Kids change you in so many ways.
In my adult life “my” teams have never won a championship. I have always rooted for three teams: the Oakland Raiders, Iowa Hawkeyes (football and basketball) and the Chicago Cubs. The latter has and always will be my favorite. I painted the basement of my first house in Cubs colors. I painted their logo in one of the rooms. I have spent way too much money on Cubs stuff – jerseys, baseball cards, stuff.
The Raiders won in 1977, ’81 and ’84 – I was alive for two of those championships. The win in ’77 was 21 days before I was born and I don’t recall the wins in ’81 and ’84 as I was 3 and 6, respectively. The Cubs should have went to the World Series if it weren’t for Alex Gonzalez kicking the ball around the infield (no, it had nothing to do with Bartman). The Hawkeyes have never made it to the Final Four and were just in the Rose Bowl this year…and they were curb stomped by Stanford. I was a Colorado Avalanche fan when they won in 2001, but I was far from a life long fan like I am of the Raiders, Hawkeyes and Cubs.
I have always imagined I would empty my bank account on more memorabilia when/if the Raiders or the Cubs (especially the Cubs) won a championship. That ain’t happening.
I used to live and die with sports. I was way too invested in my teams. I somehow felt that if my teams lost is was a reflection of me. If they lost a big game, that was on me for some reason. And to that end I always figured that when/if the Raiders or the Cubs won a championship I would feel euphoric. I would want to scream and yell and make sure everyone knew that MY TEAM just won the championship.
I felt far from those feelings last night as I laid in bed watching the final out of the 2016 World Series.
My first born was at his first Cubs game before he was 3 months old.
My third child was named after the 1987 MVP – Andre “the Hawk” Dawson.
I guess I am trying to portray how serious my fandom is for the Cubbies on anyone who reads this. I have a “W” flag that I used to hang out after EVERY Cubs win. I had to let my neighbors know when the Cubs won, right?
I thought when the Cubs won the World Series I would jump for joy, drink a beer or three in celebration, be with other Cubs fans yelling and screaming – PARTYING.
That didn’t happen.
I have several baseball memories that I won’t forget:
- Shawon Dunston throwing liners across the infield that you could hang clothes from.
- Mark Grace being the only good thing the Cubs had going for them.
- Sosa and McGwire breaking the home run record in 1998. We were at a restaurant on Arapahoe road for my mom’s birthday. My dad and I watched McGwire break the record on a TV in the bar area.
- Kerry Wood struck out 20 Astros. I just happened to be at home in 1998 watching the game on WGN. I remember the weather and how hopeless the Astros looked.
- Game 7 2003 NLCS – so depressing. Kerry Wood homers and the Cubs still lose. I was at a bar watching the game. Over near Park Meadows mall. Will never forget that.
- Now I can add laying in bed, watching the 10th inning of game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Dawson had woke up crying during the rain delay and Lisa was out with friends. So I brought him into our room and laid down in bed with him on my chest. He fell back asleep. I cherish this moment more so than the Cubs winning. My last child, almost 10 months old, sleeping on my chest. These days will never happen again. Hopefully the Cubs win another one in my lifetime (I know, 108 years and all). So Dawson lay on my chest, almost snoring, as I watched Ben Zobrist drive in the winning run. I didn’t cheer. I didn’t jump up and down. I put my fist in the air and made no noise. Then went back to patting Dawson on the butt and making sure he stayed asleep.
I wouldn’t change that for anything. Not for being at a bar with other Cubs fans. Not even for being at the game in Cleveland, or at a bar in Wrigleyville. Nothing. That was perfect.
And that is the first example of how kids change your life. Rather than being at a bar with strangers and screaming, yelling and drinking, I was at home in a quiet room with the people who matter most to me.
But that isn’t the only way kids change you.
I wasn’t even all that euphoric when they won. It wasn’t a giant relief. It wasn’t like I was overcome with emotions. Not even overcome with happiness. It was great, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t even the best baseball moment that I witnessed in the past seven days.
My son CJ was playing in his last baseball game of the year the weekend prior. My first born. My son. My super smart, super caring, sports loving kid. I can’t imagine caring about anyone or anything more (other than Maggie and Dawson, of course). You don’t know true love until you have a child. Not trying to slight Lisa, my beautiful, caring, fantastic mother to my kids and loving wife, but there is something about your kids. (Don’t even get me started down the path of those dog owners out there who think their dogs are like their kids.)
Being a typical seven year old, CJ has become a bit afraid of the baseball when batting. During practice with an adult pitching he hits the ball very good – hard hit balls all over the field. When another seven year old is throwing the baseball during a game things get a little more unpredictable and wild. He tends to step out and swing late because he is worried about getting hit.
On the way to his last game I told him to just have fun during his last game. Nothing else. Just have fun. Stay in the box and swing and get a good hit and have fun. After about six months of baseball you could tell the boys on his team were losing interest and I wanted him to end on a positive note with a positive feeling for baseball.
Enter his first at bat and with two strikes he hits a ball over the third baseman’s head and into the grass in the outfield for a solid double. By far his best hit of the season during a game. His team mates were cheering for him and the smile on his face…that is by far the best baseball moment for me this week. Hell, best baseball moment this summer…year, even. Better than any of the Cubs three straight wins to win the World Series. That hit, that smile, easily the best baseball moment for me this year. Easily.
So, as I hung out the “W” flag this morning – a solid five hours after the game was over – I felt good, but not what I expected. I wasn’t running up and down the street with it at 11pm last night after the final out. I didn’t wear it to bed as a blanket. And I haven’t even looked at what sort of memorabilia I could purchase (I did almost buy a USA Today this morning). Instead I hope I get to celebrate another World Series win with my children in coming years.
I hope I get to see CJ play baseball for many more years. I hope I get to coach Maggie next summer in tee ball and help her develop a love for the game. I can’t wait to do the same with Dawson.
Cubs break the “curse” (aka being owned by a faceless owner for far too many years). They are built for years to come. Hopefully many more titles to follow. At the very least many more World Series appearances. And, God willing, many more games spent watching the Cubs win with my children.