Fly the W (On the 2016 Chicago Cubs)

This is for Brendon, who was so excited he e-mailed his teacher in all capital letters at midnight. Brendon, I’m a Language Arts teacher, but I was thinking in all capital letters too.


This is for Natalie, nervous in the ninth.

For once I got to be scared with you, not of you.


This is for Bianca, who wore her shirt with pride yesterday. 

I should have too.

This is for Ajay, who was going to write a “Make ‘Em Cry” poem for me when the Cubs lost.  

No, Ajay, not that kind of tears.  Not this time.


This is for Heather, who I didn’t know that well, 

until she smiled at me a week ago, and said, “How about that game?  Were you watching?”  

And then, because of the glory that is the Cubs, we knew each other.


This is for one hundred and eight years of waiting until next year.

This is for 1984 and a ground ball trickling right between Leon Durham’s knees.

This is for 2003 and Steve Bartman, whom I have finally forgiven.
This is for 2007 and 2008 and dreams deferred.

This is for 2015.


On the one hand, this means nothing.  My life is not functionally improved in any way.  I did not earn another dollar last night. I had no part in what happened.  

I didn’t hold a bat.  I didn’t throw a ball.  

The alarm still rang at 4:30 and Tiger Mountain Pass was still there to greet me.


And yet, everything happened last night.  Last night, we enshrined a new constellation in the sky.  Next to Hercules and Orion, next to the Monsters of the Midway, next to Air Jordan, the greatest there ever was, new stars shine - Rizzo, Bryant, Zobrist, Hendricks.  When poetry ends, and our exploration of myth begins, and we talk of heroes, these men, these monster slayers, can be points of reference. They will shine up there forever.


This is for everything that has happened in over a century since we last stood here - for men who went to the moon, for the rise and fall of Communism, for two world wars, for the mapping of the human genome, the invention of the Internet, for the Titanic, for radio, for television, for births and deaths and wins and losses.


This is for my brothers.  For Fred, in the streets of Phoenix in his pajamas flying the W. 

 For Wes, who bought season tickets for insane amounts of money 

and could have sold them for triple that, 

but didn’t.


This is for my father, Neal, born in 1939 in Chicago, six years before the Cubs last took a trip to the World Series, before a goat cursed them decades before my own three goats on my farm.


He texted me last night as the game ended.  

“I am beside myself with joy,” he said.


My father took these games hard.  He has lived his life, eight decades, understanding that every year was a disappointment.  He suffered with his father and his grandfather each year. He had integrated into his life the idea that these things do not happen, that no matter how it looks, the ball will go through someone’s legs, the lead will collapse, the fan’s hands will reach out of the stands, the victory does not come.


Victory came.  He is beside himself with joy.  This one is for him.


This is for my daughter Peri, almost the age my father was when this last occurred or nearly occurred.  This is for Peri, who the inning before the Cubs gave up their lead, turned to me and said, “We’re going to win the World Series!”  And I said, SSSHH! Because there are curses. Because curses hear you. And sure enough, the lead collapsed, the victory slipped through our grasp, the very next inning because that’s what happens, that’s what happens when you believe in something…


She was right.  I was wrong.


This is for my daughter who huddled with me under covers because it was past her bedtime but Daddy it wasn’t, who grabbed my arm by the glow of the cell phone, who whispered, “Daddy, my heart is trembling.”  Mine was too.


This is for eighty years between my daughter and my father, for generations, for epochs and eras, for lovable losers no longer, for the realization that it was this year, that this changes nothing and there are no guarantees in life, but for tonight.  This was the year.


And this was for me.  For the boy who, at my daughter's age, at the age of my father before the second world war, stood in his yard, with a brown paper bag in hand, as his neighbor Tommy Mulroy threw baseball cards into the air.  They fluttered down like little angels, like wisps of heroes from far away. This is for the boy who bent down to the green grass, green like Wrigley, picked up a small square of cardboard, turned it over, ran his thumb over it in the palm of his hand.


It was a Cub.

Fly the W.


This poem is about: 
My family


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