"This is our year!" - Blackfive, Cubs Fan, said every year since 1976
"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those of heavy hearts. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his poverty no more." - Proverbs 31:4-7
"See, there must have been Cubs fans back then." - Blackfive, 2006
While many of you may think it's just baseball, I disagree with you whole heartedly.
My first memories of the game were playing on the parking lot by my house when I was nine or ten years old.
My friends - the Lindstrom brothers who always ended up beating the crap out of each other no matter what happened, Scott who everyone thought was cool and no one messed with because his big brother was the toughest kid in school, Andy who moved from rural Utah and was still in shock, and others - had a set time every morning to meet up to play a few games.
When the big kids took the field, we were forced to find another place to play - almost always it was a parking lot. More than one ball had to be fixed with black electrical tape. We would play on the blacktop until getting kicked out by an adult. That usually meant it was time to break for lunch.
The afternoon meant more heroics - gutting it out for home plate knowing the outfielder just threw the ball home, diving for fly balls dizzily out of reach but somehow catching them, chasing grounders into dandelion strewn dirty lots while the base runners kicked up dust as they ran for second or hitting one into the Waterloo twins' yard (because we were beginning to notice that they were really cute girls).
I would ride home, my glove on the handlebars of my bike, my bat over my shoulder, a smile on my face knowing that tomorrow meant more baseball...
Not on the field, we would spend hours getting our gloves into perfect working order and would forever mock any player who had a crease in the brim of his cap because he didn't know how to shape it correctly. We would have some of the nastiest arguments - should aluminum bats be allowed in our game? - would the Cubs actually amount to anything this year? - and what the hell kind of "meat" was in a hotdog, anyway?
In the Spring, the cold and damp would seep into your bones and you would feel the brittle air with every catch and every hit. In Summer, sweating under the sun felt good. There were ice cream trucks, lawn sprinklers, and the occasional water hose to cool us down. Every Fall brought bittersweet feelings because we knew that baseball would end soon.
Even though we lost a lot of games, we would always look forward to the next one.
Hope is the keystone emotion of Baseball.
Baseball taught me that some of my biggest disappointments would become my fondest memories. Crushing defeat would hurt, but we'd be laughing ten minutes later, looking forward to tomorrow.
It taught me about resilience, about never quitting, about teamwork, and about having fun.
Since those days, I've seen hundreds of Cubs' games. But nothing, nothing, matches the feeling of Opening Day.
When I was a soldier deployed to the four corners of the earth, I missed Wrigley Field and the Cubs almost more than anything. I just wanted to go back home to see one more game, sit in the bleachers and feel the sun, talk to the pretty girls (always in abundance at Wrigley), and watch and discuss the game with my friends. And *cough* have an ice cold beer.
The first game I saw after returning home, when the national anthem was played, a soprano from the Lyric Opera sang the most beautiful anthem I had ever heard...I nearly broke down. Then, it was "Play Ball!" and everything was right in my world.
This year, in the Friendly Confines - I'm going to enjoy every darn game win or lose, and relish the freedom and the hope of baseball.