On Joy In Wrigleyville

Is there a better sports writer than Frank Deford? Deford has a weekly segment on NPR’s Morning Edition, where he waxes poetic on current events in sport. It’s just just the way DeFord puts the words together but the inflection of his voice that makes his weekly segment compelling listening.

This week Deford turned his attention to the Chicago Cubs. I’ve been a Cubs fan for a very long time, and I learned disappointment at an early age from those accursed northsiders. But wait! says Deford…

Of course, of course. Now it’s so obvious. The Cubbies would be destined to finally win only when everything else in sports went sour. The Cubbies were just waiting 99 years for their chance to bring the rapture to a sad and disillusioned sports world.

Could this be the Cubs’ year, the year when everything else is going wrong?

I wish I could share Deford’s optimism. Don’t misunderstand—that the Cubs have clawed their way out of the morass of the National League Central and are now a game back on the surprisingly strong Milwaukee Brewers should give every Cubs fan hope.

But.

It’s the Cubs. A team who invents new and unusual methods of losing.

Two months of the regular season yet. There’s still hope, and shouldn’t a Cubs fan be eternally hopeful? That there will be Joy in Wrigleyville someday?

It was W.P. Kinsella in his short story, “The Last Pennant Before Armageddon,” who posited that a Cubs pennant would usher in the End of Days. I’m sure that the Norse never pictured the Cubs as the harbingers of Ragnorak nor St. John of Patmos envisioned the Cubs as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but in some ways the identification is fitting—the natural order of things would be overturned.

Because of the Cubs.

Sunday I watched the Cubs/Reds game in Cincinnati, and it struck me how much the Cubs were cheered and how little the Reds were applauded. And it was their park. The Cubs/White Sox series earlier in the summer, the one played at the Cell? You could tell that Chicago is a Cubs town. No wonder the White Sox have threatened to bolt Chicago at various times the past three decades.

Cubs Nation?

What was I talking about?

Oh, yes! Frank Deford!

It’s impossible to hear Frank Deford wax poetic about joy in Wrigleyville and not feel the hope and the optimism. That maybe this is the year. That the Cubs will turn the corner, that strange jinxes won’t hold, that ancient curses won’t resurface.

That’s the thing about hope—it’s irrational, it’s inexplicable, and damn it all, it’s the life preserver in the seas of fate.

And with a voice like Frank Deford’s saying that, yes, there is some good in this world and the Cubs are worth fighting for, it’s impossible not to feel that hope. 🙂

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