From October 4, 2008: The Audacity of Hope

On the John

The Audacity of Hope

Originally published on October 4, 2008, 8:01 PM

2 for 4 with a home run and two driven in? That's just Manny being Manny.

About a month ago, I realized that within two weeks of each other, the Cubs could win the World Series and America could elect a black president. That even one would happen seemed for so long a blink in the dark. But something flipped late this summer, something beyond statistics, beyond the NL’s best record or the Dems’ most delegates. That “oh what the hell?” feeling returned to me, the one that sweeps out the dusty corners of your cynicism and your nervous, desperate, don’t-hurt-me-again guard. I just felt like it could happen, would happen, both, each one stacking upon the other, two impossibilities of varying weight yet equal myth, each remarkable in its own way.

Then the Los Angeles Dodgers came to town and siphoned the wind out of the Cubbies’ sail.

Forget the walks and the infielding errors: two-love Los Angeles has been all about the bats. From Loney to Martin to the fly-swatting Manny, the Dodgers have reined in the hits, 20 in all over the first two games. With the Cubs trailing 4-2 in Game 1 and Edmonds at bat with Aramis aboard, I was certain the left-handed veteran would deposit the tying shot snug in the basket. He grounded to second instead. And after DeRosa was discarded by Lowe’s pesky pitching, it was that other Ramirez who fished out an 0-2 curve at his ankles and positioned it far above the Wrigley lights. Game 2 was much of the same, and though our Cubs traded shabby pitching for shabby fielding, it was still Los Angeles collecting hits, again and again until it made no difference. The series would return to the coast as scheduled, though with the underdogian Dodgers packing the W’s, the head-hanging Cubs packing it in.

I am happy to say that Obama is still on track, Thursday night’s V.P. debate keeping the Hope’n’Change Express powering on.  I watched Game 2 at my brother’s because my roommate was having friends for the political game; when she asked me why I was leaving, I told her that “the Cubs need me more than Joe Biden does.” This seemed particularly true following the embarrassing performance of our home fans Wednesday night. They seemed excited out of the gate, but Loney’s granny and the homer from Manny set off a hush from which they never recovered. They should have. Instead they looked bored and annoyed. As my brother put so well: “They look like they came to watch a movie instead of a ballgame.”

Too true. Fazed by the cold and those hot Dodger bats, the home fans at Wrigley went into an inexcusable shell, and as we watched Game 2, we noticed that they’d broken out of that shell with a spray of boos for their beloved Cubbies, another reprehensible act. Boo poor effort till the cows come home, but don’t boo a loss. Booing the home team makes as much sense as parents booing their children during a little league game. Booing the opposition just for being the opposition is pretty classless as well.

It’s that bitter pettiness that has dimmed my sports fandom these past few years, the pettiness that made me shiver at an otherwise appealing Cubs-Sox series. Twould be a thrill to have the eyes of the baseball world stuck solely upon our fair city, but the boasting would surely leave it sullied. We can’t amiably share a diamond during the regular season; no chance we’d do so with a ring on the line. A high-spirited, good-natured my team vs. yours…I’m all for that. But when fandom becomes all about bragging rights and dancing on the other guy’s sadness, that’s where I get bored.

Sadly, it looks as if neither team will be there, as both seem sunk in 0-2 holes. I’ve got faith in our Cubbies, though. Incredibly, as I sit and wait for Soriano to swing and miss at Ball One just hours from now, I feel better about this team’s chance to rebound than I did a year ago against Arizona. Just got that feeling, I suppose. Of course, if we do lose, be it today, tomorrow, Tuesday, anytime before next season, that’s when the real fear will set in. 101 years without a title terrifies me, because what are our seasons aimed at then? We’ve had that once-a-century thing resting safely in our back pockets for years now. The Bartman Game, the ’04 collapse, the ’06 debacle, the ’07 sweep, all were tempered by The Coming of 2008. This whole season has been geared towards that anomaly of a celebration, a Cubs title becoming baseball’s Haley’s Comet, and wouldn’t we be the lucky ones just to be around for it. We’ll get one in ’08. We always do.

Now we sit at the precipice. We lose this thing, and we’re set adrift, floating away towards God-knows-where. 100 years had a rhythm that made losing palatable. Lose it this year, and there is no solace in 101, 102, 128, 145. We’ll be lost in the unknown, the weight of 100 plus years without a championship falling on our shoulders in one fat lump.

But I have faith. Yes sir I do. Baseball will do that to a feller. It is by its nature a game of hope, a game that—defined by outs rather than minutes—allows those on the field and in the stands to reasonably expect victory even when nothing victorious has been seen. It’s fitting, then, that the Cubs are a baseball club rather than something else. For them and for us, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. Hopefully.

Copyright 2008, jm silverstein

As it turned out, hope died. To read the story of dead hope, click here.


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