Waiting for a White Flag Winter

I’ve seen the Cubs win the World Series. I’ve seen a fourth blue “W” raised in late October, waving over red-tinted ivy as a series of seven zeroes are strung next to the AC beyond the right field wall. I’ve seen a party that would make Bourbon Street blush, stretching from the corner of Clark and

Addison all the way to Joliet, a party that lasted for days and didn’t end until it followed the final victory float into Grant Park. I’ve seen the tears running down the faces of Cubs fans very young and very old. I’ve seen that white flag flying above center field from November until the following April, as the traditional winter of “wait ‘til next year” had finally been transformed into “remember last year”.

This scene is played out in my mind at this time each year…Opening Day. Opening day is a time for blind optimism for all fans, but for a Cubs fan it’s the one magical day each season that the good guys are guaranteed to be in first place and the Cardinals are certain to be at the bottom of the standings. Anything seems possible on this day, no matter what the previous 102 years of documented history tells us.

In the grand scheme of Cubs-fandom, those of my generation have had it easy. Like all Cubs fans born since 1975, nary a decade of my life has passed without seeing my team in the post season. My grandpa listened to their last World Series appearance on a warship returning from Europe as a 27 year old, never expecting that he would be four decades the next time fall baseball would return to Wrigley Field, but was born a decade late too see a Cubs title. My dad, born in 1952, waited three decades for an opportunity to see the team he loved in the playoffs but never saw them win it all.

As Opening Day 2011 has arrived, I am just two weeks into my 32nd year – the same age my father was when he witnessed the first Cubs playoff series of his life. By comparison, I’ve experienced an embarrassment of postseason riches: 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008…an archipelago of success in a sea of Red, White, and Blue ineptitude. Small bits of success that, rather than satiate the hunger for that elusive title, has only made each playoff defeat taste a little more bitter.

Three seasons ago, I stood and watched Phillies fans poured out of Citizens Bank Park and continued their march up Broad Street after their team’s 28-year championship drought came to an end. A season later I sat in the left field stands at Yankee Stadium as Jeter, A-Rod and the game hoisted the Yankees’ 27th championship trophy. Then, just last summer, I was in Chicago as Black Hawks held their Stanley Cup celebration in front of oceans of fans wearing red sweaters.

Not one of these celebrations has come close to the revelry I witness each spring though. As the Cubs return Friendly Confines this Opening Day, there’s nothing you can tell me that will shake my belief that this might be the year we finally see that white flag winter. If it doesn’t happen, well, there’s always next year. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

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