I am an optimist.
As I tell my son, I am “a happy man.” I try to stay upbeat, see the good in others and have faith that everything will work out for the best.
Lately, however, I’ve been walking under a dark cloud of doubt. I rationally understand that a joyous event could happen in the near future, yet I am fearful that calamity will strike again, destroying this year’s dream and adding more misery onto me, my family, friends and fellow fans.
The subject of this column is near and dear to my heart, as much a part of my genetic makeup as Italian food and Irish blue eyes – the Chicago Cubs. The possible joyous event? The first World Series championship in 100 years.
As I write this column in 2008, the Cubs are beginning their “Hunt for a Blue October” with the division playoff series against the Dodgers. This is only the sixth postseason appearance for the Cubs in my 50-year-old lifetime.
My father, the man who indoctrinated me into Cubs fandom, was only nine years old in 1945 when the team last appeared in the World Series. My Nonno (Italian for grandfather) was not even born when the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908. Now those two die-hard fans are rallying the angels and cheering for the Cubs from Heaven.
Here on earth, I am trying to stay optimistic and keep the faith, but it’s hard. I’ve seen too many slumps, slides and strikeouts to know that no collapse is impossible for the Cubs.
Ground balls through the legs, foul balls not caught, hot summer day games, a black cat on the field, a billy goat kept out of the ballpark – all of these events have kept the Cubs from winning the pennant. Why, after the mythical collapse of 1969 when the Amazin’ Mets won it all, there were even rumors that the Cubs were going to be sold and moved to the Philippines, where they would be renamed the Manila Folders. Not really, but you can understand the angst all us Cubs fans feel.
What really concerns me, though, is the realization that the level of my pessimism is directly proportional to the team’s talent and success. Each win delivers a one-two punch of elation and anxiety at the same time. After so many years of failure, am I scared that the Cubs might win? Can we handle the success?
This quandary leads me to wonder if I should “play it safe” with my emotions and not get too wrapped in either the highs or lows of daily life. Is it better to stay on an even keel, or is life best experienced by enjoying the highs and persevering through the lows?
And what about faith? If we are always playing it safe, then we don’t need faith; we don’t need a loving God to whom we turn for comfort for our sorrows or to thank for our joys.
No, even though I am a man of doubt and fears, I am also a man of faith. I will enjoy this postseason. I want to remember the Cubs of 2008 as a great team, no matter the final outcome.
• • •
“How do you want to be remembered?” asks Kent Stock, the coach of the Norway High School baseball team in the film The Final Season.
Norway, Iowa is a small farming community just west of Cedar Rapids. Playing baseball is as much a part of the daily routine in Norway as feeding the livestock and hauling hay to the barn. Based upon a true story in 1991, The Final Season tells the story of a very successful baseball team.
Year after year, this small 1A high school baseball team remained independent of any conference so that they could schedule teams from much larger schools. Under the guidance of longtime coach Jim Van Scoyoc, the team focused on the fundamentals of baseball and won 19 Iowa State Baseball Championships.
That winning tradition, however, was seriously put to the test when the county school board decided that the students of Norway High School would have many more educational opportunities if they close the school and merge with the larger Madison High School.
Forcing Coach Van Scoyoc to retire, the school board hires inexperienced Kent Stock (Sean Astin) to coach the team before the merger. Coach Stock must inspire the players to work hard for one more season, one more championship. He wants the team to be remembered as winners.
It’s a story that shows us that despite the possibility of failure or the certainty of change, we should live in the moment and use our God-given talents to the best of our abilities. Strive to succeed in all you do, whether it’s to win one final championship or to cheer on the Chicago Cubs.
There are many reasons to stay optimistic: the Cubs have excellent pitching, big hitters, and they wear the Roman numeral for 100 on their caps – this has to be the year!
Eddie Vedder, a longtime Cubs fan and lead singer of Pearl Jam, wrote a song this summer titled “Some Day We’ll Go All the Way.” After 100 years, there’s no time like the present.
Keep the faith, Cubs fans.
First published in the October 3, 2008 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2008 Christopher Fenoglio