Sunday, April 17, 2005

Fever Pitch...and hope

I love when you see a movie and it far exceeds your expectations. That's what Fever Pitch did for me.

I was excited when I first heard about the movie back in October as the Red Sox were completing their fairytale postseason. Then I saw the first trailer a while back and lost some of the excitement. It just didn't look very entertaining. Nevertheless, the anticipation came back and I saw it tonight.

Here's what I felt while watching it...

1/I re-lived the jealousy I felt towards Red Sox fans last October as they won their first World Series in 86 years. Like many Cubs fans, I had always looked at Red Sox Nation like cousins. But once they won it all, it made my longing for a Cubs World Championship even deeper. I'm so jealous of BoSox fans. The Cubs haven't won since 1908....that's 97 years.

2/Seriously, I related to Jimmy Fallon's character. I've canceled plans or chosen to not spend time with people when the Cubs have been in pennant races. When it gets into September and they're fighting for a playoff spot, my life takes on a much different look. Night games consume my social life. Day games attract the attention I should be putting towards work. Don't get me wrong. I'm NOT fairweather. I've spent many years of my life rooting for Cub teams that would lose games like it was going out of style. But in the thick of a playoff race, life basically revolves around the Cubs......moreso than usual. Is it wrong to choose a baseball team over spending time with a person? I think not. wonder I don't have a girlfriend....

3/ I couldn't help but think of Laurie and how much she would have appreciated this movie. I think I mentioned in a previous post how much she loved the community of Cubs fans. The Farrelly brothers do a great job of putting you right inside Fenway Park with Red Sox Nation. I know how much Laurie loved Wrigley Field and what it meant to be at the ballpark with 39,000 other people who were there for the same reason she was. I think Laurie would have loved Fever Pitch because she totally would have related to it.

I posted this article by ESPN's Bill Simmons on my Cubs blog a couple weeks ago but I thought this would be a good time to put in on here. It brings hope into my life every time!

See you in Mexico, Cubs fans
By Bill Simmons

Remember the end of Shawshank, when Andy Dufresne is sanding his boat in Mexico without a care in the world? That's how every Red Sox fan spent this past winter. We're out. Life is good. Now we're just waiting for our Red to show up: Cubs fans.

The Cubs-Sox bond can't match Andy and Red's -- a 20-year friendship highlighted by lots of chess, the expansion of a library and Andy buying a rock hammer from Red for $10 (almost as good a deal as Miami getting Shaq). But a kinship exists well beyond the twinned years of 1908 and 1918. Lumped together as lovable losers, both fan bases fell back on the same "woe is us" mentality, constantly rehashing past failures and worrying that their lives would pass without a championship. As we both headed for a Series showdown in 2003, unspeakable tragedy hit both of us: the Bartman Game and the Grady Little Game.

We were a collective mess.

So, yeah, we're connected. That's why Cubs fans can learn from us. Lesson No.1: all the pain and heartbreak are worth it. I swear. When the Sox finally became champs, it felt like we'd lost 25 pounds, gotten rid of nagging migraines and bought a new back on eBay. The prevailing theme in the press was, "What happens to these sad sacks if they actually win?" Here's what happens. You celebrate for the entire winter. You buy all the DVDs and books, all the hats and T-shirts ... basically, you act like a tourist who just won big playing bingo on a cruise ship. You sigh in relief because your children can lead normal lives as baseball fans. It's the baseball version of a colonic: all the poison is released.

Of course, you have to get there first. I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about the 2004 season, wondering if there was any rhyme or reason to what happened. Remember, if the Yankees throw out Dave Roberts at second, Boston gets swept, Francona probably gets fired and I go on a three-state killing spree. But Roberts made it by a hair, sparking an eight-game winning streak where every single break went Boston's way, like a craps table catching fire. Homers hitting foul poles, broken-bat bloopers landing for singles, A-Rod karate chopping Bronson Arroyo. Now I understand what happened: after 86 agonizing years, we ran out of bad luck.

I also know that someday that has to happen for Chicago, too.
My best advice to Cubs fans? Start thinking of yourselves differently. Stay away from the negative TV shows and apocalyptic newspaper columns. You can follow the team just fine without being infected by that stuff. The media-driven Curse of the Bambino had gotten so out of control by last fall that Fox's pre-game playoff shows could have been called Babe Ruth: A Photo Essay. But true Sox fans never discussed The Curse. If anything, we were hopelessly romantic, always believing this would be The Year. When our hearts were broken, we'd fall into a Dylan McKay-like tailspin but regroup with a curious optimism that renewed itself each winter.

By last October, we carried a certain edge, personified by Schilling's "Why not us?" campaign and the self-proclaimed "idiots" who scoffed at the idea of a jinx. Seriously, why not us? If the black sheep Patriots could turn into a dynasty, anything was possible. We really believed that. Cubs fans need to believe too. Don't let the media define you. So let the Bartman grudge go, even if the rest of the world won't. Not only were 20 other fans going for that foul ball, the game was lost because Dusty didn't trust his bullpen. Don't chalk up team failures to a curse; the Sox proved that logic wrong. And when it comes, don't be afraid to give yourself to a playoff run.

When last year's Yankees series started, Boston players were growing Fu Manchus and passing around a midget, Schilling was starting message-board threads, I was refusing to wash T-shirts covered in bird poop, some fans didn't shower while others didn't take off their caps ... everyone did his part. When your turn comes, you need to do the same, three million people rubbing the same rabbit's foot. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. You aren't the losers people want you to be. Remember, big-market teams have a huge advantage over small-market ones. (As much as I love to think the Sox were underdogs, their total payroll exceeded the average Bruckheimer budget.) If you want, pray the team trades Nomar, for karmic reasons only. Like Andy told Red: "Hope is a good thing ... and no good thing ever dies."

Cubs fans, I hope this column finds you and finds you well. See you in Mexico someday.

I urge all the Cubs fans out there to go see Fever Pitch. And let's not be jealous of Red Sox Nation, but instead let's hope that someday soon we will be celebrating our World Champion Chicago Cubs. Now I'm going to curl up with my new Cubs blanket and dream about that day...


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