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PROOGUE 10/5/17

Here we go again.

In former traditional Cubs lore, this would be an utterance of impending doom. A sighting of a black cat or a hex spewing goat.

But a flash rainstorm on the banks of Lake Erie on a November’s eve washed away all the curses, if indeed they did exist, from Cubs seasons past.

Now, in 2017, “here we go again” means October playoff baseball for the third consecutive year on the Northside of Chicago. The times they are a changin’ for the Addison Street Miracle.

Oh, it was a different ride to playoff-ville this year. Instead of the 2016 express train barreling into the station looking to win games and ask questions later, this year’s team was the local. The 2017 Cubs had a slow start and made several stops along the way before heating up down the stretch.

As seen in the cover photo, some old faces from the 2016 Rally Towel were gone (ten by my count), but the core remained and the result was the same. A National League Central Division title.

Round one opponent are the Washington Nationals. Fondly known to their fans as the “Nats.” I find them akin to the gnats, an annoying little bug. A bothersome roadblock on the path.

GAME ONE 10/6/17

No home field advantage here this year. The series begins in Washington DC.

A classic pitcher’s duel looms. Power versus finesse. Hendrix versus Strasburg.

My notes from the game.

7:55 Game half over. 0-0. Top of 6. Strasburg with a no hitter.
8:00 Feeling a Cubs breakout here. And, it happened.
Two runs. No hitter gone. Shutout gone. Cubs up.
8:40 Defensive changes in the outfield. Hendrix on the hill still. Bottom of 7.
9:00 An insurance run on a double by Rizzo in the 8th inning. The Bryzzo combo coming up big in the late innings with all three RBI.
9:30 Bottom of the 9th Up 3. Old habits die hard. Cautiously optimistic. Sort of loving a silent DC crowd. 1-2-3. Cubs Win 3-0. Home field advantage eliminated.

GAME TWO 10/7/17

A retrospective.

Poof.

If Frank Sinatra was singing a song about this game the lyrics would be, “That’s baseball. You can’t deny it. Riding high in the 7th, shot down in the 8th.”

Cruising comfortably with a two run lead and just five outs to get, Carl’s Jr. delivers a new menu item, the hanging curve burger to Bryce Harper and bang just like that the lead vanishes. Ryan Zimmerman goes yard on normally reliable Mike Montgomery and the gnats get a five spot in the 8th for a 6-3 win.

The bullpen exploded. Series tied. Back to the Windy City for game three on Monday Monday, hoping never to return to that city on the Potomac.

Cubs got two games at Wrigley now. Let’s win two!

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I’ve been preparing for the big eclipse that’s coming August 21.  For the past week, I’ve set my alarm for 2:00 AM, then I take a look out the window for three whole minutes trying to replicate experience and take in the total darkness.  Yep, it’s dark, very dark.

The solar eclipse of 2017 has been all the talk for at least the past month or so, even more if you’re one who is totally eclipsed by the impending moment.  For those of you living under a rock, or the dark side of the moon if you prefer, a total solar eclipse is about to pass through the contiguous United States.

The last time this happened in the USA USA was in 1979, however, this eclipse only passed through five north northwestern states on a February morn, barely visible in the winter sky before crossing the border into Canada.

The last time a total solar eclipse passed through the US of A from sea to shining sea, from the Pacific to the Atlantic was in 1918.

In other words, this event is ALMOST as rare as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.

Dearly beloved, there hasn’t been this much excitement about a naturally occurring event since New Years’ Eve 1999 and the Y2K scare. Remember that?

We were all duped into thinking the Cyber world we created would explode and everything computer generated would disintegrate because the years on computers were supposedly configured with only two digits. Once the clock ticked to 2000, bang, everything would revert to 1900 and life as we knew it would crash.

It didn’t, but come on, admit it, you still have a jug of water and a jar of peanut butter tucked away in a safe place, just…in…case. Someone made money off that, I’m sure.  In fact, as I reflect on Y2K, I become more convinced the bottled water people and the peanut butter people conspired to contrive the plan.

Speaking of making money off a natural phenomenon, hats off to Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, Illinois, one of the premier spots to view this eclipse in the ”path of totality.”  (I love that term, path of totality.)

SIU sold out their football stadium at $25 a pop for the event.  Spots in the on-campus grass parking lot are going fast for $20 a place.   Perhaps I am pointing out the obvious here, but the eclipse is IN THE SKY, visible for free to anyone who cares to experience it.  Yet, SIU sold out seats for the viewing. Kudos to you, Salukis.

There is actually a Royal Caribbean Total Eclipse Cruise and get this, Bonnie Tyler will be singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at the exact moment the path of totality passes overhead.  If you miss it, “It’s a Heartache.”  In fact, for an added treat, Bonnie’s back-up band is call The Path of Totality!

Enjoy the event however you choose to do so.  Just remember the advice of Manfred Mann and the Earth Band, ‘Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun.”   And really, a burned out retina is not where the fun is.

Me, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZtfsfoKSB0

FOOTNOTE: Photo credit to my daughter, Taylor for the cover pic circa March, 2016. And yes, I know, this is not a “solar” eclipse. It was quite the different world when a photo op existed for that.

Didja ever have a song you hear on the radio that instantly takes you back to a moment in time?

Do you still listen to the radio?

When I listen to the “Oldies Station” I would say nearly 50% of the songs bring back a moment, a time in a place, a memory I associate with the song.

Sometimes the association is rather abstract.

Take for example the connection between High School football two a day practices and the song by Queen called, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

Let’s set the DeLorean for a hot August summer on a football field in Chicago’s northwest side.

Back in the day, two a day football practices in August were a macho way get your ass in shape via drills, sprints and head on hits not dissimilar to physical torture. There was no concussion protocol. They actually called one of the drills “head-on tackling.”

Practice began in the gym with a speech about the goals for practice that day.

On day one, Coach Seevers made it clear that when we left that gym and exited to the adjacent football field, we were to “SPRINT when you see those goal posts. SPRINT when you see those goal posts.”

He pronounced it Spreeent

We then were to SPRINT to the north goal posts and run in position awaiting our next stage of the two-a-day gauntlet.  While running in position, Coach would arrive yelling in a loud borderline squeaky tenor voice, “READY READY.” Then he’d blow a whistle and we’d jump to the side and back to the front.

“READY READY.” He’d blow the whistle again and we’d jump to the side and back to the front.  We’d repeat this five thousand times until we were ready ready to drop before even starting practice.

Which brings us back to that Queen Song. Here’s the Official video in case you’ve forgotten it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO6D_BAuYCI

At about the 1:45 mark the lyrics go like this:

I gotta be cool, relax, get hip
And get on my track’s
Take a back seat (ah hum), hitch-hike (ah hum)
And take a long ride on my motorbike
Until I’m ready ready Freddie

SEE! There it is, “ready ready Freddie”

READY READY

Bang, I’m looking for goal posts to sprint to. I’m sprinting in place waiting for a whistle.  I’m transported in time to two a day practices on a hot August morning. As opposed to a Hot August Night, Neil Diamond. Brother Love’s traveling salvation show … But that’s another story for another time, if you’re ready ready.

FOOTNOTE: Cover photo is the actual site of the goalposts to sprint to.

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