If ever you held hope for humanity it is best to avoid 1060 W Addison in Chicago. Particularly the bleacher seats.
Though the last time I ever braved such depths was 1996, I doubt much has changed. Quiet and enjoyable as it was, only a lead change can show you the ring of hell you have entered.
The inferno of August was just setting in, baking the guilty with no hope of shade. Two teams, not going anywhere but with bad blood between them took stage. As beautiful it is to be transported back in time inside Wrigley Field, the smell of piss and beer will soon mix with the sound of the forgotten and entitled.
How close I was to being a Cubs fan when I started watching baseball. Living by Chicago made convenience of dedication readily available on the local channels and newspapers. It was the end of 1983 when I first picked up a newspaper and scrolled the beautiful numbers of baseball. It was my grandfather who was there to answer my questions. Eagerly he answered as I asked about every team. Interesting enough but not until I came to the two teams that were playing on television that day did I find what I was looking for. The Cubs and the Mets were playing and as my grandfather described it, it was a battle for last place. Almost always, he said that one or the other was last or next to last. They all too often alternated that honor.
In every year but one, that is. The Miracle Mets of 1969 who had never finished with a winning record from 1962-1968, came out of nowhere to catch the mighty Cubs. Sure, he told me of Ernie Banks, Jenkins and Billy Williams first but then came the story of the black cat crossing Ron Santo in the on deck circle. To an eleven year old that was better than any science fiction story out at the time. He continued about how the pitching of Seaver, Koosman and Gentry had catapulted the Mets from 8 games back in August to first place after a 4 game sweep in New York. How the Mets had beaten a very good Baltimore team in the World Series 4 games to 1. As he continued to another miracle season in 1973 that again had the Mets come out of nowhere to win the division and beat the mighty Big Red Machine in the playoffs before falling a game short in the series, I was in love.
Don’t get me wrong, when the Mets are bad they are horrible. It’s a test of dedication in these times. When you are in love, you stay no matter what.
Cubs fans on the other hand all too often flock to the park as a matter of proximity more than knowledge or even love. The blanketed area around Chicago is riddled with moth holes of inferior intellect trying their damnedest to rush to the flame.
Oh, I loved the story about the goat as well. A story that became more prominent in 1984 as suddenly the Cubs and Mets were both good again. In the first full season I got to watch, it seemed like 1969 all over again. As “Jump” by Van Halen infected the airwaves trying to bring about the end of good music as we knew it, the Cubs did not melt in the dog days of August this time. They held off a young Mets team before taking a commanding 2 games to 0 lead in the playoffs. One win away. I could have been happy for them. Hell, I thought they were going to win too. Then came Steve Garvey. A person the Cubs had almost signed in the offseason. Before you knew it, the Padres had won 3 straight and the Cubs went into “Wait until next year” mode.
For every sea parting moment of the Mets winning the 1986 World Series there was a wave crashing moment of the Cubs trying to follow. I was there for the only game the Cubs won in the 1989 playoffs. With my Mets hat on, of course. Even while the Cubs were winning, the guy behind me took the time to try to explain to me why Keith Hernandez was a bum. Couldn’t enjoy beating the team on the field.
Wrigley Field is the loudest place in the world, by the way. If the Cubs are winning. If not, you can hear a pin drop. You can hear the parents explaining to their kids why the Cubs flag is so far down in the standings. It takes a strong team to hold the other ones up.
Which brings us to 1996.
As the Cubs led 3-0 in the bottom of the 8th, my sister and I took leave of our seats and went to finish the game by the exit. Not too many bad vantage points in Wrigley. When I looked up there was a Cubs fan just above us with a wad of spit dangling from his mouth ready to drop it on my sister’s head. Yes, the one with a Mets hat on it.
My offer to come up there and get us all banned from the park forever took hold just in time for him to suck the spit back in his mouth and sit down.
Sure, it may be a bit of schadenfreude but for every stroke of midnight end of the curse of the Bambino story, for every black cat crossing a player’s path, there is your Bartman. There is your Murphy in the 2015 NLCS. For every romantic Cub fan with loyalty in their heart there is a thousand in it because they live within driving distance.
There is also your goat.
The goat always knows when the time is right.