As of today, February 8, we are two days away from the start of Chicago Cubs Spring Training. By Monday, we’ll be back to baseball. Within a few weeks, we’ll have our first televised Spring Training game. Pat yourself on the back, kids. We made it. Again.
More than any other sport, baseball seems to worm its way inside of you, grab hold of your heart, and hold on for dear life, like that one love you never quite get over. Maybe it has something to do with those long summer days and warm summer nights. Maybe it’s that baseball is tied up with our memories of summer vacation, the smell of fresh-cut grass, backyard barbecues, and the feeling of sunshine on our faces. Maybe it’s just that baseball is longer, more languid, than other sports. You don’t watch a baseball season. You live inside it for a languorous six months every year.
Whatever the reason, Chicago Cubs baseball is upon us again and, despite all the whining and moaning about typical Cubs woes (no real catcher, a plethora of injury-addled Asian pitchers on the wrong side of 35, the presence of Dave Sappelt, etc), I’ve begun to feel that familiar flip in my stomach when I think about what the next few weeks have in store. And, like a case of bronchitis that hits you around the same time each year, I’ve started to feel that little, niggling stirring in me that says, “I know they’re going to be terrible, but . . what if? Just . . what if?”
And therein lies the real beauty in baseball: that hope always spring eternal, even though we know that, by the fall, our hearts will broken again. Winter will come. And we’ll be left alone, in the cold, with nothing to keep us company but the endless strings of “what ifs?” Again.
And in the end, this s what separates Cubs fans from every other fan in baseball. We’re the young girl who has had her heart broken over and over and over again, but still holds out hope that, one day, Prince Charming will swoop in on his white horse and carry her off into the sunset. We’re the child who never stops believing in Santa Clause. Not really. We’re the fans who still believe in magic. And even when I see Luis Valbuena step up to the plate and swing at three horrible pitches to end the game in (yet another) loss, there will still be that small part of me that says, “It’s only August. They could still get hot.”
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.
Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun. — Bart Giamatti
Wrigley Talk Friday returns today at 3 pm CT on Blog Talk Radio. You can tune in right at your computer at work, or you can download the show later from iTunes.
Finally, today is the last day to enter our “Pick the Opening Day Lineup” contest. Make sure you pop down to this thread and enter for your chance to win!