Monday, November 7, 2016


This column first appeared in the Friday, November 4th edition of the Statesboro Herald.

Before he even fielded the ball for the final out, Kris Bryant was smiling.

It was the smile of a man who knew he was about to make the last play that would finally give the Cubs their first World Series in more than a century. The smile of a man in just his second year in the Majors knowing he had a Rookie of the Year award, likely an MVP award to come and now a World Series Championship.

It was the smile of someone who was not only reaching the pinnacle of his sport, but doing so while ignoring the pressure and having fun. It was joy.

But for me and millions of other Cubs fans, it was not only a smile of joy, but a smile of relief.  It means relief from ever having to hear about 1908 again. About never having someone mention the last time the Cubs won the World Series, the Ottoman Empire still existed. Or the fact that 1908 was closer to the time of the Louisiana Purchase than it is to today, or any other random piece of trivia pertaining to the end of the Teddy Roosevelt administration.

I was the kid who grew up in Statesboro, Georgia as a Cubs surrounded by a sea of Braves fans. I was in middle school in 1991, which Braves fans know as the start of the seemingly endless string of division titles. So all though middle school, and high school, and college, and after college, I got to endure the (mostly) good-natured mocking that Braves fans earned the right to give Cubs fans.

There were glimpses of good times. The 1998 season saw Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire chase the most hallowed record in sports and the Cubs made the playoffs. I got to go to a Cubs playoff win in Atlanta in 2003 and see watch them fall apart both that year (it wasn’t Steve Bartman’s fault) and the next year.

I can remember wearing a Cubs jacket to a Georgia Southern football game during one of the Cubs’ rare winning seasons and being roundly mocked and even perhaps a jinx on the Eagles for bringing the Cubs’ bad luck to Paulson Stadium with me.

And like all Cubs fans, I suffered through the rebuilding years after Theo Epstien, the man who built the team that ended the World Series drought for the Red Sox, was brought in to do the same for Chicago. There were some rough seasons during Epstien’s first few in Chicago, but if you were paying attention, you could see the plan in place. Acquire lots of young hitters, trade pitching for prospects, draft the best hitters available, and then let them develop.

The plan obviously worked as last year saw the Cubs win 97 games and make it to the NLCS. Unfortunately for me, they would fall just short of fulfilling the prophecy of Back to the Future II, which predicted a Cubs World Series title to the amazement of Marty McFly.

At the start of this season, the Cubs were considered the best team in baseball and proved it by winning 103 games during the regular season. The playoffs, however, are a horse of a different color.

Even the dominant 2001 Mariners who won 116 games in the regular season didn’t win the World Series.

But through skill, luck, good fortune, karma, divine intervention or whatever natural or supernatural powers that guided the outcome; the Cubs defied the odds and came back from a three games to one deficit on the road to win in a dramatic Game 7. In doing so, they ended the longest championship drought in professional sports.

So keep smiling, Kris Bryant. Smile that smile that is symbolic of the joy my son has while he make amazing catches in the back yard and  that I have when you hit a bomb and that you have from winning the World Series. If nothing else, smile knowing that this Cubs team has brought more than its share of smiles and joy to myself and Cubs fans around the country.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Game 7 Relfections

My wife said I should do a quick blog post the day after each World Series game to kind of recap my feelings since there's no documentary crew following me around as the Cubs go for their first championship since 1908. So here we go on Game 7.

Next Year is finally here! This is the year Cubs fans have been waiting for and it's really, actually here.

The best thing about the Cubs winning (8-7 in 10 innings for those who somehow missed it), is that the Cubs won.

The unexpectedly awesome thing about the Cubs winning is hearing from friends from high school and college who messaged me on Facebook or Twitter to congratulate me. Being a Cubs fan in South Georgia meant I stood out in that regard, which, to be honest, is the only way I ever stood out in school.

My facebook feed was flooded with congratulatory messages and likes from people I haven't really seen since either high school or my 10-year reunion, which was about 10 years ago. A guy a four years younger than me (meaning I was a senior when he was a freshman) messaged me to say he was in Chicago and wanted to know if he wanted him to get copies of today's paper for me.

Those are the kinds of moments that make sports special. Yes, the games themselves are captivating and tense and dramatic, but the fact that nearly 20 to 25 years later, people still remember that I was a Cubs fan in south Georgia and not only thought of me, but took time out of their lives to send me congratulations, well that's awesome.

That connection to friends and friends who have drifted off to become acquaintances, is special. And few things in life have the power to create that. I've never taken the time to congratulate my friends when their favorite singer wins a Grammy or an Academy of Country Music award (though maybe I should). But my team wins the championship and I'm hearing from people from throughout my lifetime.

But sports also allowed me to become friends with people I've never met. People on Twitter that I couldn't pick out of a lineup but who are baseball fans and rode the ride of the playoffs with me. People who inexplicably liked my dumb jokes and who watched the games and cheered along with me. (It was probably easier for a few of them who are Royals fans and won last year when I took the journey with them.) It's awesome.

So thank you to everyone who reached out over the course of October to either wish me luck or to congratulate me or just to say you were thinking about me during the Cubs run to a World Series title or even if you just read this blog post. The championship is awesome, but the friendships, both of people I've met in person and who I've only met in the digital world, made winning a World Series more special.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Reflections on Game 6

My wife said I should do a quick blog post the day after each World Series game to kind of recap my feelings since there's no documentary crew following me around as the Cubs go for their first championship since 1908. So here we go on Game 6.

I actually enjoyed more than an inning of Game 6 without being crazy nervous. I mean, it wasn't much more of an inning, but when the Cubs jumped out to a 7-0 lead, I was able to relax for a brief time and watch the game with minimal stress, at least until Cleveland scored, then it was back to "oh please, oh please, come on." Eventually the Cubs would go on to win 9-3.

So here we are. It's a one game, winner-take-all, Game 7 for the World Series. Somehow I'm supposed to concentrate at work and be productive when all I want to do is read articles and listen to podcasts about the World Series. I started in February reading articles from Spring Training and in March watching spring training games. I watched as many games during the regular season as my schedule and and my wife would let me.  

I probably spent more time with to Cubs broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies from April to October than anyone other than my wife and kid. They are as much a part of my family as anyone at this point, even if they never show up for Thanksgiving.

I've spent countless hours watching games, reading articles, listening to podcasts. From the outset of the season, all those outlets were saying the Cubs were the best team in baseball, and over the course of the 162-game regular season, they were, winning 103 games. But the playoffs are a different animal and for the Cubs to reach the brink of a World Series title isn't something I was prepared for.

So here I am, sitting at work anxiously watching the time go by until 8 p.m., when the first pitch of what could be one of the greatest sports days of my life to begin. I've been fortunate to be at two National Championship football wins by my alma mater, once when I was 10 and again when I was 20. Looking back, I didn't realize how fortunate I was to be there when my team won a title. I've also had the misfortune of being a a title game in which they were heavily favored and lost.

I'm not sure yet how this compares. At least with football, there's a week the prepare and get yourself set for the one game. I've been living in a constant state of sports anxiety for a week with wins and losses and nerves and joys. It's the best kind of exhausting.

If the Cubs win tonight, I'm sure it'll be a feeling unlike anything I've experienced as a sports fan before. (And I'll have to apologize to my son for waking him up.) If they lose, it'll be a disappointment that will eat at me until next February, when hope will once again well up as part of its eternal renewing. 

But that's for tonight. For now, I've got hours of nervous energy to deal with.

Go Cubs Go.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Relfections: Games 4 and 5

My wife said I should do a quick blog post the day after each World Series game to kind of recap my feelings since there's no documentary crew following me around as the Cubs go for their first championship since 1908. So here we go on Game 4 and 5.

Weekends are busy, so I didn't get a chance to reflect on Games 4 and 5 until today.

Game 4:

My wife and I have been cord-cutters (cable free) for about six years. We get subsist on a television diet of Netflix, Amazon Prime, free Roku channels (thank you PBS and PBSKids),, and, perhaps, the sharing of a cable password of my parents for things like WatchESPN and HGTV, or perhaps we don't do that, who really knows.

We also have a digital antenna in our attic to get the broadcast channels. However, there are pine trees between us and the signal, meaning we usually can't get NBC and ABC, which is fine because the World Series is on FOX.

So we planned on having some friends over on Saturday night to watch Game 4. They arrived right around first pitch and the first inning went fine. However, the signal started going in and out shortly after that. My friend and I went in to our attic to try to move the antenna around and the game came back, despite the fact it ended up in the exact same spot as it was when we got up there. After another inning or so, the signal went out again, and back up to the attic we went. I'm pretty sure I didn't do all that good a job of hiding my frustrations.

Eventually we decided to move the party to my friends' house (you know, the people we invited over) and streamed the radio broadcast of the game on the way over there.

Neither place was much luck as the Cubs lost 7-2 to put them on the brink of elimination. Other than enjoying time with my friends, I can't say I enjoyed Saturday night.

Game 5:

For whatever reason, our antenna worked fine all day and so did the Cubs. They put up three runs and managed to hang on thanks to an eight-out save by Aroldis Chapman. I have mixed feelings on Chapman. On one hand, he's one of the best pitchers in the game and routinely throws baseballs 103 MPH. On the other, more important hand, he doesn't seem to show any remorse for being a domestic abuser. Sure, he served his penalty by MLB, but the idea of punishment is to change behavior and while there haven't been any reports of additional abuse, remorse and a stated desire to change and work with victims would be a giant step towards showing he's changed, but we haven't seen any of that.

(Fans have taken to donating money to domestic violence charities for every save Chapman gets. You can read about that idea here.)

Sunday was much more fun, but still nerve-wracking knowing that one mistake could end the season that has brought me so much joy and fun.

Now I get to live on pins and needles again tonight, needing another win to force a Game 7, at which point I may just spend Wednesday night curled up in a ball of anxiety in the corner of the living room. Man I hope I get to do that, but first, the Cubs need to win Game 6 tonight.