Dear Dad (AKA #CubDadinHeaven),
They are saying it’s the moment of truth for our Cubs against the Dodgers tonight in LA. I guess we’ve been down this road before but not with a 103 regular season win team. I know you must be shaking your head, but because you’re in heaven, it’s a different perspective. I’m guessing it’s the perspective of understanding a human’s attachment to a group of people, playing a game with sticks and balls that is still so aesthetically beautiful but paradoxically uniting and breaking hearts. And you must laugh at all the angst. But you didn’t laugh when you were here…
Anyway, I have a couple of things to reflect on with you.
I often think about your frustrations with the Cubs. There are few moments where we were very happy with them. Oh, when they clinched their first playoff spot in 39 years in ’84 and you wrote me the note in your impeccable handwriting (yes, shared with my FB friends!). Or maybe when we talked on the phone about them beating the Braves in the division series in ’03, the year before you died. But most of the time, it seemed as though we were just flabbergasted at their lack of…. yes, the word you always used, “execution.” You would get so disgusted; you’d turn off the TV sound because Harry Carey irritated the crap out of you when they were losing. It’s really a wonder I didn’t see you drunk at times during the many seasons we shared together as fans…but you had too much class, too much respect to fall into dysfunctional behavior, LOL. Instead, you simply lived with the melancholy and prepared yourself for the loss…or many losses. You were present to the frustration; you didn’t try to ignore it or cover it up or hit the TV. You just smoked your pipe and sat there with it. It was what it was. Sometimes I really think you would have understood Buddhism. After making plain what you thought had gone wrong and calling the Cubs, “hitless wonders” or some other little descriptive, you would stop. You would retreat. You would go into that place of disappointment and just let it be. Cubs Fan in Losing Repose in Sunroom. Someone should have painted you.
Now I have to prepare by myself for the possible death of this season. Yes, I have the Cub Fans in St. Louis FB group who are much better analyzing the game than me; and my Chicago cousins who remember Uncle Bill in each pitch, and your daughter/my sister Jane who follows them in memory of you. I have Lisa, the wife who converted to Cub-ism for me and is supportive, and Adam, our sports loving grandson/nephew who has told me never to give up on these Cubs. But, really, it’s an existential, solo undertaking. For me as a theology teacher, the Cubs represent so much that is good and yet flawed in the human condition. We project so many symbolic hopes and dreams onto a team, and we can’t affect the outcome except through rooting. Really, it’s much easier to pin our hopes/dreams on a rock and roll group. If your favorite group put out a less than stellar album, you can still listen to their other “championship” material or see them live; and then the “loss” is mitigated. There is only “competition” when you argue with your music friends over a beer about which group is actually the more influential group. But with sports, it is about winning and losing in a stark, cold way. Although we all intellectually nod our heads that it’s also about how people play the game, the great and terrible thing about sport is winning and losing. And the Cubs have felt that heart wrenching, losing punch in the gut for 108 years; and by extension, their fans.
I cry out to you out loud in front of the TV, “DAD! WTF?!?” and there is silence. But that is appropriate when I think about it. I can predict what you would say about how the Cubs are screwing this up. But the silence…yes, we must just go into the silence where the Unfathomable Mystery sits with us and asks us to let go and be appreciative all that we have. Mom would probably remind us of this reality. We have had many good moments this season, more than ever in my lifetime of following the Cubs since 1972. And we have all the other good things in life that seem to get forgotten in our momentary depression about a sports team. We know that the players are giving it their all and we have a sanctuary in Wrigley Field that brings a smile to the face just thinking of it. We are Cubs fans. Fans that never give up, even if we get depressed and disgusted. Fans that know that with every seasonal death comes a new day in the spring that gives us a chance to resurrect.
So, Dad, in the silence, I thank you. This little suffering teaches us. Thank you, Dad, and in the silence with you, in that sunroom, I forever mouth the words, “Go Cubs!”
Smiling at Mom and you, sending love to your both on the commemoration of your 70th wedding anniversary today,