Monday, April 5, 2010

Hopening Day

I've been a Cubs fan since 1982. I've been out to spring training in Arizona and even when I was living in London I'd make one trip to Chicago every year for a home stand.

Their first game of the season has always been a complete emotional stew of optimism and realism; but always seasoned with the joy that baseball itself gives me and the reassurance that, win or lose - and yes, insert 'it's usually lose' joke here - I'd never feel quite myself rooting for another team the way I do for the Cubbies.

My wife's family are Red Sox nation through and through, and up until 2004 we had something in common.

Living in New York, I go see the Mets - and their single A Brooklyn Cyclones - a lot and want them to do well - except in the obvious games - because there seems to be a sort of self-deprecating, fatalist connection between Mets and Cubs fans the way there just isn't with Yankee fans.

Here's an example: I was at Shea for a July 4th doubleheader about ten years ago, and in between innings Mr Met and his cohorts were going round with the microphone asking little kids questions about American history, and showing their answers up on the big screen.

They asked one little kid "why are there 50 stars on the stars and stripes?" and before he could answer, the drunk guy behind him leans in and says "It's the number of games the Mets are gonna win this year.."

During the seventh-inning stretch at Cub games, I'm afraid I've never gotten out of the habit - much to my son's annoyance - of singing "..If they don't win it's the same."

Anyway, whoever you cheer for, happy opening day. As the late great Jeff MacNelly put it, it's the one day when everyone's in first place.

Shoe (wearing Cubs cap): A good Cubs fan accepts defeat and disappointment in the belief that tomorrow will be a better day. Do you know what that’s called, Skyler?

Skyler: Self-delusion?

Shoe: Optimism is the word I was looking for.

Jeff and I, and millions of other diehards everywhere, would love a good season this year, please.

Let's Go Cubs!

*Update... So...that went well, didn't it?

The most opening day runs given up since 1900? Wha..?

Yes, the blown call on McLouth's "catch" was a joke. But even so, we played so poorly all round it probably wouldn't have made much difference to the outcome - although the players were clearly deflated by it immediately afterwards.

Bright spot? James Russell's pitching debut in relief, handing Jason Heyward his first big league strikeout. And the fact that, opening day or not, it's only one game. Only 1/162nd of the season. And I guess you can't have a Tuffy Rhodes moment every year.

(And incidentally, despite Tuffy's three HRs off Doc Gooden on opening day, 1994 - I remember I was watching on TV in a bar at Dulles Airport - the Cubs went on to lose the game.)

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