The Cubs are in town. This year they are here for four whole games, which is a lot to attend (two is no problem, three is a bit much).  I haven’t done four in a while. OTOH, 3/4 of them are at night, which is not true for weekend four-game series in Wrigley. So I got that going for me.  Less heatstroke.

I don’t buy tix in advance in DC. I show up, decide how much to spend, and spend it. It feels so reckless to show up without tickets!  It’s not, of course, considering that the Nats are suck and DC does not give a rat’s ass about baseball and the only sellout ever was one of the nights when the Red Sox were in town. But to Cubs fans, who need to secure their tickets over the winter, it is bizarre.

Since DC thoughtfully acquired an NL baseball team before I relocated here, I can mark my DC time by Cubs series.  In 2006, I had gone to Chicago for Opening Weekend, and my friend and fellow Cub sufferer Jake came to DC for their series in July.  We went to all three, I think…two at least.  My strongest memory of those games is that the Cubs sucked. I took my favorite “agony of defeat” photo:

cub fandom

hee hee! God, I love that photo.  It actually made me feel better to look at it last fall when…well, you know. (and if you don’t, look back a few posts on the blog.)

I don’t remember 2007 too well, I didn’t make it to many games that year. It was the Nats’ last year in RFK, that I do recall.  On July 4, I went down for a last-minute ticket and happened to run into my friend the LA native and Dodgers fan. DC is like that–go out relatively often and be relatively social and you will see people you know everywhere.

2008 was memorable in many ways:

1) I made a “baseball friend” a week or so before the series. She was selling me shoes and happened to have a team bracelet on, which began a conversation, etc.  Our chats helped me psych myself up for the series.

2) After a game I ran into Len Kasper and Bob Brenly in the Metro. They didn’t want to wait for the bus, they said, because “the guys take forever in the showers.” (In case you are wondering, the team stays at the Mayflower Hotel.)  I thought of something intelligent to say to them about 10 minutes later.

3) What with ballpark food and tickets, I had budgeted myself a pile of cash for the weekend, and on Sunday found myself with a lot left over. Hmm…why save what you can spend? I bought myself nice seats right next to the visitors dugout.

AND!!

4) Kerry Wood signed my hat.
#34

So all in all, last year set a high bar for Cubs series awesomeness. My materialist goals for this year are:

–Have Carlos Zambrano sign my hat.

–Have Aramis Ramirez sign something. My hat? My Ramirez jersey? Not sure…

–Spring for awesome seats again at least once.

But it’s the intangibles that count, and in that department I am already on track. Tonight: I bought good seats in my favorite area and jumped to even better seats in said area.  I was surrounded by the best kind of fans: knowledgeable enough to respect the other team, chatty but not overbearing, and hilarious.  The Cubs won handily, D-Lee hit a nice home run right to our area of right field.  And on the way home, despite us leaving at different times and taking different trains, I ran into the same fans!  DC is like that.  We had a lovely chat about the Nats’ patheticness (too easy a target), the President’s skill in sports picks, and general Chicago baseball fandom–they had grown up as near Comiskey as I had near Wrigley. (They weren’t the hating kind of Sox fans, but there was something odd about them.  “I’m a Sox fan,” one said, “but I root for the Cubs when they’re in the playoffs.”  …huh?)

OK…better get to bed, I have a long evening of baseball tomorrow.

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cub fandom

5 October, 2008

More to come.

Listen, and understand.

What’s there to say, really?

…hmm, a lot, actually.  I’ll spare you the 2003 reminiscing and just ask my question.  Someone, please, answer me.

So in ’03, we choked in Game 6, big time. GAME 6…of a SEVEN GAME SERIES.  What stopped us from winning Game 7?  No, seriously. WHAT?  I still don’t really know. “Because we’re the Cubs,” blah blah blah, spare me. That’s not an answer.  WHAT. STOPPED. US?

2008. October 1. OK, Dempster got in a spot…in GAME 1.  We fell behind and got demoralized. IN GAME ONE. HELLO! 4 MORE GAMES TO PLAY!  What was stopping this team, the best Cubs team in my memory and my father’s memory and his father’s memory, from just, you know, PLAYING? Believing in themselves?  I’m serious, WHAT?  Can someone please tell me?

You know, though?  Here is the even more real question. Was it the same thing? In 2003 and 2008?  Who cares, losing is losing, you say. I disagree. The answer matters, and I’ll tell you why.  2003 was a gift. Everything came together in that lucky once-in-a-blue-moon way, and it was magical, and it woulda been magical if we’d gone all the way, but something happened.  In immediate hindsight the Game 6 choke seemed easily explained: lack of playoff experience, lack of big-game experience, tripped players up.  And as chokes do, it spread, in a series of bad decisions and bad luck and Golden Glovers misplaying ground balls and coaches not taking out finished pitchers and spazzy outfielders and ugh, ugh!

Sorry. Note, though: the failure was contained. Contained within the game–the NLDS was thrillingly fought, the NLCS until that point was also.  If you like, you can further argue that the failure due to inexperience was contained, within the season.  It didn’t say anything about the Cubs as a franchise, despite what people thought.  It was just a year. Disappointing sure, but it was just what sometimes happens to teams that improbably fight their way to the playoffs. The Marlins did the same, and just got a little farther.  It happens–that’s why we have a postseason at all.  Right?

2008?  This year was different. THIS YEAR WAS DIFFERENT.  We were plain good.  We clinched over a week before the end of the season. Best NL record. Most runs in NL. God knows how many other bests, firsts, best since’s; I’m bad at keeping track of that stuff.  But it was a Cubs team like none of us have ever seen.  And that team just didn’t fucking show up for the most important series of the season.  Here’s what freaks me out, here’s what kept me up last night: if THIS team couldn’t pull it off, what Cub team can?  How good do we have to be to make this happen?

(Maybe making it happen isn’t about being good.  Maybe it was too easy. Maybe you need to fight all the way, like in ’03.  ?)

Here is the emotional doublethink that defines my Cub fandom*.   Deep down I have a core of hope and belief that they can do it. But I also have a core of doubt and resignation to loss. And I never know which one is deeper.  Which is the core of which? I can’t tell. Maybe I should call it doublefeel.

*Maybe it’s everyone’s fandom, for all teams.  But I don’t remember feeling this way about the 1990s Bulls and I doubt Yankee fans feel this way.

Maybe that’s the difference between 2003 and 2008.  I was at the 2003 NLCS Game 7.  Not 24 hours after the Game 6 choke, I made and carried a sign to the park that said just “I BELIEVE”.  Why COULDN’T we win? WHY NOT come back from a bad game?  That was the day before!  That’s why it’s not a one-game playoff, the postseason, because a bad inning, an off day, can happen anytime. I believed. But that was the heart speaking. In my head, I could see us being outplayed, in slow motion.  You knew that a debacle like that wouldn’t happen to the Marlins.  And, doublefeel-wise, when the loss finally came, it felt both shocking and inevitable.

This year was the other way around.  Rationality was on the side of optimism. For once, for ONCE, we were just that good.  Look at the numbers!  But you can’t turn off that emotional side that is keeping you on the edge of cynicism and defeat.

So this is mostly just shocking. No, really. “Durr, it’s the Cubs, what do you expect” people will say. Well, I’ll tell you. More. I expect more.  Because it’s expecting less that makes people think jokes about lovable losers are acceptable.  This looked to be the year we left all that bullshit behind.

OK, you know? I was feeling maudlin. I couldn’t get to sleep last night til 2:30 (apparently neither could Mark DeRosa).  Today, I had listened to the Steve Goodman song I linked to up there, I sat down to write this, catharsis, etc…and now I’m just pissed.  This year WAS different, goddamnit.

See you in '09

Postscript: As usual, Al says it better.  Wanting it too much…is it that simple?

Damnit, you can’t read that at all can you.  What it says is: at one location, you can get a plain ol’ hot dog, a “Nats dog value pack,” a Hebrew National, AND a Ben’s half smoke with chili. That’s right, no need to stand in line at the one Ben’s stand in LF.   And hilariously, NOT ONLY are these “Nats Dogs” badged stands everywhere, there is one AROUND THE CORNER from the Ben’s stand.

Lotsa snapshots of the stadium coming up. I am so psyched.


We call this place heaven.

Originally uploaded by techne.

Proof: rally caps

27 January, 2008


Wrigley Field, June 7, 2003

Originally uploaded by techne.

Faboo Cubs blog Bleed Cubbie Blue is whiling away the dark winter of the baseball fan’s soul (19 days left!) by counting down the top 20 Cubs home runs. Here is BCB Al’s number 18, a dinger I remember very well. You can find my stories about it in the comment thread for his post (search the page for techne). Non-baseball-y readers can click through to this picture’s flickr page for a shorter, less technical version. (Note to all: “Twitchy” is Sammy Sosa.)

In this photo Jake (l), Paulo (r), and I are sporting rally caps, a baseball technique. Some background: there’s a lot of superstitions in baseball, and one large subset of the superstitions involves changing or not changing things. You don’t change things if you are streaking–eat the same meal, sit in the same place on the plane, shave or don’t shave, do what my die-hard Cub fan middle school math teacher did during the 1989 playoff race and don’t change your socks. Likewise, if you are slumping, you need a slump-buster of some kind, from dietary to sartorial to, er, sexual.

This is the theoretical basis of the rally cap. Is your team behind? Do you need a rally? Clearly, what you have been doing in the game thus far is not working. So you mix it up and wear your cap backwards and inside out. Laugh all you like, but look at the picture and read the post/comment, people: rally caps WORK!

“But Techne,” you say, “I am still skeptical. And you are just a fan, anyway, shouldn’t it be players who would have to wear rally caps?” OK, smartass. You want more evidence? Listen to this! An internet (Wikipedia) tells us of two situations where players allegedly used rally caps:

  • New York Mets, 1986 World Series
  • Detroit Tigers, 1945 World Series

QED.

Jackie Robinson Day

15 April, 2007

So today Major League Baseball celebrates the 60th anniversary of its integration. If you don’t know the story, yet would like to call yourself an American, go read about it ASAP.

At the 50-year mark, MLB retired the number 42 for all teams, but apparently Ken Griffey Jr. had the idea for players to honor Robinson today by wearing 42. The idea has spread around the league and morphed into either “one dude on your team wears the number,” “a few dudes on your team wear the number,” or everyone on your team wears the number.” Personally, I prefer the last of these options, and think the position stated by the Twins’ Torii Hunter in the article — that it somehow dilutes the tribute to have too many people wear the number — is ridiculous. If only one or a few players get to wear #42, it’s then about those players — but it should be about Robinson himself. Here’s a shout-out to the teams that are all wearing #42 today:

Astros: All players
Brewers: All players
Cardinals: All players
Dodgers: All players
Phillies: All players
Pirates: All players

(Ahem. All National league, thankyouverymuch.)

I’m glad I don’t have tickets to any such games, because seeing 18 or 22 guys (if the coaches wear it too) all wearing #42 would make me ridiculously choked up. Things DO change here. Just ask Don Imus. Call me an idealist and/or a moderate, but it’s nice to pause every now and then from the struggle and take a measure of how far we HAVE come. Yeah, I know the changes are incremental (“with all deliberate speed”), often oddly motivated (women and the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and often have harmful unintended consequences (affirmative action and black students’ self-confidence). But as a member of a group that benefitted from the last century’s civil rights advances, it’s my opinion that one should take what one can get and turn it to one’s advantage, even if the motives of the givers are suspect. Half a loaf, and all that.

One suggestion I heard last season sometime about what to do with #42 is to begin a Jackie Robinson award for…I dunno how to phrase it, some sort of public antidiscrimination service/work undertaken by a baseball player or coach. It needn’t be awarded every year, just when the league/voters felt someone deserved it. Said person would get the honor of wearing 42 for the year. As nice as a day of remembrance like today is, that seems a deeper one: a daily reminder of the debt we owe to those who came before. Of course I’m also the person who thinks the DC baseball team should have been named after a Negro League team. But I guess more influential folks feel that systematic racism wasn’t SOOOOO bad of a sin that we need to be reminded of it every freaking DAY.

(OTOH, perhaps such measures would fade into the background. Hmm.)

Here’s an even more community-minded idea for honoring Robinson, from Forbes magazine. Maybe the league could honor the player who gave the most money to this fund with the right to wear #42. Even more interestingly, they could honor the player who gives the highest percentage of his salary, which would give a better chance for a younger player still under salary caps to give back and get recognition.

birthday?

1 August, 2006

A year ago this week, I was packing my Chicago life. A year ago next week, I was starting my DC life. Not sure how to celebrate this yet. Since finishing my degree I’ve never been so busy, and there’s no end in sight. Oddly, realizing this — that I have no experience having this much responsibility — has made it easier to handle.

And that’s why no posts, these last two weeks have not given me the chance. And when I do I have little to say that seems of interest. Maybe it’s time to go more photoblog — I’ve been feeling good photo-wise lately, although it may all be because two weeks ago I took what instantly became my most popular picture ever. Someone actually managed to cheer me up from an 11-hour day of science and heat exhaustion simply by mentioning it.

southbound

Oh and in other obsession news, the Cubs totally kicked Cardinal ass this weekend. Another sweep, like the one I saw in April but better because it was a 4-game series and weirder because in the real world of baseball it’s the Cubs who suck and the Cardinals who are good. Hey, I will take the weekend of endorphins any ol’ way, thanks, and you’ll do well to not remind me that Maddux got traded to the Dodger.

How about some kid stuff? That’s for sure an obsession after a weekend with them. Here’s some advice from my nephew D. We went bowling yesterday (god, was it only yesterday? I was up at 5 today to fly back and am putting a full day in at the moment). D. and I were chatting in the car on the way over in that “I’m-almost-10-times-your-age” way that one chats with kids. I forget the topic. Whatever it was about it had nothing to do with bowling. “We’re here!” called his mom as we pulled into the parking lot. “Yay! We’re here!!” said D. Then, he pointed at me and said very sternly, “And DON’T EAT THE BOWLING BALLS!”

The extended form of the rule is: I cannot eat bowling balls, or I’ll turn into a, a, a, a bubble, er, a bubble gum man. No not a bubble gum WOMAN, bubble gum MAN, and and and I’ll *pop*! and be dead, so don’t do it. I might also turn into a bowling ball. As those of you who know 3 year olds know, in this are the seeds of a great way to drive them crazy all day, as you pretend to eat bowling balls in front of them, or to be a bubble and blow up, or ask if you can eat cars, or guitars, or the man from Mars. That answer was no, you can only eat food, but later that day we had Mexican for dinner, and I was told if I ate a tortilla, I will turn into a tortilla, and they will eat me and then I’ll be dead. Even though it’s food! What’s an aunt to do?!? “It’s OK, you can eat it,” says his older sister J. reassuringly. “You can just come back to life.”

A clinician labmate described psychosis to me recently, in minute detail. Talking to children can really be bizarrely similar.

(Not the funniest kid-ism ever, but it cracked me up. D. is very much the vehicle-obsessed type of little boy. Although he’s moving onto dinosaurs now, his first love, the ambiance, will always have his heart:

an ambiance!!!Anyway, last night as I was packing D. excitedly asked “Are you going on a AIRPORT??“)

We taught J. how to leave voicemail messages. I think it opened up a whole new world of phone fun to her. Right now at home I have waiting for me a message of her singing “twinkle twinkle” to my cats. I had to leave so early this AM I decided not to wake her up to say goodbye — mistake! She was … sad to have missed me. I understood the whole scene — the bursting into tears at the empty Aerobed, the incomprehensible sobs from which one can manage to pick out maybe “aunt” “bye” “left” between the gulps for breath, right down to Daddy making it all better (Mommy was taking me to the airport) — when I deplaned in Detroit and received this text message.

From: (J.’s Dad’s email addy)

Subject: Miss you already

Body: Hi (Techne), sorry I missed you this morning, I hope you have a safe trip. I really miss you already. There are a lot of itches on me, maybe they are from the sky. Maybe the bugs from the sky have itches like me. Maybe the trees have the itches too. I had a really fun time with you. Love J.

(I called in, the freak-out report was confirmed by Mommy who said she came home to J. sitting in her dad’s lap at the computer, gulping out “wan” “say” “bye” “one” “more” “time” “aunt” “techne”.)

I’m not so much with the biological clock (see above re responsibility; can barely feed MYSELF, yo) but being an aunt really suits me. It’s sad that all the kids I know are back in the Midwest. I have absolutely no kid outlet here (‘course I have a ton of things here I didn’t there, which we won’t get into.) At home, I am that friend who becomes honorary aunt to a slew of friend’s kids, and who at times prefers the kids’ company. Here, I take pictures of strangers’ kids on the bus to get a smile out of them. Sigh.

Exhibit 295 or so in “super-wide is the kid portrait lens” is below. D. is also showing us his tongue color, but has not yet realized that white popsicles don’t do fun things to your tongue.

popsicles

In baseball, a player “hits the cycle” if he gets a single, double, triple, and a home run all in one game (in any order). All it formally means for the game is that someone got 4 hits, 6 extra bases and at least one RBI, but it’s rare and noteworthy if it happens, as a sort of interesting sideline. Even if it almost happens, as it almost did for Cubs 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez on Saturday. (He missed the single, which is odd because it’s the easiest to get…usually the triple is the hardest one.)

I think in metaphors, so that’s the one that leaped to mind when I found out tonight that my Friday Metro musings ALSO got linked by Michael Grass over at the Express local blog log. And I thought, if there were a “cycle” for the DC blog-munity, what would it be? Might I propose:

DCist

Wonkette

Express

DCBlogs

Opinions? Maybe the Express is like hitting a home run (online only) vs. hitting a grand slam (The Blog Log graphic in the dead-tree version). Likewise, I nominate DCist as the equivalent of a triple since it doesn’t have an explicit “other blogs” roundup (although photographers have more chances to get on DCist than other bloggers. Maybe this is the equivalent of batting left-handed). (See what I mean about metaphor girl?)

I’m hanging with the parents in CT this weekend, where I haven’t visited since Thanksgiving. There are a lot of pictures to take, I tell you whut, and I haven’t even started on their house yet. For now, though, straight from the carnival to you via Rita with only the briefest of stops in a photo editor for format conversion, I humbly offer for your enjoyment: duckies.

Danbury Fair mall