I’ve been playing online Scrabble with my Aunt Diane, who lives just over the northern border between Wisconsin and Illinois, for almost a decade. This petite thesaurus of a lady wallops me at a roughly 90 percent lifetime victory rate. But she faithfully takes her turn each insultingly easy night in order for us to spend some virtual time together. It’s just a part of why I love and admire her.
On Friday morning, much of Chicago woke to the supremely excellent news that our Cubbies had clinched the 2016 NL Central Division title. Yeah baby! I typically take my Scrabble turns against AD (affectionate nickname for Aunt Diane) in the am. I couldn’t wait to use the chat feature to celebrate the excitement with a fellow Windy City native and lifelong Cubs fan. I typed succinctly, “The Cubbies won the division! Playoffs! What a great season!”
Late that night before bed, I checked in our message string. I read the panicked meltdown of 60 plus year-old woman who’s been hurt by dashed hope too many times.
“I know. Great season. I can’t get excited. If the Mets are in the playoffs, forget this year. I said this is the year but how many times have we said that? I DO hope so.”
Come again, AD? I know you’re of the generation utterly devastated by 1969, only to know the pain of 2003’s five outs away from the big show. But the Cubbies just won the division, besting arch rivals the St. Louis Cardinals by 17 games! We have plenty of time to rest our A-players and give the up and comers who could make a post-season difference badly-needed field time. The stakes for the nervous young are at a confidence-building lull.
The Cubs’ first playoff match doesn’t happen until October 7. There are weeks left of the MLB’s regular season – 19 days of joyous, easygoing rest. The Cubs are the best team in baseball and with few exceptions, these guys are an endearing, likeable bunch. I’m just shy of middle age but well-read and acquainted with many a senior fan. There’s never been a better year to be a member of Wrigleyville Nation.
The playoffs and their requisite nail-biting, restless tension will be here soon enough. Let’s try something new, shall we Cub fans? Let’s enjoy the triumph and continue to embrace the target. There’s no reason to disregard Manager Extraordinaire Joe’s Maddon’s directive, stressing about events that haven’t yet occurred. I write these words for myself as much as the other anxiety-riddled citizens of Cubs Nation.
The Cubs had exactly one rough patch this season. Granted it was a long one before the All-Star break, but otherwise? Our guys occupied first place in the NL Central every day but one. Front office leadership and trades have been on point. Joe Maddon is a wunderkind who manages to balance discipline and lightheartedness in equal measure. An inspirational, wise baseball leader if ever one existed.
There’s just no cause for post-season pessimism. Mets, Schmets, AD. They’re on their own journey. Let’s savor ours without craning necks looking back at history. All of the right Cub elements are in place, finally, at long last. 1969, 2003, 2008 are just memories. Enjoy this moment. The Cubbies have bestowed the gift of time.