Saturday, October 29, 2016

North Side Confessional

Welp, they did it. The Chicago Cubs are playing in the World Series for the first time in over seven decades. They were on the precipice in 2015, and this year they finally connected the dots. So far things haven't totally worked in their direction; they won Game 2, but now it looks like the Cleveland Indians --another team with a historical schneid-- has the upper hand in the series.

This might sound cavalier for a Chicago native, but I am neither a Cubs or White Sox fan. I've never related to the south siders, but Cubs fans can be insufferable. I've been in and around Wrigleyville enough times, game day or not, to know how cloying their presence can be. Bros and alpha males rule the roost. The playoff atmosphere in the neighborhood has been akin to a zombie movie, albeit with the stench of Axe body spray. I am perfectly oblivious to the fact that the Cubs haven't won a championship in over a century, or that this is their first Fall Classic appearance since Harry Truman was president.

A rational person would blame the Cubs' woes on astonishingly poor management and scouting, with maybe a scintilla of bad luck. Any die-hard fan would tell you that the Cubs are cursed. The 1969 Cubs, the most discussed and hallowed second place team of all time, weren't running on fumes as the season was winding down. The fans blamed a black cat. The 1945 squad, the last to win a pennant until 2016, apparently weren't outmatched by an almost flawless Detroit Tigers team. The fans chose to blame an ornery Greek immigrant and his pet goat. The 2003 Cubs' collapse in the NLCS was fueled by hubris, triggered by Moises Alou's diminishing defensive skills. The fans found a scapegoat in Steve Bartman. Its a giant mess of superstition and false tradition.

So why have the Cubs gone over a century without a title, and endured seven decades without contending for a championship? Look no further than P.K. Wrigley. Upon inheriting the organization in 1932, this scion of a gum empire often let his own personal interests trump most baseball matters. He refused to install lights in the ballpark when night games were more convenient for burgeoning TV audiences. Wrigley was reluctant to sign players of color, and its no coincidence that the Cubs were the last original National League team to integrate. He had a reputation for being frugal, reticent, and petty. Wrigley's damage to the organization was so thorough, it took four decades after his death for the Cubs organization to make a complete recovery.

For all the progress that Theo Epstein has made in the organization these last five years, the Cubs are still another year away from winning a title. For once, they had management that knew what they were doing, and with the Ricketts family, they have ownership that makes an effort. What this collective group is doing is light years ahead of what the Tribune Company did in their 27 years of ownership, and they pulled the seemingly impossible feat of getting the Cubs back in the playoffs. Still, the majority of the Cubs faithful are a shortsighted yet steadfast group, both deserving of some success yet they still stand in their own way.

Next Week: My final thoughts on the 2016 election.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's Over

It's over.

I wondered if sharing this Roy Orbison song was too on the nose, but it ran through my head as I forced myself to watch these last two weeks of election coverage. The temptation was too much.
As a presidential candidate, and the likely instigator of what must be the ugliest election I've ever seen, Donald Trump has been able to persist through one perceived miscue and campaign faux pas after another. Now it appears that the meltdown is all but complete. Leaked video footage of Trump making lewd and beyond appalling remarks in a 2005 "Access Hollywood" appearance cemented the floating perception that he was a hopeless misogynist. After a succinct apology in the second presidential debate, at least a half-dozen women have stepped forward to accuse Trump of lewd behavior. His foothold with woman voters, shaky as it already was, has collapsed. Just about every demographic except white males have abandoned Trump as this point, if they were ever on board to begin with. Worse yet, it reinvigorated the national discussion on sexual assault that hurt the Republican Party as a whole in the 2012 election.

One might wonder why these women haven't stepped forward until now. I suppose my response to that is why does timing matter? The women that have accused Trump of sexual harassment have their entire livelihoods at stake; the man being accused could let these accusations bounce off like Teflon. The man is a multi-millionaire and a presidential candidate, after all. There are parallels here to the downfall of comedian Bill Cosby; where the sitcom star was a serial date-rapist, Trump has a history of inappropriately touching fully conscious women. There are vast differences, overly simplified in some people's eyes, but both are appalling and reprehensible behaviors regardless.

Regardless of your opinion of Sec. Hillary Clinton --and yes, she has plenty of detractors-- we have to accept that she will be the next President of the United States. Her campaign has been at times uninspiring and perhaps even clumsy, but it never sank to the incompetence, bloviating, and pandering of the Trump campaign. (I will spare you the "Pretty Woman" reference.) It will not be a canonization or a coronation, but a reminder that most of the time, the bad guy loses.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Toxic College Relationship, Part 3

Even though Babs was no longer dating Zak, she wanted to stay friends with the big doofus. This was much to the chagrin of her social circle as well as our mutual friends, who justifiably disdained the guy. Babs took it upon herself to organize Zak's birthday party; she corralled me, a friend visiting from home, and two friends that were local into taking Zak to the Bloomington Hooters. At his core, however Zak was a Christian and not a very worldly one; at the very last minute, he begged Babs to not at a risque restaurant that he knew next to nothing about. Our party ended up going to the Chuck E. Cheese's across the street. I was annoyed by the 11th hour change as everyone else, and implied to Babs that I never wanted to hang out with Zak again.

When I was dating Babs, we bonded over our mutual appreciation for the TV show "24." I had been watching almost from the beginning, but she jumped in at the start of Season/Day 4. We watched nearly all of Day 5 together, and didn't see any reason why not to do the same for Day 6. One night later in the season, we both had obligations on Monday and I agreed to record the show on my VCR. (It was 2007, and most college kids didn't have Tivo or a DVR.) To my chagrin, my roommate confused the VCR remote with the TV remote --he was trying to watch the Bulls game-- and it didn't record. I left the voice mail on Babs' phone, and ten minutes later she called back to tell me I was an idiot. Before I could defend myself, she hung up. Another ten minutes after that, she instant messaged me to apologize for overreacting. We watched "24" together a couple of times after that, but ended up watching the rest of the season separately.

In March 2007, I went on my first date since breaking up with Babs. I was training a new DJ at my college radio station, we struck up a conversation, and we agreed to meet for coffee. She wasn't interested in dating, but we ended up staying friends and we're still in touch. (I have a habit of staying friends with one-and-dones.) It was a dead end, but at least I was finally moving on. At that same time, to my secret relief Babs and I were finally starting to drift apart. She started dating another guy, and our schedules kept clashing. We both had summer jobs, and I had summer school as well, so we didn't see each other for several months. As summer transitioned into fall semester, we never hung out and our encounters grew more sporadic. Babs was dating yet another guy, and I felt no inclination to entertain her in my new dorm room. The temptation to tell her off was too much.

Even though Babs was fading from sight, what she left in her path still lingered around. One girl, a mutual friend that eventually got fed up with Babs, worked at the same college radio station that I did. I still ran into Lola and one of her other roommates on the quad. One day at the station, Zak called out of nowhere asking for help with a move. He wasn't the bullying Zak that I knew, but slightly defeated and still rather persistent. I said I would get back to him, and shortly afterwards I did something I should have a lot sooner: ask for the advice of my peers. I explained that he was the guy my ex dumped me for, and that he could be insufferable to be around, but seemed desperate to have someone help him move. The consensus of my co-workers was a resounding "hell no," and I left a voice mail telling him I was busy that Saturday.

The day before I graduated from ISU, I ran into Babs on the elevator at Watterson Towers. I was cleaning out my dorm room and carrying items down to my car, and she was going downstairs to get a snack. She informed me that she'd had a falling out with her latest roommate, a mutual friend of ours named Allison. For reasons unclear, Allison made Babs uncomfortable, so Babs decided to move into a single-bed room on the other side of campus. I blurted out "oh well, its not like you got along with any of your other roommates" (which was true), and when we got down to the lobby she bolted out of the elevator in a fury. A few minutes later, I was able to find to her in the lobby talking to some girl, but she was snappish and refused to accept my apology.

As of this writing, it was the last time I saw Babs in person.

(Part four next month.)