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It was the summer of 2006.  I was on a two week business trip to Quincy Massachusetts with a free weekend in between that I decided to use as an opportunity to sight see around and about the historic city of Boston.

As I plotted my trip, one destination was a must.  Fenway Park. I’ve got a thing for ballparks and stadiums and Fenway, with its iconic “Green Monster” wall that spans left field was a must.

There was a game that day, but it was 90 degrees outside, ticket prices would be exorbitant and I didn’t want to spend my only day in Beantown watching a ball game I really didn’t care about.  I would be satisfied with taking a lap around the park and catching just a glimpse of the field.

I took the T (as the locals call their train transport) and ended up at Fenway well before game time.  I bought a Red Sox Tee at a souvenir shop and walked around the historic park.  Nowhere could I catch a spot to view the actual playing field as brick walls encased the park.

As I turned left off Yawkey Way to Van Ness Street, there seemed to be a gap in the park and while there was an opening, the actual field of play was not in view.   I had a Kodak disposable camera.  This was before cell phones came standard with cameras.  2006.  The good old days.

I implored anyone inside the park to let me in for 5 minutes or at the very least, take my camera to snap a shot of the field.  I told them I came all the way from Chicago just to see the Monster. The only interest I received was from a local policeman who soon approached me.  I extended the same plea to him, but all the constable said was, “Move along, sir.”

A stranger in a strange town, I did as directed and satisfied my trip to Fenway with a T-shirt, and a bottle of “Wicked Cold” water I bought from a street vendor on Lansdowne Street just behind the “Green Monster.”   I only saw “The Monster” from the back side.

Yesterday, June 20, 2017, I took a tour of Wrigley Field with my wife and some out of town guests.  What better site to show Chicago to the visitors than a trip to the iconic ball yard the year after the Cubs first World Series title in 108 years.

My back was sore and my knees were aching and we lagged behind the tour group as we moved from the right field bleachers to the left field upper deck grandstands.

“Excuse me, excuse me sir,” said a fellow peeping through the gates in the right field corner as I took a turn to head up the stairs.

Normally, I ignore this stuff, but I stopped and said, “Yeah, I’m just on a tour here.”

He said to me as he extended his cell phone through the gated barrier, “I ‘m from New York and came by just to see the inside of Wrigley Field. Can you take my phone and get some pictures for me at least?”

Eleven years later and it just took a second for the serendipity of the moment to reach me.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

I took the phone, handed it to my wife who had observed the side gate to the inside of the field was open and said, “Go snap a whole bunch of pics for this guy.”

She did.  She didn’t ask why, she clicked away.  After 26 years, I still love this girl.

I handed back the phone to the New Yorker and my wife and I moved along to catch up with the tour group.

Some may call it a fortuitous moment for the New Yorker. Some may call it Karma. I prefer to see it as serendipitous.  Somewhere in New York this weekend, a guy is showing photos of his visit to Wrigley Field that have the green field, the ivy and the monster center field scoreboard.  My wicked cold water botte is long gone.

I was happy to accommodate this fellow’s request and show the friendliness of Chicagoans.  After all, Ernie Banks said, these are the “Friendly Confines.”

And, I share this tale because sometimes a special moment happens that merits mention.

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Big weekend a comin’ in college football. Many conference championship games will be played.

Between all the excitement of a Chicago Cubs World Series title and that election thing, I have not been watching too much football of late. But I did catch a few games over the weekend.

Now I’m sure it’s hard being a football broadcaster, calling the plays, describing the action and making it interesting for the folks in TV-land during a fast paced game. It can be a challenge. But sometimes, they lapse into announcer clichés that don’t make sense.

Here’s two examples:

Lou: Freshman Johnny Feenom has now gained 100 yards rushing the football.
Vince: Johnny’s having a great game here today, Lou. And he’s only a freshman.
Lou: He’s got a great future ahead of him.
STOP

Just wondering. Where else would Johnny’s future be except for ahead of him?

The term “future” inherently infers that whatever comes next is in fact ahead of him. Yes, he may have a great future but to say that future is ahead of him is obviously redundant and superfluous.

This is Johnny Feenom, not Marty McFly. If you ever saw the movie, you know that it turned out that McFly’s future was indeed behind him. However all other futures are ahead of you.

I checked the sidelines. No DeLorean. No Doc Brown. No Marty McFly. So the announcer was saying essentially that Johnny has a great future future because in the absence of the DeLorean, everybody’s future lies ahead.

Cliché Example two:

Lou: Johnny Feenom breaks a tackle and is brought down at the 30 yard line.
Vince: He got that extra five yards because he’s got “quick feet.”
STOP

Quick feet? Oh some announcers DO say that.

Johnny is just FAST. His whole body is fast. But some announcers attribute it to “quick feet.” If that was the case, here’s how this narrative would go:

Lou: And Johnny Feenom is brought down at the 30 yard line.
Vince: Lou, look at his feet. His feet are all the way to the 40 yard line but his body is 10 yards behind. Man that guy’s feet are fast!
Lou: Kinda weird watching his feet hopping up and down ten yards ahead of his body.
Lou: And he’s only a freshman, His future is ahead of him, just like his feet.

If you think I am making this up and you happen to be watching football this weekend, then buy yourself a bottle of Jim Beam and take a shot every time you hear about: 1) A future ahead of some young player or 2) A player with “quick feet.”

I recommend a B vitamin and Gatorade for the morning after if you play the game.

FOOTNOTE: In case you missed it, here’s another post with the infamous announcers, Vince and Lou around Olympic time if you can remember back that far.
https://wedwand.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/rio-life-olympics/

GE DIGITAL CAMERAPerhaps getting over the conditioning was the hardest part. The media perpetuated the myth on us all. The Billie Goat, the Black Cat, “He who shall not be named.”

Everybody loves a good curse story.

But when analyzed rationally, the “curses” seemed a little silly to me.

So as a fan, I chose to ignore them in the 2016 playoffs. Pass them off as illogical, unfounded, inane.

Conversely, this required me to dispense with some “big game” practices of my own. There would be no lucky shirt, no lucky chair, no lucky place to watch the game.

If the curses were silly, likewise I had to eschew my former superstitious habits from playoff years passed. Not washing that lucky shirt was equally as mindless. And, my co-workers and family thanked me for that one.

Here it was, Game 7 of the World Series and the Addison Street Miracle was still alive. Alive and well in fact, leading 6 – 3 in the 8th inning.

Lines were forming already to buy World Series keepsakes. Then it happened.

Two routine outs are followed by a single, a double, a home run and bang, it’s 6-6. Cleveland is rocking. The Cubs seem to be reeling.

All around the Windy City, the conditioned are checking out, nervous wrecks. Uttering responses like “not again”, “here we go”, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

I remained steadfast. Voicing positives like, “show some faith”, “believe.” I had no “lucky shirt” on. Yet, I was out there on the ledge invoking the masses of my Cubs fandom friends via text, post and the spoken word to hang tight. Grind with these guys.

Hang tight they did through 9. “And we’ll have an extra inning ball game today,” as Jack Brickhouse used to say.

Then the rains came. The rains that washed the slate clean for the Cubs, down three games to one in Chicago, now inspired one Jason Heyward to rally the troops. In the weight room in the depths of the visiting locker room in Cleveland, during the 17 minute rain delay, JHey reminded them they were the best team in baseball, able to overcome adversity.

We know how the story ends. 5 million people in Chicago today were a testimony to the fact that the story had a happy ending. The cryptic Eamus Catuli sign now reads. “AC000000.”

Two noteworthy quotes I caught in the myriad of post-game interviews in the wee hours the day after the November 2nd game:

Jayson Heyward on the team meeting:

“At the beginning of the day, we never worry about win or lose. We just worry about how we’re going to go out there and have fun, compete, be right there for the guys next to us and not take the situation for granted.”

Jon Lester on the curses:

“I think the biggest thing is nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else, you know what I mean? A curse is an excuse for looking for a way out.”

Have fun. Be there. Don’t look for excuses. Maybe that applies to more than baseball.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs.

EPILOGUE:

Truth told, I started the Cubs Chronicles because I believed this would be the year and wanted to record my thoughts along the way. Maybe share them with a reader or three.

With two of my longtime friends, fellow lifetime Cubs fans, Terry and Steve, I firmly believe we blazed the path to victory with our attendance at the game one victory. The ten remaining dominoes fell after that first nudge. We are 4-0 lifetime in Cubs Playoff games.

Whatever curses were once perceived have now been exposed as irrational. Don’t let foolish barriers stop you from dreaming.

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