10. By the way, who sleeps with their arm behind their back like Marty does? That just looks so uncomfortable, and he obviously makes a habit of it because he wakes up twice like that.
  11. Libyans in a micro bus? I thought this was hilarious in 1985, but man, does that seem like a weird, dated reference now. But I’m still delighted that they crashed it into a photomat booth, even after all these years.
  12. Eric Stoltz originally had the role of Marty. Every now and then I try to picture it, and it doesn’t work.
  13. Such language: there’s a lot more swearing in this movie than there probably needs to be. Most likely because they wanted a PG rating rather than a G rating, I’m guessing, and in 1985, uncalled-for swearing got you that. This was before the day that such vague things as “Sci Fi Violence” were enough to get you to PG.
  14. Is it such a crazy idea to breed pine trees? Is it, Mr. I’m Gonna Build Me a Time Machine?
  15. Whose idea on what school committee was it to name the dance “Enchantment Under the Sea”?
  16. “Now, Chris,” says Bob, the director, “when you hear the words 1.21 Gigowatts, I want you to freak out. Got that?” “I got it, I got it…”
  17. Would we still remember John DeLorean’s car company if not for this movie?
  18. Where are George McFly’s parents?
  19. I mean, Marty just waltzes in in a radiation suit armed with a walkman and an Edward Van Halen tape, and no one is there to stop him. No wonder George is a Peeping Tom.
  20. Does Billy Zane have a line? He seems to be content standing behind Biff chewing gum.
  21. Thomas F. Wilson is much better playing young Biff than as middle-aged combover Biff.
  22. Does Marty have to go exactly 88 miles per hour when the bolt of lightning passes into the flux capacitor? I’m not sure what science is involved in this.
  23. Lone Pine Mall. Great joke. I think I watched this movie three times before I caught it.
  24. Weird moment at the end: when Marty returns to the Lone Pine Mall and watches Doc get shot a second time, then witnesses the aforementioned awesome microbus/photomat crash, instead of running down the well-worn path to see if Doc is all right, he throws himself headlong down the embankment like he’s jumping into a foxhole. I’m not sure why.
  25. If this is George McFly’s first novel that’s being delivered to the house, what has he been doing for a living up until now that has given him such a nice living room?
  26. So, is anybody’s life worse off at the end of the movie?
  27. Even Biff seems much happier. Despite the fact that he cheats his customers into thinking they’ve received two coats of wax when in fact they’ve only received one, Biff seems genuinely content as a small business owner.
  28. That Toyota truck that magically appears in the garage at the end is the best thing that 1985 has to offer.
  29. Best thing in the credits: Old Man Peabody’s son’s name? Sherman.
  30. Worst thing in the credits: Old Man Peabody’s daughter’s name? Daughter. Daughter Peabody. Well done, guys.