"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wait till next year...

Time out from school stuff to talk about the Cubs.

They finished the 2008 season last weekend with the best record in the National League. In past years, that would have meant that they won the pennant...and for me...that's fantastic.

Some might say that this year's team was "the one" that was going to finally win the championship after all this time...and now the dream is over, but no...I don't look at it that way.

Sam, this is for you...

The dream's not over...but it's just not the same dream that you're thinking about. I've been following the Cubs for a while now, and I know it hasn't been all roses, but look at the good things that have happened over the last 132 years:

5 division championships in your lifetime (I think, right? 84, 89, 03, 07, 08)
a 2008 no hitter
heros galore (Sandburg, Dunston, Dawson, Maddux, Grace... and more to come)
excitement and fun (see the above, plus Sosa, Zambrano, and others)
the NL MVP on the last place team
16 National League Pennants...including the very first in 1876
116 wins and the best winning percentage ever
"It's a great day for baseball, let's play two."
10, 14, 23, 26 (retired jerseys...and #31 when Maddux retires - maybe)...and you can name all the players who go with those numbers, right?

I could go on...but you get the idea. Baseball is not a game of championships...it may seem like that every October, but it's not. It's a game of history and courage. Name one person in any other sport who could compete historically with the likes of Babe Ruth, or Jackie Robinson (ok...you might be able to name one...but not as many...Cobb, Young, McGraw, Williams, Dimagio, Stengel, Gehrig, and on and on, ad infinitum). Think about the Cubs in terms of that...in terms of their historical significance. They are the longest continuously operating professional "major league" sports team in the world...and I dare any Reds fan to disagree since they went "minor league" in the American Association in the mid 19th century. They're one of only two of the original National League founding members and the only team to have remained in their original city (the Braves are the other). The history of the Cubs, like every other baseball team is filled with good guys (Sandburg, Maddux, Jenkins and Sosa) and riddled with bad guys (Wilson, Sosa goes here, too) and great moments (Z's no hitter) as well as tragedy ('03, '69, Sosa - again). Their place in history is immoralized in "Tinker to Evers to Chance." Their individual stories are as interesting and human as any other team...Banks coming from the Monarchs right to the Cubs with no time in the minors, Williams quietly becoming one of the best players in the game, Jenkins and his record setting consecutive 20 win seasons, Santo playing with diabetes for 11 years without anyone knowing it, it's all there. It is all part of the game.

The Joy of baseball is not in who wins or loses, but the paths the teams and players take. What's remembered? The fact that the Yankees won another World Series in 1956, or Larsen's perfect game? What's important...that the Reds won the '19 Series, or that Shoeless Joe couldn't "say it ain't so?" What do you remember about Banks? That he was on a team that lost or that he hit 512 home runs and said, "Let's play two." What's more important...the number of Championships a team has, or the players who bring us the excitement every day from April through October? It's not the teams...it's King Kelly, Hack Wilson, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins, Rick Sutcliffe, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandburg, Mark Grace, Greg Maddux, Sammy Sosa, and Carlos Zambrano.

What happened last week was just a squeak in the door of history. The Cubs will be back next year and will provide us with everything we need for another great season of baseball. They'll give us encouragement to persevere in the face of adversity...to come back, day after day, year after year always there...always trying their best. They'll teach young fans and old fans alike about hope and possibilities. And when they do win, we'll celebrate, but we'll know that it's fleeting...and not the end, but just one more life lesson that we can learn from baseball.

Oh...and they're not cursed...they are blessed (Hey if you're going to use religious jargon, then I can too). They have the best ball park in the majors...in the best neighborhood in the majors...with the best fans in the majors...They have all those famous players - all those good guys...all those wins (more than 10,000!)...all that history...

Yeah...it would be nice if they could win a pennant or a series before I die, but that's not what's important about the Cubs. The Cubs have one of the best attendance records in baseball...yet they haven't "won the championship" in 100 years. Why is that? Why do we (the fans) keep coming back for more each year?

When you can answer that (and I think you can), you'll understand what really makes the Cubs important and why it's in your blood...

1 comment:

Meg said...

This is why I married you! I love your eloquence and Zen-ness.
Listen to your dad, Sammy.