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If anybody on earth knows how to trick people into liking them through self-deprecation, it’s the Chicago Cubs. So when I visited Wrigley Field last week, I did so with a notepad in hand, ready to learn from the masters.
Here’s a team that hasn’t won a title in 103 years but keeps one of the strongest fan bases around. This wasn’t a vacation, I told myself. This was field research.
For me, there’s always something special about that first step out into the stands of a major league ballpark, and Wrigley has it more than anywhere. Down in the corridors, with the vendors and lines and $8 beers, it’s nothing but crowds and cold concrete. But then you walk into the daylight, take in the perfect lawn and pearly white bases, smell the clay, hear pitches slap into leather and — maybe it’s the history there, or the colors, or the openness — something changes.
There’s nothing but possibility on that field, stretching out toward a gigantic scoreboard built back when men wore suits to sporting events. And behind that is a city skyline, full with people living and working and trying to be happy, full of promise.
After 103 years without winning a single World Series, and with a current season record of 26-48, the Cubs, and Wrigley Field, somehow manage to maintain that aura.
“You know,” my dad used to say to my brother and me when we were kids, watching Mets games on TV together, “they wanted me to be the starting pitcher tonight. But, eh, I told them I was busy.”
This was his classic line. He coined it. According to him, at one time or another, he’d been propositioned to be the ace starting pitcher and cleanup hitter for every ballclub in the bigs, the lead singer for all of his favorite bands, and the quarterback for the Jaguars, and the Giants, and the Jets.
But, nah, he chose to be a banker and raise a family, instead.
It was the kind of recurring joke that can cement a legacy. The idea of my dad center stage at a rock show is almost as funny as the idea of the Cubs winning a pennant. But maybe that’s exactly the point. My dad makes a better dad than he would a celebrity — and he’s aware of that, probably a little more than he wishes he were.
And, just like every comedian who’s ever lived, maybe the Cubbies are loved not in spite of being a losing team but because they are one, and because they’ve endured anyway.
Snapping pictures around the stadium, I sent them one by one to my parents, who have still never seen the place in person. I climbed up to the upper deck and traveled down to the backstop. I kept sending photos until my phone battery died. And then I found my seat, squinted toward the sun and watched the first pitch.
Gazing around at the park, from the way everybody in the place stands up and sings during the seventh-inning stretch to the rows of sold-out seats on top of buildings across the street, I was humbled by just how much the idea of winning sometimes didn’t matter.
Who really cared if the Cubs scored more runs than the other team in this one stupid game? This was about tradition. It had nothing to do with success or failure and everything to do with putting on the uniform.
It had everything to do with showing up.
“You know,” I said to Spencer, who came with me on the trip and cracked peanuts beside me, “they asked me to start at center tonight. But, eh, I told them I’d rather live in a pseudo-retirement town, work for a community newspaper and live with my parents.”
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26 Pet Shot Clinic
9:00 am - 10:30 am
26 Pet Shot Clinic
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
26 Pet Shot Clinic
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
27 Memorial Day Event
Cuddle up: Moose lodges donate dolls for children
This spring, Palm Coast Moose Lodge 2577 donated a box of 12 Tommy Moose dolls to bring comfort to children in times of stress, uncertainty or anxiety.
High School students donate to breast cancer patients
The Flagler Palm Coast High School Future Business Leaders of America class donated $580 to Florida Hospital Flagler Foundation’s breast cancer fund, which provides screening mammograms, diagnostic studies and education to local qualified women who are uninsured and seeking assistance.
Florida Hospital Flagler gives $2,000 in scholarships
Florida Hospital Flagler's medical staff donated $2,000 in scholarships to four graduating high school students.