Thursday, October 27, 2016

An open letter to my Cub Fan friends, neighbors and colleagues

Dear Cub Fan Friends, Neighbors, and Colleagues:

I wasn't camped out along LaSalle Street when the parade celebrating the White Sox 2005 World Series sweep rolled by. But I happened to be out---running errands, I guess---and I wandered over to see the throngs waiting for the double-decker buses.

And, as I got close, the tears welled up, unbidden but unashamed. It just hit me, all at once, that I really had witnessed this, that the Sox really did win the Series. My father lived his whole life (and he was granted more than the biblical three score and 10) without ever seeing a White Sox World Series Championship.

I remembered my first trip to the old Comiskey Park, with my grandmother. I don't know if this was before or after she went to Puerto Rico and brought me back an autographed picture of Juan Pizarro. The upper deck in the old park was about the height of the Club Level at the current U.S. Cellular Field (Guaranteed Rate Field as of Nov. 1) but it was still a height for the little boy I was then, and I remember looking from that vantage point out at the greenest grass I had ever seen.

When Julio Cruz scored the winning run (on a Harold Baines sac fly) to clinch the American League West Championship for the White Sox in 1983, I was already living on the Northwest Side. The game wasn't available on free TV (thank you, Eddie Einhorn -- not) but (if I recall correctly) Channel 32 was allowed to show the 9th inning. I was waiting for the air raid sirens to go off---like they did in 1959---but they didn't. I wanted to run outside and bang pots and pans, but my wife told me I'd probably get arrested.

She was probably right: When cable finally came to the Northwest Side in 1984 (it wouldn't come to the South Side for years thereafter which is why so many South Siders are confused in their loyalties to this day) the only question I had for the salesman was whether I could get the Sox games. "Gee," he said, "you're the first guy to ask." On the Northwest Side, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.

We had weekend season tickets in those days -- we were in a little group -- and our seats were in the last row of the Golden Boxes on the third base line. We got moved to 'equivalent' seats in the new park -- in the right field corner, where you had to twist to your left just to see the pitch (if you looked straight ahead from those seats all you could see was the fights in the center field stands -- although, sure, sometimes those were more entertaining than the product on the field). But we stayed with those seats, too, for a number of years until paying high school and college tuition became the paramount priority. One of my sons has weekend tickets now.

The point is, I was a Sox fan from birth. I'm a Sox fan now. I am not obligated to switch sides just because your team is now in the World Series.

I get that many of you are thinking of mothers, fathers, grandparents, especially those who are gone now, who introduced you to your team. I shared that experience---like I said at the outset---but I was introduced to the Sox, not the Cubs. Even should the Cubs win it all (and given the decimated state of Cleveland's starting pitching, that sure seems possible), there will be no cathartic release for me, no conversion experience. I won't be crying with joy and sadness and relief and gratitude at your parade; I'll probably be grumbling that I can't get across LaSalle Street with all of you in my way.

It's OK. You didn't think of your mothers, fathers, and grandparents in 2005 either. And I didn't expect you to. Why do you expect me to change now?

I'm watching the games. I'm just not living or dying with every pitch like you are. I'm happy for you, OK? Just stop demanding that I open my veins and bleed Cubby blue. And stop flapping that 'W' flag in my face before I lose it entirely. Are we clear on this?

Very truly yours, etc.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize makes me think of Simon & Garfunkel

The announcement, just a few days ago, that Bob Dylan had won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature made me think immediately of Simon & Garfunkel.

No, Your Honor, I really can tie this up: See, in or about 1966, a half-century ago, Messrs. Simon and Garfunkel released an album entitled "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme." On the record was a song titled "A Simple Desultory Philippic." The song is a sarcastic commentary on then-popular events and personalities -- and in this verse Mr. Simon makes a comment about the cultural arrogance of the youth of his day:
I knew a man, his brain was so small,
He couldn't think of nothing at all.
He's not the same as you and me.
He doesn't dig poetry. He's so unhip that
When you say Dylan, he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas,
Whoever he was.
The man ain't got no culture,
But it's alright, ma,
Everybody must get stoned.
Well, the youth of 1966 are the gray eminences of 2016. And, perhaps, everybody must get stoned, even the members of the august Swedish Academy.