Giving Thanks For the Cubs

This is really kind of a fish-in-a-barrel concept in terms of coming up with something to write about, what with Thanksgiving right around the corner. Then again, it’s not as though the Chicago Cubs have given us much about which to be thankful for over the past several years.

Besides, I needed something to give me a jump-start as I endure the doldrums of blogger’s block. And given the warm reception for my similarly-themed Bears post — I think readership crept into double digits — I felt this was as good a way as any to head into the long weekend.

I should start by saying that I’ve been making a conscious effort lately to have an attitude of gratitude, as corny as that might sound. But in all seriousness, when I realized that I’m guilty of taking many everyday blessings for granted, I wanted to do something to change it.

With unfortunately rare exception, I’ve not been able to celebrate much success with any of my favorite teams, and what little jubilation has come along has been summarily snuffed out. The Bears have ridden the wave of 1985 for most of the past three decades, using the momentum of the 2006 season to keep up the charade of relevance.

The Fightin’ Irish have largely dog-paddled around in the kiddie pool of mediocrity since 1988, with big bowl games regularly resulting in beatings that even rented mules thought were too severe. And the Hoosiers have been up and down, more often than not falling short of expectations over the last two and a half decades.

Then we have the Cubs. Oh, the Cubs, a team whose repeated flirtations with abject failure have caused us to revel in those rare instances of success that visit with all the frequency of Halley’s Comet. But in spite of all this, I am thankful for my teams and what they’ve given me over the years, and that goes double for the Cubs.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for…

Wrigley renovations

I know this isn’t a popular opinion among purists, but I’m all for a big video board in the outfield that will allow me to see replays and check up-to-date stats. Accuse me of blasphemy all you want, but I have never been a fan of squinting at the weather-beaten, crap-covered TVs hanging from the grandstand just to get another angle on a play that I could only see in live action.

Now maybe they’ll do something different from every other venue in America and blast distracting rock music while the game is in play, but somehow I doubt it. I’m certain that music will play between innings, thus preventing you from giving your full attention to the uninsured grounds crew members dragging the infield, but c’est la vie.

Tom Ricketts playing hardball

It figures that I’d be thankful for this since it’s the reason the first item is taking place at all. After hemming and hawing with his neighbors and the city government, Ricketts finally got his ducks in a row and pressed forward. And now it’s looking like he’ll be able to have his cake and eat it too, as several rooftops face foreclosure.

I had actually known that something like this was in the offing for quite a whille, but that’s another story for another time, probably not in public and probably after a couple of beers. Actually, that sounds like the backdrop for all of my poor decisions.

The glut of shortstops

As long as the Cubs boast Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, and Addison Russell, there will never be a shortage of awful trade scenarios from Mets and Phillies fans, nor will the debate over the respective value of these players ever die down.

Pop icon Twitter accounts

I’m not naive enough to think that I’ve got any kind of real social media pull, but if it wasn’t for the various iterations of Darth Vader, Barney Stinson, Ted, and Michael Jackson, I’d only have 100 or so followers. My vast and useless supply of pop culture knowledge has finally come in handy for something!

Theo Epstein’s exec-speak

I love the fact the Theo Epstein speaks in veiled references and uses words that have most people reaching for a dictionary. He may not always say what he means but he always means what he says, which is why I love hearing when people accuse him of being disingenuous.

I even had one former reader who referred to the Cubs prez as “Theo the Liar,” which is incredibly inaccurate. But the verbal banter that results from the various interpretations of Epstein’s words is something that brings me a great deal of enjoyment.

My/our readers

Bear with me for a moment if you will as I deal with a small bout of the feels here. I’ve been blogging in some form or fashion for a little over a year, since right around the end of the 2013 baseball season. I got started in response to some work on Yahoo that I found to be sub-par. After complaining about it, I realized that I was being a hypocrite if I wasn’t willing to put myself out there as well.

Lucky you, I decided to start submitting on the Cubs and Bears through the Yahoo Contributor Network in order to earn a whopping $0.0011 per pageview. But that channel soon shut down, cutting off my weekend beer money in the process. And that’s when Tom Loxas came a-calling with the promise of a smaller audience and no pay.

And I must say, working with the folks at ChicagoNow when we first got Cubs Insider up and running was so much more fulfilling than anything I ever did for Yahoo. I didn’t get paid, though I did actually win an award for the piece I wrote about Tony Gwynn and Ron Santo. It was only a $50 Amazon gift card, but it felt like much more.

When we made the decision to venture out on our own, it was with incredible support but a great deal of trepidation. I know that there are some blogs that are self-sustaining and that probably even afford their writers and operators at least a modest income. I, however, stand as an example that blogging doesn’t necessarily pay the bills; in fact, this venture has cost me money.

But I would do it again and again and again if given the opportunity, and that’s primarily due to the kind words that come across in the comments or on Twitter from time to time. It’d be nice if those words could be translated into some form of currency that I could trade for various kinds of fermented adult beverages, but I’m really happy to get by on warm fuzzies for now.

I understand that I occupy only a very small corner of the vast universe that is the Cubs blogosphere, but I’d like to think that I’ve carved out a nice little niche. This has allowed me to re-connect with a childhood hero, interview a national ESPN personality, and even secure a weekly radio spot of my own (Thursdays at 4pm EST on The Kent Sterling Show on 1430AM WXNT).

When I first began writing for public consumption, it was primarily for selfish reasons; I wanted to earn a little money by expressing my opinions and making esoteric jokes. I thoroughly enjoy including little pop culture Easter eggs in my posts, even if I’m the only one who ever knows they’re there.

While my motives are still selfish, I derive a great deal of pleasure from knowing that someone else might read something I write and actually draw something from it. I seek to entertain first and to inform second, but if I can do both at once then I know I’ve done my job. And that would not be possible without you, dear reader.

My families

I want to first express my gratitude to Tom, without whom I would not be typing this right now. He reached out to me very early on and expressed his desire to put together a team to create a dynamic blog; I’m not sure how many people he contacted before me, but I was the first one dumb enough to say yes.

Most of the stuff that has been published on this site has passed through my fingers, for better or for worse. You can really tell a lot about a person from the way they write, so the editing process has given me a window, albeit a small and dirty one, into the lives of guys like Tommy Cook, Ryan Davis, WilcoMeThat, Bryan O’Donnell, Mark Jablonowski, Mike Rankin, Justin Jabs, Nate Schmidt and several more. Oh, Tom Loxas too, of course.

I’ve never even met most of those guys, maybe never will, but I still consider them members of a weird little family just the same. That holds true for our commenters as well, even when they use too many ellipses or get into arguments with one another.

But more than any of that, I’m thankful for my own family. For my wife, Sarah, who, despite being raised in a White Sox home, partnered with me in naming our children Addison and Ryne. And for those children, who attend games with me and cheer with me and get bored and walk away when a game lasts longer than their attention spans.

The day after Addison was born, I put a Cubs cap on her head and held her against my chest while we watched our team. And when Ryne came into the world, I cued up a DVD of The Sandberg Game (October 25th, so no live Cubs action) so that he’d know where his name came from. For a hospital, the filtration system was pretty poor though, as I ended up getting something in my eyes on both occasions.

I’m thankful for my brother, who has watched countless Cubs games with me and who served his country as a member of the United States Marine Corps. He was the one who suggested the location of our seats when we went to see Ryne Sandberg’s jersey retired, a spot that put us in very close proximity to the flag-raising.

My baby sister married a White Sox fan, but I’m thankful for her anyway. At least he’s a Bears and Hoosiers fan too, and I suppose I’m owed some measure of karma for converting my wife.

I’m thankful for my Grandpap, who let my brother and I lay on his floor eating crackers and drinking Pepsi while watching Cubs games all summer as kids. And for my Grandpa Mc, (pronounced “Mac,” but he doesn’t like adding the “a” to the short form of McLaughlin), who is a die-hard roto player and who took me to my first Cubs night game (Mike Harkey pitched).

And to my dad, who always had the Cubs on the radio when we’d spend time with him out in the field and who took us to games even though I know he’d rather have put on gasoline boots and walked through hell than brave Chicago traffic. I’m still upset that he didn’t get Andre Dawson’s autograph after running into him and talking to him briefly at one of the games we attended though.

The Chicago Cubs mean much more to me than a 25-man roster, a ballpark, or a logo. This team has been the 108 stitches of red thread binding the sometimes-disparate pieces of my life together into a sphere. It’s been the leather laces running throughout the timeworn glove formed by my family in friends, into which I can settle for either solace or celebration.

I know I’m being a little melodramatic, but I’m willing to bet many of you reading this feel the same way.

The Cubs may not sign every big free agent, they may fall short of expectations this coming year, and they may break your heart again…and again. But despite that, there are still so many things for which to be thankful that I’m willing to forgive them over and over.

Because one of these days, when then finally do win, I’m going to be able to write about it and I’m going to be able to share that resultant joy with my family and with you. So I guess that means I’m thankful for the future, however distant it may feel.

If you feel so inclined, I’d love to have your share some of the things you’re thankful for in the comments below, Cubbish or otherwise.

Back to top button