24 October 2007

And the winner shall be...

I've been to Boston.  I've been to Denver.

I've been to Fenway Park.  I've been to Coors Field.

So far, it's a draw.

For the Colorado Rockies: how can you not get completely behind a team that has gone 21-1 since mid-September?  In the first fifteen games of the streak, they went 14-1.  If they had gone 13-2 they wouldn't have even made the playoffs.  We'd be getting ready for a Boston-San Diego World Series, and given the current conditions in Southern California, there could have been the first-ever neutral site game in a WS.  How can you not root for a guy like Todd Helton?  The guy went three-for-four and the day he was born.  He's been a Rockie his entire career, mostly filled with losses, and he could have demanded a trade to a contender anytime since 2000.  Instead, he stuck around and never complained.

Against the Rockies: they been in existence only since 1993.  Give me an 'effin break.  One hundred divided by fifteen is almost seven.  Jealousy is so unbecoming, so I'll just call it envy.

For Boston: It's Boston.  Love the city, love the ballpark.  Plus the Red Sox play the game right.  They are the anti-Yankees.  Sure, they won in 2004, after not winning since 1918, but they've suffered enough to get it twice in four years.

Against Boston: They won in 2004.  For a franchise that suffered as much as the Red Sox did, they ought to not get greedy; let everyone share the wealth.  You wait 86 years and then get two in four?  I don't think so.  Plus, Boston sports fans are on the verge of being absolutely insufferable right now: the Red Sox in the Series; the Patriots are 7-0, beating teams with one hand tied behind their back, and look like they might be the best team ever in NFL history; and the Celtics went out and grabbed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and are one of the favorites to win the NBA title.  No town deserves such a run.

God, sometimes I absolutely hate being a Chicago sports fan.

I'm calling it: Colorado in four; they complete the greatest run in history, waking up in mid-September as an also-ran, then going 25-1 on their way to a championship.  If that indeed does happen, we will never see the likes of that again.

(Sound of me ripping my heart out and eating it for the eightieth time since the Cubs were swept by Arizona)

Haven't done a Random 11 for a while:

1. "The World Spins"-Julee Cruise.  This album ("Floating Into the Night") was the de facto soundtrack to "Twin Peaks."  In hindsight, the music was better than the show.  It's lasted longer, anyway.

2. "Fade Into You"-Mazzy Star.  A one-hit wonder from '95 or so.  This song reminds me of a huge apartment that I used to live in above an educational store in Oak Park.  I could look out the thee front windows at so much going on, all hours of the day.  Oak Park is a completely under rated suburb.

3. "Rain in the Summertime"-The Alarm.  This song brings out a pet peeve of mine-singers that ruin a good musical intro by making some odd noises.  I love The Cranberries but Deloros O'Riordan wrote the book on this.  See also "Elevation" by U2 and "Born of Frustration" by James.  Go yodel in the Alps, boys.

4. "Fire Woman"-The Cult.  OK, if there's no one around, I usually dance around the house to this song.  I wish we had a balcony.

5. "Raspberry Beret"-Warren Zevon.  Yes, Warren Zevon.  His version is much better than anything Prince could do.  Who would you rather have sing "I think I, I think I love her!"?

6. "Caring is Creepy"-The Shins.  I wonder if Zack Braff gets any of the firstborn from the folks in this group (this is the song that plays when he rides the cycle with the sidecar in Garden State)?

7. "Trip Through Your Wires"-U2.  It's been a while since I sat in the dark and listened to The Joshua Tree from beginning to end.  Did it quite a bit in college.  I had a rough first year.  SNIFF

8. "What's the Frequency Kenneth?"-REM.  A good example of a song that I did not like for a while after it came out, and then one time I listened to it and really dug it.  Not too long after that I saw Dan Rather sing it at a soundcheck at MSG.  If you don't know why that's hysterical, I can't help you.

9. "Warakurna"-Midnight Oil.  I've found this band to be incredibly divisive; people either really like them (like me, obviously, since it's on the 'pod) or really, really, really hate them (Hello, Shecky.  Haven't heard from you since the demise of the Cubs.  Hope you didn't do something stupid).  Still have to get to Australia.

10. "Sweetwater, Texas"-Fastball.  A rare accomplishment-a ballad that a band seems to insist including on a rockin' CD that is actually good.  Not long ago I was driving in downtown Springfield when I heard this song, and now when I hear it I think of Abe Lincoln.

11. "Wild Honey"-U2.  Another song I wasn't nuts about when it first came out.  Now, I need to find a place that has it on Karaoke.  And a decent singing partner.



21 October 2007

Might be time to relocate...

Seems like there is a lot going on in the world today:

1. Raging fires in Malibu
2. Dick Cheney seems to be ready to take out Iran all by himself
3. Louisiana just elected the first Indian-American governor in the US

and in Chicago: for what seems like the 3212th time this year, a school aged child has been killed by gunfire while walking down the street.

So as I turned on the news at 10 tonight, which one of these stories do you think was the lead story?

How about none?

Bears 19, Eagles 16.  Gotta have priorities.

07 October 2007

It's not gonna happen

If I may quote Robert Frost: 

This is the way the season ends; not with a bang, but a whimper.

I've been through too much to ever say that I'm embarrassed to be a Cubs fan, and I'm not about to say it now.  Well, that was quick.  Wednesday night, 9 PM, I was giddy with excitement.  Seventy-two hours or so later, it's gone.

The Diamondbacks didn't just sweep the Cubs, they obliterated them.  I think if the teams played twenty more times, Arizona would win 'em all.  So it's kind of hard to feel that bad about a team that got dominated.  I've felt this type of feeling before.

(See: Atlanta Braves, NLDS 1998)

The only thing I struggle with is the decision that Lou Piniella made in Game 1.  His stud starting pitcher was cruising, dominating the Arizona hitters.  Unfortunately the Cubs weren't doing much on offense, and the game was tied 1-1.  Piniella pulled Carlos Zambrano before the 7th inning, and the D'Backs scored two runs right away, winning that game 3-1, and essentially ending the series, since the Cubs never recovered.  After the game Piniella said that he pulled Z because he was bringing him back for Sunday's Game 4 on short rest.

Tomorrow is Sunday.  There's no Game four.  How's that decision going for you Lou?

Of course, there is no guarantee that if Zambrano had remained in the game that the result would have been any different.  We'll never know.

Forgive me if I am repeating myself, but I never expected this, not in 2007.  This year was all about getting rid of the stench of the Dusty Baker years.  The Cubs over-achieved this year.  I am not making excuses.  They rolled over and died in the playoffs.  Faced with the chance to do something that it seems half of the world is waiting for, they collectively wet themselves.  Ugh.

I anticipate next year already.  Perhaps the world is supposed to wait for the Cubs to end their long championship drought so that my to-be born son is around to see it.

(Of course, should the Cubs win it next year, he won't remember it, much like anyone born in December of 1907 doesn't remember the last time the Cubs won the World Series)

I have discovered something about the Cubs in the playoffs: as soon as they lose consecutive games, they are toast.  They've made the playoffs five times in my life now, and every single time, as soon as hey have lost two games in a row, they go on to lose the series:

1984: Up 2-0 against San Diego, lost the next three to lose the series 3-2

1989: Lost first game in Chicago to San Francisco, won the next, then lost three in  row in SF, losing the series 4-1

1998: Swept 3-0 by Atlanta in first round

2003: Beat Atlanta 3-2 in the first round (won, lost, won, lost, won); then lost first game of NLCS to Florida, won the next three to go up 3-1 and need just one more win in three possible games to go to the World Series, but lost the next three, and the series 4-3 to the Marlins.

2007: Swept 3-0 by Arizona in the first round.

That's unbelievable.  Every time the Cubs have made the playoffs in my life, they managed to get knocked out by losing three in a row. 

(I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit)

That's life.  I'll be back next year.  In the meantime, I am pulling for a Cleveland-Colorado World Series.

01 October 2007

Hey look! October baseball

I am trying not to get too excited.  I've been this way before.  1984.  1989.  1998.  2003.  All ended badly.  Gut-wrenchingly badly.

Geez, for as long as I have been following this team you'd think they would have made the playoffs more than five times.  I've invested a lot of my time in this team.  I'm due.  But see, I'm not going to get sucked into this.

The Cubs are in the playoffs, and I'm thrilled, because they don't belong.  If they were in any of the other five divisions, they would have been an also-ran.  They have the blessing this season of being in the worst division in the game, by far.

This is a team that lost 96 games last year.  They won 85 (and lost 77) this year.  A Nineteen game improvement in a single season is a fairly dubious accomplishment-no one else accomplished that this year.  The Cub also finished first in their division one year after finishing last.

Zip-a-dee Do-dah.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy as hell.  There's nothing like playoff baseball when the Cubs are involved.  It's like a solar eclipse-better to see it now because you don't really know when it will happen again.  Perhaps that's a little dramatic.

For me, this season was all about scrubbing away the residue from the Dusty Baker years.  Last year was the worst year ever for being a Cubs fan because they had a manager that didn't give a damn.  He knew he was going to get paid, and he let his team lay down and die after one of their best players suffered a long-term injury in May.  They should have fired him in June and started the rebuilding process then, but for whatever reason, they waited.  And I hated every second of it.

Putting this in a Mr. Retail perspective, there were plenty of stores that I was transferred into that were dumps, where people just didn't care and the prior managers were either lousy, lazy or both.  On that first day, I'd get the urge to just walk out, because I knew it was going to take a lot of unpleasant work to get things into shape.  I hated that feeling, but I always stuckit out, and eventually things turned out all right.  Sometimes it took more than six months, but it was always worth it.

I expected the 2007 Cubs to be around a .500 team, finish ten games or so out of the lead, and get my hopes peaked for 2008.  I would have been happy with that.  I was happy just seeing someone else besides Baker in that dugout.

The trap is this: no matter what happens in the playoffs, this Cubs team is one that should be built to last.  There are no major free agents to worry about losing, no old, broken down players on their last legs, no albatrosses of any kind.  They should win consistently for the next few season at least.

And I'm going to get sucked in, of course, because I always do.  I'd hate to ever not feel the anticipation that I always feel towards the end of March, when baseball season is starting up again.

There is this moment that comes along every season, the moment where I realize that again, the Cubs are not going to win the World Series, and that I have to wait at least another year to see if it will happen, and that I might die an old man having never seen the Cubs win it all, etc. etc. etc.

Last year that moment came in May.  The earlier it comes makes it worse.  Last year I had to resign myself that it would be a minimum of seventeen months to see if they could do it.  On average, I'd say that feeling comes every year just before July 4th.

Obviously, I haven't had it yet this year.  The clock just went past midnight.  It's October 1st, and I still think that the Cubs have a chance to win the World Series THIS SEASON.

The games start Wednesday in Arizona, against a team that has only been around for ten years and has already won a World Series.  If they get past them either the Phillies, Padres or Rockies await.  The Mets?  The were eliminated today, in a meltdown greater than the Cubs meltdown of 1969.  Serves 'em right.

If the boys make it to the World Series they'd face either Boston, Cleveland, the Yankees or the Angels--all teams that posted much better records this season.  I'll worry about that if they get this far.

It's impossible to convey what all this means to me.  If you're not the type to follow sports I probably sound insane, but the Cubs are as much a part of my life as my family.  They are the only thing that have been around as much.

I close my eyes and I can imagine bringing home my newborn son in a Cubs championship sleeper in December.