‘Expressions of glee from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Cubs’
I am (in)famous amongst Henrys for my lack of interest in team sports. I’ve been known to ask if baseball is the one where they throw the little white ball with the stitching, as opposed to the one where they throw the big orange ball with the pointy ends. (I do know that the big round orange ball is the one that gets ‘dribbled’; I didn’t attend Carlyle High School basketball games just to flirt, you know.)
Well. As some of you may recall from my ubiquitous Facebook presence, I recently spent a most pleasant long weekend with as many Henrys as could squeeze into Oldest Younger Brother Scott’s house in Petaluma. The ostensible reason for our get-together was to celebrate a couple of Henry birthdays (my Mom’s and Middle Younger Brother Roger’s).
But what got everybody really excited was not the big ole dual-duty birthday cake (with a candelabra on top, seriously), or even the Second Presidential Debate (the Town Hall One with the Stalking), but watching the Cubs battle the Giants for a spot in the National League Playoffs.
This was Big Stuff for the Henrys. See, Carlyle, the town where I grew up, was about fifty miles east of St. Louis. (Still is, unless they moved it without telling me.) Which made the St. Louis Cardinals the ‘home team’ for pretty much everybody in town — everybody who wasn’t a Henry, that is. This was because our family was from ‘away’; we moved there in 1960, which made us sort of Carlyle Carpetbaggers. Our roots were in farm country Upstate, about fifty miles west of Chicago. Which made our ‘home team’ the Chicago Cubs.
Now. Just in case you know even less about team sports than I do (which would be pretty amazing) or you haven’t looked at a newspaper or watched TV or been online lately, the Cubs have a reputation of being, well, losers.
They famously have not won the World Series since 1908. (Yup, that’s 1908.) Which means that no one is alive who remembers their last win. They haven’t even played in the World Series since 1945. (Nope, I wasn’t alive then, either. Though my quite-young-at-the-time Mom was.) Nope. During my lively youth, the Cubs were pretty much dead. Not only did they not win the World Series — or even get into the World Series — they pretty much lost every game they played.
[Note: there is plenty of Loser Lore surrounding this very long Cubs Dry Spell. What with goats and ghosts and silly overeager fans catching errant foul balls in the stands, I couldn’t possibly begin to fill you in. Go crazy on Wikipedia, if so inclined.]
I do know this, though. That if you rooted for the Cubs in a Cardinals Town, you were pretty lonely. I think I remember my Mom telling me the only other non-Henry Cub Fan in Carlyle was the guy who owned the IGA. The guy didn’t go to our church, and Mom was a Piggly Wiggly shopper, so they didn’t even get together to commiserate.
Anyway. My Mom, loyal to a fault, has stuck with the Cubs all these years. Her sister, my beloved-yet-frail Aunt Marilyn, could be considered even more loyal to the team, if that’s possible. These days she answers the phone not with ‘Hello’, but with ‘Go, Cubs’. Seriously. Give her a call and see. (Mom’ll give you the number if you ask her nice.)
Well, the rest of us were rooting right along with Mom throughout that baseball-packed playoff weekend. I saw more games in three days than I’d seen in three years. BTW, nobody but me watched that nutty debate. And I only caught it on my iPad much later that night, in bed. What with the Cubs’ excitement and the Trump’s shenanigans, it’s a wonder I got any sleep at all.
Anyway, by the time I got home to New York I was throwing around phrases like ‘home team advantage’ and ‘pinch hitter’ like a Real Henry. And this from a person who didn’t know an RBI from an MLB a couple of weeks ago.
So now I’m all ready for tonight, the first game of the first World Series with the Cubs in it since I’ve been alive to watch. And I bet you’re ready too.
And in case you’re wondering about the title of this post, it comes from an old baseball saying: ‘It ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings.’ I looked this up, and got lots of different derivations, from an opera reference (oh, really?) to a tweak on Yogi Berra’s ‘It ain’t over till it’s over’. But the one I’m going with is the one that agrees with my (foggy) memory: which is that I remember Kate Smith singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ when the TV went dark for the night. (Yep, it used to do that. There would just be what they called a ‘test pattern’ on the screen if you turned it on at, say, one in the morning.)
So. This column is officially going dark. At least for another week. Cue the Fat Lady. And Go, Cubs, go!
New York City. October 2016.