The last few weeks have been a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, couch-jumping, cat-traumatizing, whoop-hollering ride in my house because my husband, Ron, is a lifelong Cubs fan. In case you have not been paying attention, the Cubbies won the World Series on Wednesday for the first time in 108 years, and when they returned to Chicago the city leaders dyed the Chicago River blue to celebrate with the more than six million people who turned up from all over the world to party. (I’m still wondering what toxic chemical was used for the blue color and whether it killed the fish or not.) The statistic-wonks have declared that was the longest “drought” that any sports team has ever experienced in the history of organized sports. I can testify that Ron has gone his entire life cheering unwaveringly for those loser Cubbies until Wednesday, when they finally became the world champions.
Ron likes to watch all kinds of sports, and we have often gotten excited about our favorite teams. But this was perhaps the biggest sports event of Ron’s life. He sat loyally glued to the TV through all the final series leading up to the Cubbies advancing to the Big Show. It looked bleak for his guys when they were losing the series 3-1. But they made a miraculous comeback, winning two games and forcing the series into a seventh game. In a turning point moment in one of those games, Ron’s favorite player (Russell) hit a for-real grand slam home run. While the runners swooped around the bases to home, Ron ran around the invisible bases in our house screaming his head off. Then he jumped on the couch, fell off the couch onto the floor, picked himself up and ran to the front door of the house, opened the door, and hollered at the shrubbery. He promptly lost his voice. The cats cowered in my study, terrified, as they realized that there was indeed something more frightening than the vacuum cleaner.
If Ron had a bad heart, I would have prohibited him from watching game seven. But his heart is good and we watched. The game started out well for our Cubbies and they had a 6-3 lead all the way to the eighth inning. Ron jumped up and down and rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation of the imminent win. But then the Cubbies’ pitcher choked (perhaps on a sunflower seed) and let Cleveland catch up so the score went to a 6-6 tie. This was when Ron’s good heart proved its strength. I feared he might start smashing plates on the floor. Instead he screamed at the Cubbies coach to pull the pitcher, but the coach didn’t listen to him. They went into the ninth inning with no change in score and no change in pitcher. Still tied, the game would have to go into extra innings. That was when it started to rain; clearly a sign that the entity in charge of the universe has a sense of humor.
Let me take a break from this saga to note that baseball is not nearly as exciting as this account makes it sound. The final game of this year’s World Series was an anomaly. Trust me. I watched quite a few games with Ron at the end of this season and I can say unequivocally that baseball is one of the most boring sports on the planet. Racing crickets is more entertaining. You can sit for hours watching men chewing all manner of stray objects and spitting residue from these objects onto the ground. It’s disgusting. If you were a space alien watching baseball you would think the point of the sport is to chew and spit. Plus nothing happens for ages in baseball other than players adjusting and readjusting their clothing. Maybe once every hour or so someone will actually do something to indicate that people are still alive out there, like get on base, and then you have to hope they manage to advance and don’t just get stranded. I usually read a book through most of the game. The players must have to cram all that unidentifiable weird stuff into their mouths just to stay awake. My guess is that they are chewing tobacco, wads of gum the approximate size of a grapefruit, sunflower seeds, tree branches, chunks of undercooked brisket, superballs, and used tires. Plus, it’s extremely important for them to look tense. Baseball is a tense game. You need nerves of steel to sit through that much chewing while waiting for something significant to happen. So baseball is largely a sport based on chewing, spitting, adjusting clothing, stressing out, and permanently staining a perfectly good pair of white pants with dirt and grass.
Back to the World Series. So it started to rains as they went into a tenth inning. They covered the field in tarps and announced they would wait it out. Ron could not sit still. He changed the batteries in all the flashlights, cleaned out the refrigerator, defragged his computer, filled out his absentee voter ballot, and disassembled and reassembled the washing machine. Finally, the rain stopped and the game restarted (after a mere 17 minutes). The delay gave the Cubbies a minute to regroup. Their pitcher had a good cry in the dugout, everyone changed their pants, and someone went out and bought a 60-pound bag of sunflower seeds and some birch bark. The seeds and bark were a godsend because no one had brought enough stuff to chew to last for ten innings and, having run out, they were eating their sneakers and belts.
The miraculous Cubbies went back out onto the field and scored two runs while devouring 40 pounds of sunflower seeds. Cleveland was only able to score one run (no one had thought to get them more sunflower seeds), could not catch up, and the Cubbies won the series at the end of the tenth. The team went berserk, of course, sunflower seeds everywhere, and the stadium erupted. At our house, my Cubbie Hubby executed physical maneuvers that I thought he had lost the ability to perform during the Reagan Administration. The cats cowered in the corner. Whooping and hollering, he called Cubbies fans friends on the phone, one after the other, and screamed “hoo-ha” into the receiver and they screamed “hoo-ha” back and then he hung up and called someone else. The adrenalin rush kept him up half the night watching celebrations around the country, first on TV and then live streaming on the computer.
We witnessed history, and it was about as exciting as baseball gets. By the end of the game, the Cubbies had chewed up their sneakers, belts, caps, and the bench in their dugout. I think they should change their name to the Chicago Termites. In fact, all the teams should be renamed after critters that chew. The Cleveland Beavers would be catchy. If I learned one thing about baseball from watching the series with Ron, it’s that you can’t play that game without chewing on something. All due respect to Cleveland for a great series. Go amazing Cubbies!