Sunday, September 28, 2008
Take Me Out to (another) Ballgame
So my good friend Matt has the Cubs hook-up. While TJ and I LOVE our Cubbies, our love and dedication is puny compared to that of Matt's. In fact, not only is he the biggest Cubs fan I know... it's a scientific fact that he is on the short-list of the greatest Cubs fans on earth...
Last year, he was one of the 10 finalists of a field of thousands for the first annual "Ultimate Cubs Fan Seventh Inning Stretch" contest. The first round was an essay contest, followed by a series of "tryouts" in front of a panel of Cubs executives and "Legends" including Ernie Banks and Dutchie Caray-- the wife of the late great Harry Caray. The winner got to lead the historical singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at a Cubs game late in the year. While Matt didn't win the "grand prize", he got a bunch of really cool parting gifts, and also made a lot of friends on the "inside" of the organization.
After Leslie's fight ended back in July, Matt wanted to do something special for TJ and me. He made a call to one of his "inside" friends and told them our "story". As a result, we were given the tickets to the big Cubs-Brewers game a week or so back, as the two teams were in the middle of the pennant chase. (I had mentioned this in another post, and alluded that there was more to the story.) Not only were we given tickets to the game-- we were basically given the "movie star" treatment. Literally... We met the guy from the Sopranos, saw several government officials and "big money" sponsors and celebreties... which you tend to do when you're sitting in ROW 8 of SECTION 16!!! (For those of you who don't know Wrigley... that's 8 seats behind the Cubs' on-deck circle, right on the field.) (We were so close, Alfonso Soriano-- the Cubs' All-Star left fielder, actually smiled and waved at TJ before going up for an at-bat in the 5th inning.) OH! And before the game, during batting practice, we were escorted onto the ACTUAL FIELD for a photo op. People who are allowed this opportunity often compare the experience to the Israelites' first setting foot in the Promised Land... an experience so many of their forefathers (including Moses himself) longed for but were never afforded the opportunity. (I, of course, wouldn't go so far to make that comparison... but I'm not going to dispute the assertion by others, either.) :) Even TJ seemed to be taken with it-- even stricken with fear, clinging to my neck like a Koala on a gum tree, staring down at the grass, eyes like saucers. I know it sounds ridiculous. If you don't "get it", I can't make you understand... I guess I can recommend a movie-- one of Leslie's and my favorites... Watch "Fever Pitch". A great "sports movie" for the guys, and a romantic comedy for the ladies. But "Red Sox Nation" pre-2005 (the setting and "gist" of the movie) can be easily compared to "Cubs Nation" of today. The horribly tragic dedication of an entire culture of fans, who live and die (or more appropriately, LOSE and die) with their baseball team.
Anyway, the experience was wonderful. Oh, it was even capped off by the Cubs' 4-run, 2-out rally in the bottom of the ninth-- with the help of a 3-run homer by one of TJ's 2 favorite players, Geovany Soto-- to send it into extras. And then TJ's other "guy", Derek Lee won it in the 12th with a walk-off RBI single. Awesome.
I know Leslie was smiling down on us. And if the Cubs pull off the unimaginable and actually (forgive me, Cubs fans, should I end up jinxing the run) WIN the World Series for the first time in 100 years this year... don't think for a minute Leslie doesn't have something to do with it. I can just picture her talking to God... "He's had a really rough year. I know, his myopic dedication is a bit a pain in the neck... but you think you might be able to do me a favor, and help the Cubs make a run here, in October...?"