On the John
A small, good thing (Much obliged, Raymond Carver)
Originally completed December 31, 2009, 4:50 PM
Hoyne and LeMoyne
It was the year I lost my fandom.
Not lost, exactly. Set aside. To a more appropriate place, to a smaller room of the house of Jack, tucked away, not the first sight upon entrance. A room of peace and calm, of relaxation, of luxury in the truest sense: a luxury, something one is lucky to have, but can do without.
Still excited, of course, but now I love The Moment, not the lifestyle. Still in love with the game of basketball and my Bulls who play it. Still appreciative of the structure and tradition the Bears bring to Sunday. Still delighting in a Pat and Ron broadcast, the chaotic hysteria of Doug and O.B. post-Bears L, hearing Neil Funk shout Kaboom. 2009 gave us a kid named Pooh who strapped the black and red on his young shoulders and led us to greatness against The Champs. It gave us a heroic Last Stand from a Bears de-fense I’ve watched arrive, grow, gel, dominate, and fade, still out there every week, still giving it every sweat, Peanut, Briggs, Wale, AB, HH, and even Tommie Harris leading the charge while Urlacher pines in a cast and Mike Brown closes in Kansas City.
It was the year of a mighty performance from Mark Buehrle, a perfect cap to his decade as the city’s greatest player.
While across town, the Cubs were falling. Before my eyes? Not exactly. Because for the first time in my conscious life, an entire season of Chicago Cubs baseball came and went without my fan participation. Oh, I picked up bits here and there. Heard Milton didn’t work out just right. And boy, how we miss Woody and Ol’ Mark DeRosa. Kept a weekly eye on the standings, just to see, but like outgrowing a woman’s dangerous charms after she has already broken my heart, I wished the Cubs the best and left them to their deeds.
That wasn’t always the plan. Their October ’08 capsizing left me crushed, not killed. But who cares about October 4th when exactly one month later, Obama begins? Finished my student teaching, celebrated the New Year, and then fortune smiled and I found my way to D.C. for the inauguration, a life-affirming trip, participation in an epic American landmark.
It was around this time that I changed my internet homepage from ESPN to BBC. Priorities shifting, as they do. Shocked myself in June when a friend asked what I would change in Chicago if I could, and I suggested we merge our baseball teams in the name of city unity. “Donate the other to Nebraska!” I suggested. Never would have dreamt such words would come from me, certainly not six years ago, back when Luis Castillo’s fateful foul ball was still floating towards the Wrigley stands.
Or two years later, when the crosstown club proved that, indeed, damn near nobody cares about the Sox in this town.
I made that heretical statement concerning “The Chicago Blue Sox” shortly before June. My custom the past five years has been to watch Opening Day, and then to ignore baseball until June 1st, thus avoiding two months of extraneous emotional madness, my fellow Chi-towners lamenting on the radio stations over a four-game losing streak in late April, or exalting from the rooftops following a five-game winning streak in early May. April showers might bring May flowers in the rest of the world, but the two share no correlation in Chicago, where the former is a certain indication of doom, and the latter a surefire sign of victory.
When the clock struck June in 2009, I was feeling OK without baseball. Occupying my day-to-day attention was the upcoming June 12th presidential election in Iran. And the outcome pointed outrage. And the Iranians took the streets. And the government took force and the blood flowed and the voices cried and the weak grew strong and the strong shriveled in fear behind clubs and gas and guns, and the world watched as a group of citizens took the true force and said “Enough!”
Six months later. Still bleeding. Still screaming. Still smiling brave smiles and cheering and broadcasting power and resiliency. Still out in those streets for the world to see. Give up? Go home? I was sure they wouldn’t in August. I’m certain they won’t today. Watch any video on youtube sent to us from Tehran. See the strength yourself.
I sure did. And ahead of anything else, ahead of Barack and Rose and writing and teaching and putting on hip-hop concerts, 2009 will rest eternally in my mind as the year a group of strangers showed me what it really means to live.
They are still out there, and I am here, and that is how it goes. You find your own battles, leave your own mark, re-define what life is, what it means to you. And you take stock of friends, of love, of happy moments, of time marching forward, of new days, new years, new outlooks, new adventures, and the true, simple joy of watching a basketball game that just doesn’t matter.
Copyright 2009, jm silverstein
Writing referenced above…
May 8, 2005: Nobody loves the Sox
October 7, 2008: The pointlessness of hope
November 25, 2008: A trip to Grant Park
January 18, 2009: Barack Obama is dead.
March 15, 2009: Appreciating Clark Kent
May 1, 2009: Writing it right–the tale of Game 6
June 15, 2008: Words from Iran
November 23, 2009: Tales from the depths of a sports sewer
And of course, A Small Good Thing, by Raymond Carver