Earlier this week I wrote that I’d rather face a crippling, explosive stomach virus than watch the Cubs get blown out again. I was only partially kidding.
I usually watch as many Cubs games as I can throughout the season, and listen to the games I can’t see. But when the season begins to slip into futility–usually around this time of year, if not sooner–I start to lose interest. I’ll still have Pat and Keith playing in the background at work, or keep the game on TV while I eat or read or play a game on my phone. But as we get closer and closer to the end of another lost season, the Cubs get less and less of my full attention.
“Why pay attention at all?” you might ask. Why bother watching or listening when the outcome seems preordained and the frustration plentiful? Why not give that time and attention to something less likely to make me want to wander out into traffic?
Simple. Because of games like yesterday. If you haven’t read Buddy’s recap of the game yet, you should. And watch the highlights. Watch ‘em a couple times if you like. Because the show the Cubs put on Thursday afternoon is one we’ve seen very little of this season, and it’s worth a little extra time and attention.
I first checked the score when I came back from lunch yesterday–at that point, the Cubs were in a 9-3 hole, and I assumed the Brewers had us beat. I checked back a few minutes later and saw we’d put up a few runs, so I turned on the WGN Radio broadcast to ride out what I still assumed to be a loss-in-the-making with Pat and Keith.
You can always tell how a game is going by the tone of Pat Hughes’ voice, and while the Cubs were showing more life than usual in the sixth inning, it didn’t sound like he had high hopes either. After a Brewers pitching change and three more runs for the Cubs the game was tied, Pat’s tone had changed, and my interest was piqued.
However, the Cubs’ relievers came in and did what they do best–give up some runs. An 11-9 deficit dulled my interest in the game and sent Pat and Keith into an extended game of Name That Player. A couple times I came close to turning the game off, but I stuck with it.
I had no real expectation that my patience–our patience–would be rewarded. Only hope. Specifically, that misguided hope that’s common to all Cubs fans. The thing buried deep within our collective psyche that says every losing streak has to come to an end, every slump will someday bust, and that no team can lose forever. In a word, it’s faith. Despite more than a century of evidence to the contrary, we believe in the Cubs.
Thursday afternoon, that faith was rewarded. By my count, yesterday’s dramatic finale was just our sixth walk-off win of the season, and only the second since the All Star Break. In spite of back-to-back walk-off wins in late April against the Cardinals, this Cubs team has been pretty short in the drama department. There’s not much to be surprised about–it’s a team loaded with weaknesses, and we’ve seemingly (hopefully) seen all the various ways they can conspire to give away a game.
But when it all comes together like it did yesterday, you temporarily forget that the season is already over, that the postseason celebrations will have to wait for a little longer, and that the Eamus Catuli sign across Sheffield will have to tack on another year of futility. You get wrapped up in the excitement and you reassert your belief in the hope that it won’t always be this bad.
In those brief moments you shed your decades of built-up cynicism, angst, and frustration and remind yourself it’s just a game. A splendid, glorious game.