It was their first dinner for two; they’d just begun dating. Mexican food…El Mariachi, downtown Chicago … courting … falling in love. Blending natural interest with intuitive anticipation my daughter looked in his eyes. “What is your favorite sound?”, she asked him. Tenderly, reverently, Jason Bohrer looked back. Their eyes unhinged upon each other he answered: “The crack of the bat at Wrigley Field.”

My favorite sport today? Baseball. Never has it not been! Volumes could be written on why, and yet if you really need an explanation, then it’s not that it doesn’t matter, but that that YOU don’t matter.

My passion for the game has neutered o’er the years. I’m a purist, and let’s face it, the pro game has changed. (Ed. Note 1:  It is a classic example of how I haven’t changed, but the world ‘round me has. A second example occurred recently. Having suggested to Michael that I might drive to New York to see the boys, I heard him push back. “Don’t you remember,” I reminded, “How Grandpa Ben would drive from New Jersey to see you when you were young?” “OK Dad,” he rebuked me, “Why don’t you come by covered wagon?).

But yes, my compulsion for our pastime has softened. (Ed. Note 2: Blame it on its crash commercialism, ever-expanding playoffs, the DH rule, instant replay … or to save time: former commissioner Bud Selig (Roger Goodell with a brain).

And yet, as the NLCS begins, as the semi-final chain of games (a TV mini-series in disguise) I am watching again, cheering again — and caring.

I want this one for Jason — my Mensch of the Midway — for Chicago, his team.

We all should.

Remember the late 70’s when PR guys in Dallas dubbed the Cowboys “America’s Team”? That was crap! This country’s true team, the one squad that with its city perennially symbolized the strength, endurance, and grit of our great nation, has been and is the Cubbies.

I state this without reservation, without hesitation, and with two other kids in New York.

Do I like the Mets? Of course I do. Anyone growing up in Cleveland hating the Yankees is drawn to the Mets. But were they the cornerstone of the game? Have they called one field home for a century straight? Do they have any sense of a storied past? (Ed. Note 3: Would ANYONE on its roster even know what I was talking about if I mentioned the “College of Coaches?”).

The Chicago Cubs ARE America’s Team. That’s it. End of discussion.

Lucky I was to be weaned well on baseball. My Dad had me memorizing team managers, team stadia, and history.

Tinkers to Evers to Chance? “Three-Fingered” Mordecai Brown? Charley Root?

Cubs all.

First park to play organ music? Last to have uniform numbers? The Cubs.

No night home games!

Among my first baseball cards: Billy Williams, Ernie Banks. Ron Santo. Among my son’s: Ryne Sandberg.

I once went to Wrigley. The early 80’s it was and there were still no night games! Four of us flew from Cleveland, braving questions from wives … just to be there … in “the friendly confines”. Can I tell you to this day who won? Hell no. I can’t even tell you whom they played.

But I cherish that trip, remember the ivy-covered walls — and cling to the majesty.

No franchise in America can couple triumphant years of tradition with the tragedy of a Bartman moment— and thrive. The Cubs have, and do.

So don’t point back to 1908. Don’t tell me the Mets last night. Three reasons’ I’ll give why the Cubs will advance:

1. In the 1989 film “Back To The Future 2”, the 2015 Cubs win it all;
2. Theo Epstein;
3. It’s America’s Team.

Nine years ago, at that very same dinner, my daughter pressed on. “What,” she asked Jason, “Would be your ultimate dream?” Again he didn’t hesitate. “That the Cubs win the World Series,” he uttered. Assuredly.

(Ed. Note 4: That was, of course, before he wed Stacy.  Before they had Ruby and Lucy).

— And for that … from life’s press box … we shout “Holy cow!”

Leave a Reply