The Chicago Cubs clinched the National League pennant last night, their first in 71 years. The Cleveland Indians clinched the American League pennant last week, their first in 19 years. Neither team has won a world series in the last six decades, when Cleveland last won it in 1948. The Cubs haven't won it all since 1908. Collectively, that is 176 years of "suffering". Within the next two weeks one of these two clubs will lay claim to their World Series rings, the other will have to find hope in the old phrase, "wait 'till next year".
I bring all this up because as I was watching the Cubs beat the Dodgers last night the announcer, Joe Buck, felt the need to comment on all of the people that waited their entire lives for that moment, and all the people that didn't make it to last night. The cameras cut to scenes of people cheering in the streets and in bars, and then focused in on various people in the crowds in tears, possibly crying at the memories of loved ones lost that didn't get to rejoice in that special moment.
I'm not a particular fan of either club, more of a well wisher in that I don't wish either any specific harm. Melissa, herself, was not a big baseball fan, but she tolerated my habit of watching the Sunday night game on ESPN and would even occasionally join me on the couch. The process of sitting to watch a game, start to finish, can be too much. There is not a lot of action, especially if you do not have a vested interest in either team. Watching the Sunday night games served as a salve for me, a reprograming of my psyche ahead of a busy week. I was always secretly over the moon when she would sit down and watch with me for a couple of innings. She never lasted long, she couldn't sit still without a project for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Inevitably she would bring in a sewing project to work on, or would get up to feed the cats. Those few minutes each weekend, where we would sit together with a game on in the background are sacred memories to me now.
And so, as I sat watching the jubilation on the north side of Chicago last night, listening to Joe Buck and John Smoltz talk about what a tragedy it was that Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Harry Carey could not be there to take it in, I wanted to add a name to that list. I found myself crying with the Cubs fans all over the world, wishing for all the world that she could be on that couch next to me. To enjoy the moment together so that we could someday tell Matthew where we were the day the Cubs made the Series.
It was a hard emotion to absorb, to see and feel something so special that it hasn't happened in most of our lifetimes, and then to realize that some of us never got this far. So hard, in fact, that I have confided to a few close friends that I have been actively rooting against the Cubbies. I've been rooting against them because this year, of all the years past and future, this year should not be "This Year". 2016 is hot garbage, and I don't need a constant reminder until eternity that this was the year that the curse was broken. No, this was the year that the curse started.
I feel this same way about Cleveland, but to a lesser extent. Now that they are both in the Series together I suppose I will have to put these feelings aside and just enjoy the game. She may not be on the couch with me, but I suspect that she is out there watching me watch and hoping that I can find the same peace and clarity that all those Sunday night games over the years have given me, because baseball is the one constant, baseball marks the time.