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And there was the time I was covered in paint.

I did a lot of stupid stuff in college.

There was the time I had 19 drinks in a three-hour span on Spring Break (not proud of that). And the time a group of us stole a stretch of road hazard fencing and wrapped up one of our friends in his bed while he was sleeping (kind of proud of that). I once got in a fight with a guy twice my size, and then spent the better part of an hour crying – not because he’d kicked my ass (he had), but because I lost my earring. (Yes, I had an earring in college. And bleached blond hair. With too much gel. If I wore shirts with collars at the time, I’m sure I would have popped them. You’re getting the picture of a guy who would cry about losing an earring.) Then there was the time I peed on the wall outside the police station. Lord.

That’s not to say my experience was altogether different from most, but sometimes I look back in wonder that I wasn’t seriously hurt, sick, or arrested (more than once, that is). Such is the life of a 20-year-old without a job, kids, or a wife with which to concern himself. I knew a lot of guys like me.

I did the intramural sports thing. I did the bar thing. I did the frat thing. I met a pretty girl. I made lifelong friends. I changed. Oh, and I took in a class or two while I was there.

In other words, while I loved that time in my life, even the shenanigans, I’m fairly certain my college experience was relatively standard. And that includes the headspace one takes on in his first time away from home, living on his own. I repeatedly lived into a common belief of young men like me, which leads us to do the ridiculous, embarrassing, and unsafe things that we do:

I was invincible.

I was a pumpkin for Halloween. I'm funny.

I had the luxury of not thinking about my “future,” which was, at best, a tiny dot on the horizon. Ten minutes was too far in front of me to see, let alone ten years.

Invincibility contemplates not only a belief that nothing bad will ever happen to you, but also a belief that you’ve got all the time in the world for everything good to happen to you. It is intoxicating, and, in the bubble of college, very easy.

It is also, of course, completely false.

I was between my junior and senior years in 2003 when I ended up staying at college for the Summer, working three days a week doing clerical tasks in the physics department, and doing a whole lot of “hanging out.” My college, Miami University, lives in one of those profoundly remote towns (Oxford, Ohio) that absolutely shuts down when school breaks for the Summer. So, “hanging out” (those air quotes necessarily include “drinking” and “doing a great many of the stupid things referenced at the outset of this article”) is pretty much all you’ve got. When my arduous five-hour work day would let up, I would rush back to the frat house to hang with the handful of friends who also stuck around that Summer, to play absurd amounts of ping pong (just try me: I will dominate you), and, of course, to watch baseball.

It was in college that my Chicago Cubs fandom went from “sincere” to “obsessed”; I suspect that the 2003 season did that to a lot of people around my age. I’d always followed the Cubs as closely as I could on TV, and reviewed the box scores in the paper the next morning. But, with an increasing wealth of Cubs-related content on the Internet, I was able to fill a much larger chunk of my day thinking about, reading about, dreaming about, and talking about the Cubs.

I sought out rumor sites, message boards, blogs (most were barely out of the womb in those days), and quickly learned how little I actually knew about the team that I claimed to love and follow. The extent to which my knowledge of the game of baseball, together with my passion for the Cubs, grew in 2003 cannot be understated.

That the Cubs turned out to be a surprisingly competitive team that year probably accelerated that process.

There’s no better way to surprise in a given baseball season than to have young pitching step up, and, naturally, the 2003 Cubs had it. Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano were my age, and Kerry Wood wasn’t much older. Each wound up throwing over 210 innings with ERAs 3.20 or lower. That’ll win you some games.

Almost every player on that year’s team outperformed preseason expectations, and the team as a whole, therefore, dramatically outperformed them. When then-GM Jim Hendry added Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton mid-season (the kind of trade which was preceded by the kind of rumors that I so desperately learned to search out that year online), it felt like this was really a team that could do something. Like I said: optimism came easy to a young man with all the time in the world for everything good to happen to him.

So, you’ll excuse me for believing, when the Cubs faced the Marlins in the NLCS after taking down the mighty Braves, that “this was the year.”

It wasn’t.

I remember the feeling as I watched Moises Alou screaming, slapping his glove, and stomping around in Game Six. I’m not unique – too many of us were feeling the same thing. Indeed, looking back, I believe now that Alou was feeling it, too: the series was slipping away. And it all started with a foul ball.

It was a completely irrational reaction (of course, as Cubs fans, we may be more prone to acts of irrationality than any other fan base) to feel – to know – that the Marlins were about to stage a comeback. It was just a foul ball. The Cubs still led the game and the series. Mark Prior was still on the mound. But when Alex Gonzalez booted a tailor-made double-play ball, the presence of God looming over us with a magnifying glass under a hot sun was too palpable to chalk up to irrationality. At Wrigley, the Lord only taketh away.

One of my fraternity brothers came in to my room soon after the 8th inning ended to ask if I’d “just seen that,” as if he didn’t know that I was certain already to be fuming and saying things like “of f**king course.” I think the look I gave him communicated everything he needed to know about what I’d seen. Well, the look, and the littered remains of my remote control splayed on the floor to his right.

There remained the formality of Game Seven, but, for all intents and purposes, the series was over. I got drunk, and started talking about next year in a completely non-ironic way.

Was I sad about the unfortunate end to the 2003 season? Sure. Disappointed? Sure. But I was convinced there would be plenty of chances for this roster. Prior? Wood? Zambrano? I would put those three against any front three in baseball. Sammy was no spring chicken, but, like, he was Sammy. Aramis Ramirez was just 25, and Corey Patterson was just 24. Over the next few years, they were sure to get a handful of cracks in the playoffs. All good things come to those who wait. I was certain there was plenty of time.

As it turned out, at least as far as the next decade was concerned, there wasn’t.

The guy desperate for attention in the upper right? Yo.

This, of course, is one of the beautiful and fictional underlying assumptions of college and of youth: there is plenty of time.

Youth – and, perhaps, particularly time in college – is better spent under the misapprehension of invincibility. Would college really have been as fulfilling if every decision was safely guarded by thoughts of the future? Sure, I wouldn’t have had to explain certain indiscretions on my Bar Exam application, but maybe I wouldn’t have ended up sitting for that exam in the first place (and, incidentally, I can say with confidence that, if my mind were wholly preoccupied with “security” and “the future,” I probably wouldn’t now be writing meandering musings vaguely related to baseball for a “job”).

None of this is to say that recognizing the folly of invincibility – or suffering through the times that make that folly clear – is a bad thing. College, like so many short experiences, is made wonderful only by virtue of its fleeting nature.

Don’t believe me? I can prove it with a Cubs allusion. Just imagine the Cubs finally winning it all in 2012. Put yourself in that place. Feels pretty amazing, right? Now imagine that the Cubs had won every single World Series since 1908. Sure, it would have made the last 100 (and three) years far more tolerable, but how special and enjoyable would that 2012 championship really be? Think Yankee fans have any idea how good it’s going to feel for us when the Cubs finally win it all? This inherent contrast in the experience of life (without the low, the high isn’t as high; the fruit doesn’t taste as sweet until you’ve chewed on sand, and all that) is something I could only appreciate having experienced the relative shortness that was college, but is something I never could have fully appreciated while in college – no matter how many times grizzled vets might have tried to explain it to me. Youth isn’t wasted on the young; it simply isn’t meant for the aged.

In other words, I couldn’t have appreciated the brightest moments in my life until I’d experienced, and rejected, invincibility. Until I’d embraced the knowledge that my time, like yours, is fleeting. Until I’d recognized the value in discarding youthful assumptions. Until I’d aimed, at all times, to be present. Until I’d seen that ball glance off Steve Bartman’s hands.

The Earth turns beneath our feet, indifferent to our weight.

* * *

* * *

My dad died in his early 40s when I was 11.

Dad was a pitcher, upon whom life thrust circumstances that scuttled his baseball dreams before they began. The Detroit Tigers scouted him in high school, and it was easy to understand why. Dad was a big, strong athlete – 6’2”, 220lbs – with a great deal of talent, and a heck of a strong arm, to boot. (Unfortunately, I took after Mom’s side of the family (indeed, her father was a long-time sportswriter), and, at 5’8” and 150lbs, I never had a choice but to shoot for “scrappy.”) But, the responsibilities and requirements of a “normal” life called, and Dad satisfied his passion for baseball by teaching his sons the game, and coaching their little league teams.

Dad was an Orioles fan – I suppose, as a talented, lefty hurler in his high school days, the tremendous pitching staffs of the late 1960s/early 1970s Orioles appealed to him. But he never begrudged my Cubs fandom, which developed, as it did for many my age, over a daily ritual of racing home from school to catch afternoon baseball on WGN. I can only assume that, if he’d had more time, he would have come to love the Cubs like I do. I would have made sure of it.

Until recently, I always viewed his passing through the lens of a kid who grew up without his father. When I made the baseball team in high school, he wasn’t there to watch me play. When I married my wife, he wasn’t there to dance at our wedding. When I graduated from law school, he wasn’t there to shake my hand.

But now, I find myself thinking about his death through his eyes. Can you imagine dying in the prime of life, leaving behind a wife and young children? I choke myself up thinking about how difficult that must have been for him, not for me. He died knowing that, when I made the baseball team, he wouldn’t be there. He died knowing that, when my brother got married, he wouldn’t be there. He died knowing that he’d never meet the daughter he never even knew I had.

I turned 30 in November.

That’s certainly not “old,” but neither do I feel particularly young. Turning 30 shouldn’t have a great impact on my life – I’m fundamentally no different today than the day before I turned 30. It’s just that, the older you get, the more acutely you perceive the reality that time moves constantly, and in one direction.

And you find yourself thinking about all the things “they” say you think about at milestone ages. Have I done the right things? Am I where I’m supposed to be? Would my father be proud? If, too, die at 42, will I have done enough with my life? Do I have enough time to do those things that, in college, I thought I’d have forever to do?

I’ve got a beautiful, healthy daughter, and a warm, supportive wife. And I am, for the moment, doing my dream job. The first two, alone, give me a feeling in my belly that I’m doing all right in this life. The third is just gravy.

Still, for all those rational reminders from my conscious mind, I’m wont to think about my life. To think about important moments. To think about what those moments mean. To think about how they’ve shaped me.

Cliché city.

(On clichés: the older you get, the more you realize that clichés become clichés for a reason. We’ve got a lot in common, you and me – but, for some reason, folks throw around a buzz word to make us feel silly for wanting to share our connection.)

So, when I think about the heavy things we all ponder at these milestone ages, I’m reminded of that day eight and a half years ago. Game Six. Steve Bartman. Yes, that’s something I think about.

I know what that moment means to me as a Cubs fan. But what does it mean to me as a person? As a guy making his way through a life he hopes has meaning? As a guy wondering when his time will be up on this orb?

Obviously Steve didn’t reach for that foul ball in order to shape the contours of my life. But what if that moment, that reflex – that butterfly’s wings – shaped me nevertheless? Am I now where I would have been anyway if Steve had kept his hands in his pockets, Moises had caught the ball, the Cubs had won the NLCS, and then the Cubs had won the World Series?

Would I have done as much with the last eight and a half years? Would I have still thought myself invincible? How long might it have taken me to more fully appreciate that moments of true joy are both infrequent and earned? Am I … better for what happened?

I wonder what Dad would have thought about that game.

I can hear your thoughts. Don’t be so maudlin, you think. It’s just “sports.” There are greater tragedies in life.

And, there’s something to be said for the idea that many of us search for deeper meaning in the foibles of sports and fandom, when, sometimes, it’s just a game. But, here’s the thing: whatever deeper meaning I may or may not find in my ruminations about Bartman and the Cubs, I do know that being a loyal, heartfelt fan of a franchise like the Chicago Cubs says more about me than being an attorney ever did. So, there’s that.

I think it’s fair to wonder about the connection between Bartman’s hands and my life. To seek out the profound. To attach significance to things otherwise not grand – or to things not otherwise personally happening to me. That moment had an impact on my life. It had to.

And I think it’s fair to tie my fandom to my own mortality. It may seem, to some, grotesque to talk about my father’s death in the same breath as disappointment over Cubs playoff failures. I could see that. To me, it is grotesque to think that Dad – like thousands before and after him – lived and died without ever seeing the Cubs win it all.

It also seems quite natural to tie the deeper questions to the very moment we Cubs fans came so close to finally seeing something we’re desperate (dying?) to see. There are two hourglasses counting down for each of us: one marks the time we’ve got left, and one marks the time until the Cubs win it all. I hope the upper chamber of the former is more full of sand than the latter.

Cubs fandom and mortality are inextricably linked. And, each additional year the Cubs fail, I am reminded:

I am not invincible. I am not immortal. My time is limited.

* * *

* * *

‘Catching Hell’ was nominated for a Sports Emmy a couple weeks ago, and it could take home the award at the end of this month. Fitting that a film chronicling some of our lowest moments as Chicago Cubs fans might, itself, win the television documentary equivalent of a World Series title.

In case you didn’t know, and aren’t interested in sparing yourself the pain, ‘Catching Hell’ is a documentary by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (a Red Sox fan), focusing on Game Six of the 2003 NLCS, on the foul ball deflected by Steve Bartman, on the Bill Buckner error in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, and on the nature of scapegoating.

The film is enjoyable in a completely masochistic sense. There are genuine high points: Wayne Drehs self-consciously recounting the unenviable job of finding Steve Bartman a couple years after the 2003 NLCS. Matt Liston reacting live to each moment during Game Six. Eric Karros talking about that year with the Cubs. Watching the first seven innings of Game Six. The analysis of, and interviews with, the other folks who could have been “Bartman” if their arms had been just a bit longer, or seats just a bit closer.

And, as is the point: you leave the doc feeling pretty crummy about what happened to the man, himself. To Steve Bartman, fellow human being. Whatever he did or didn’t do – whatever cosmic effect he did or didn’t have – he was just a 26-year-old guy who loved the Cubs. In an instant, his life changed profoundly, forever, and for the worse. What must he have been thinking in that moment? The minutes after as the significance of what he’d done sank in, as the chants of “asshole” filled Wrigley Field, as the first thrown beer hit him in the face? How about the years after as he started living a new life?

I wonder if Steve ever thought he was invincible.

Even after eight and a half years, I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing.

The truth is, people are just people. Should Steve have kept his hands to himself? Should Cubs fans in the area have kept their horrible words to themselves? Sure and sure. But am I certain that I wouldn’t have reached? Wouldn’t have cursed at him? I’m not. I’m just people, too.

The documentary spends an inordinate amount of time on Bill Buckner and the 1986 Red Sox, which, perhaps because of how the last 10 years have unfolded, rubbed me the wrong way. It draws a heavy-handed parallel between Buckner and Bartman, which isn’t particularly apt. Outside of the superficial similarities – curses, Game Sixes, scapegoats – it’s hard to make a comparison between, on the one hand, a foul ball touched by a fan that may or may not have been one of 27 outs along the way to part of an NLCS win and, on the other hand, an easy ground ball that leads to an error and a World Series loss.

The Alex Gonzalez error probably would have been the better analog, and even that wasn’t all that close. The Cubs weren’t an out away from “ending the curse,” they were five outs and an entire series away. And the “story” wasn’t Gonzalez. It was Bartman.

Lost in the overwrought Red Sox/Cubs parallels was a far more notable connection. That the Red Sox finally won the World Series, one year after the Cubs lost in the NLCS, was, perhaps, the single greatest cosmic middle finger to Cubs fans that I can remember. Well, at least until the White Sox – who hadn’t won a World Series since 1917 – won the World Series the very next year.

While there were some things to like about the doc, for the most part, it just left me depressed about the 2003 season. That was such an unexpected, magical run, and I miss that feeling. Now I remember: 2003 was when it was supposed to happen. The film recreated those joys just long enough to leave me appropriately miserable when Bartman reached.

Miserable, and angry. Still angry.

Not just at Bartman, mind you. There was Alex Gonzalez, as discussed. And Mark Prior. And Kyle Farnsworth. And Derrek Lee (back when he was “the enemy” – how quickly we forgave him, eh?). And Bernie Mac singing “the champs.” And, of course, Dusty Baker, not only for stubbornly refusing to remove Prior as he fell apart before our eyes, but also for leaving Prior in to throw an unthinkable 116 pitches in Game 2, which the Cubs were winning 11-0 through five innings.

My misery probably only deepens with each passing year, bringing with it more unfair anger. If I didn’t keep reminding myself about Steve Bartman, the person, I’d probably be over moon with anger at Steve Bartman, the concept.

I’ve watched ‘Catching Hell’ three times on my DVR for the purposes of writing this article. At the end of having my heart torn open for a fourth time (once live, and thrice re-lived), I did what any sensible Chicago Cubs fan would do.

I bought a copy of the damn thing on Amazon.

* * *

* * *

I suppose in some ways, I should thank Mr. Bartman. As a foolish young man, largely ignorant of the briefness and finality of time, I came perilously close to realizing a dream I hadn’t yet dreamed. With Steve’s help, that dream was deferred until a day when, now, I can celebrate it completely, as one tasting his first drink of water after a month in the desert.

At least now I’ll appreciate it when the Cubs finally win the World Series.

You know, if it, like, happens. Ever.

I would love to be able to end this in its logical place of conclusion – a nicely wrapped box where I say that I’ve forgiven Steve Bartman, I’ve learned not to assume I’ll see the Cubs win it all, and I’m ready to take on my 30s.

But I can’t. It wouldn’t be real. It sounds like something I would have written in college. The truth is my feelings about Bartman remain mixed. My heart secretly tells me the Cubs will definitely, eventually win the World Series. And I’m already terrified of turning 40.

So much for growth. So much for the profound.

Instead, I’ll simply live my life. I’ll go pick up my daughter from daycare and hug my wife when she gets home from work. I’ll sit down at my computer and keep writing about the Chicago Cubs, believing in my heart that, someday, we’ll go all the way.

Probably.

  • Dan

    I don’t comment on here but I am constantly checking to see when you post, and read everything that you do. Thank you for writing this, I think most of us can relate to this piece in one way or another. I haven’t watched Catching Hell yet, but I plan to do so (not crazy about reliving that series but I feel like I should watch it)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Dan. Yeah, it’s definitely one of those things: not fun to watch, but certainly … interesting.

  • Rob

    Brett, thank you for this. I’m stuck at home on the couch with the flu. It made my day.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Happy to do it, Rob.

  • Mike O’Connor

    Nicely done. Will be turning 42 this year myself, and the one thing that surely does start nagging at you with the advance of years is the possibility that the Cubs won’t go all the way in my lifetime. What I had spent much of my youth assuming was an inevitability starts to loom as no longer a foregone conclusion, that I might never see October glory at Clark and Addison. But it’s still Our Game, a beautiful game, played in what for me is my favorite place on Earth (I’m never more at Zen peace with myself sitting at Wrigley-at least until Marmol walks the bases loaded in the 9th), and too many chips are cashed in at this point to turn my back on them. Intellectually I might sense the futility of this passion, but emotionally, I know my day is always better when they win, and always a little worse when they lose, and I don’t have the discipline to dismiss that behavioral response at this stage.

    I always tell people the problem with baseball is you make your team choice when you’re all of 7 years old, whereas every other “important” decision you make in your life, a la education, career, romance, you do from an informed vantage of prior experience. But being a Cub fan? It’s sometimes like starring in your own personal Book of Job, you just hope the Guy Upstairs keeps you around to actually see the Promised Land.

    Happy Opening Day, let’s go get ‘em.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Great stuff, Mike. Thanks for sharing that.

  • http://castorrated.wordpress.com CastorRated

    Great piece, Brett! Probably the best I have read on here. I turned 30 last July. I have felt many of the same sentiments you do. Without those questions about mortality and worth of one’s life and anticipation of good things left to come, there isn’t much more to be excited about. Just knowing that both hour glasses are emptying makes me want to live life with a calculated sense of invincibility. Enjoy every ounce you can while you can. Don’t pass up good opportunities, don’t be scared to follow your heart. And don’t be scared of committing yourself to a Cubs World Series. The lessons one learns about love (family and baseball), loss (also family and baseball), and humanity (not hating Bartman and understanding that we are all human) will go a long way towards appreciating and celebrating that time that it all comes together (whether that be in your life as a husband and father or in your life as a Cubs fan). It is amazing how these little moments of history, no matter how insignifcant in the grand scheme of life on this planet can greatly change and shape someone’s emotions and outlook on everyday life. I could go on forever about these topics and I probably will inside my own head for the rest of the afternoon in my office. But for now, keep it going. You have really put together some nice here. You are already living my dream of writing for a living. Great job! Someday, Brett. Someday.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, CR. It’s nice to get those wheels turning every now and again.

  • Bricky9

    Brett I loved this article. I sometimes feel like the elder statesman in the “BN” fold. As a fan of the Cubs fan for over 47 years the pain you describe was meated out over r40 years ago. In the summer of 1969 we knew in our hearts that the Cubs were going to win the world series. With such notable names as “Santo,Kessinger,Beckert,Banks,Hundley,Hickman,Williams,Jenkins,(the list goes on) How could we possibly lose? My heart was broken for the 1st time when the Cubs lost and placed 2nd to the “Miracle Mets” . That damned black cat. In 1984 the San Diego Padres stood in the way of the Cubs world series hopes. There was no way the Cubs could lose to the Padres,could they? I t started with a ball that went between the legs of Leon Durham. 1989,the San Francisco Giants.’98 The Braves. And it goes on and on. I can remember my uncle Adoplh “Sparky” Mengarelli born in 1919 expressing to me his disappointment with his beloved failures. The Cubs are a metaphor for life. Although their history is rife with failures,we love them because they represent hope. I have seen family and friends live and die with that hope that in their lifetimes the Cubs will win the greatest prize. Being a Cub fan is the ultimate in measuring character. There is no greater badge of honor in sports than being a devout fan of the Cubs. To spend a lifetime dedicating your heart to a team which has shown no propensity to win the ultimate prize for over ONE HUNDRED YEARS, is a true testament to the perseverance of us Cubs fans. Brett,I hope the drought ends soon,and hope you will not join uncle Sparky in is life,and inevitable death with out fulfillment. After a while,you will get used to the disappointment. As to Steve Bartman,I and all of my Cub fan friends who have endured the test of many years of failure feel the same way. He got screwed. Most of you don’t remember the black cat,or the Durham error. Steve Bartman was no more responsible for the Cubs collapse than that damned black cat.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for that, Bricky.

  • jstraw

    That was just great. Thanks Ace.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thank you, straw. Appreciate that.

  • BD

    Excellent article, Brett!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, BD.

  • Steve Lopez

    Great job Brett. Realy enjoyed it. Made me think back..and not be upset.
    Thanks!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha, well good. Thanks, Steve.

  • MichiganGoat

    Amazing my friend, this article was worth the wait- absolutely stellar writing. It’s been a pleasure watching this site grow and the quality of this piece is why BleacherNation is where we all visit like an addiction everyday, hour, and second. The next beer is on me buddy keep up the great work.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, as always, MG.

  • SouthSideCubFan21

    Great Work!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, SSCF.

  • mak

    Very nice piece. Enjoyed reading it — very relatable to someone in the same generation as well.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Mak.

  • Bricky9

    I think it’s worth noting that article was so good,we can say it’s the “cat’s pajamas”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha. Yes. That’s all I was going for.

  • JOF

    Brett, amazing article. I live in Ireland and on my first trip to Chicago in 2003, I went to Wrigley for the first time and my uncle explained the game to me. That day I fell in love with baseball and the Cubs. I support a soccer team here that wins regularly but the feeling of seeing them win year in year out will be nothing compared to seeing the Cubs win it all. Your article has just reminded me of why I love the Cubs.
    Thank you for your excellent insight.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Right on, JOF. Thanks.

  • ty

    thanks Brett! Emotional for a little kid who did not have much but the Cubs and now an old man who does not have much but the Cubs. Maybe that is enough!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, ty. I’m glad we all share the Cubs bond. I think it’s pretty great.

  • lgk1961

    First time for me, too, Brett. I love Bleacher Nation, so thank you! As for that fateful night of 10/14/03, it turned out to be the last game that I would attend with my father. My grand plan of treating him to the pennant clinching game for his 75th birthday went awry during that horrific 12 pitch sequence in the eighth inning. He passed away less than three months later. While we watched that foul ball and Alou’s subsequent tirade from our seats in Aisle 218, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mike Everitt’s name never comes up. To the best of my recollection, he was the umpire on the LF line that night that should’ve called fan interference due to Bartman’s hand crossing over the railing and deflecting the ball from Alou’s glove. Every time I see the play, slow motion or not, it’s clear to me that he reached into the field of play. If that call is made, things may have been different, although there’s no guarantee that Joe Borowski would’ve closed the door in the ninth.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Wow. Thank you for sharing that, lgk. I almost can’t bear to think about things like that, but I appreciate hearing it.

  • Cubbie Blues

    Great job Brett. That had to be hard to put yourself out there like that, but you really nailed it. I had to stop and reflect a little about my dad. He passed away 7 years ago last month (seems just like yesterday). I too think about everything in my life and my kids lives that he will miss. Thanks for making tears come to my eyes I really appreciate it, just kidding (a little).

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, CB. The lens of sports seems to lend itself to reflecting about fathers, it seems. It’s nice. And sad.

  • louis

    Awesome article man!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Louis.

  • cerambam

    I know this isnt the most important thing to take away from that article but what fraternity were you in ?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      ATO.

      • Cerambam

        Ahh Brett and i really liked you too I’m in delta tau delta and idk what the deal was in Miami, Ohio but here at U of I Urbana champaign we don’t have to good a relationship with ATO haha

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          You’ll like me even less: when I was at Miami, we took the Delts’ house.

  • Dustin S

    Prior to reading this article today I was just thinking about my uncle who passed away last summer. He was 78 (cancer), and had lived a unique life of doing everything from being a medic on the front lines in the Korean War to selling peanut brittle door to door. But foremost he was an avid Cubs fan. So with the new season starting and me being 42 I couldn’t help but wonder if I will be in the same situation as him years from now…still waiting for *the* season when my time comes. Then I realize that being a lifelong Cubs fan is who I am…it’s the (maybe a little crazy) patience and optimism. I hope it does happen while I’m around to be able to enjoy it with my family.

    This was a great read, thanks for sharing. Like others have said I think we can all relate. I was in a frat at Illinois in Champaign and this took me back to some fond crazy memories.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for that, Dustin.

    • Cerambam

      Are you Dustin Stern, Dustin S?

  • Doc Evans

    “At Wrigley, the Lord only taketh away.” Brilliant. There should be a shirt that says this.

    From a psychologist’s standpoint (take it easy Freud), I’d guess that the section regarding your Father was very cathartic and rewarding.

    Keep on writing Brett. You brighten the days of so many people, including my own. Thank you for what you do.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Doc. It was. I think he would have liked it.

  • Katie

    Wonderful article Brett! Thank you for sharing these moments from your life.

    I will never forget 2003. I was pregnant and due in early September. I spend an incredible amount of time watching the Cubs that season. The closer I got to my due date, the better the Cubs seemed to get. I went into labor on the morning of August 23rd. I can remember being scared and walking the halls of the maternity ward with my dad. I remember vividly discussing the Cubs, particularly their starting rotation. Arguing over just “how good” Zambrano and Prior were. I know now that my dad was trying to take my mind off the task ahead of me, and this was his way of calming his one daughter who was about to give birth to his first grandchild. The Cubs were playing the Cardinals on that day at 1:20. My son was born at 1:30 and soon after he was born I had the TV on and held my beautiful baby boy. It was the first of many games we watched together and it was the happiest day of my life.

    As the season went on I was giddy at the prospect of having two monumental things happen within months of each other. The birth of my son and the Cubs winning it all HAD to be a cosmic event, didn’t it? I will never ever forget THAT night and THAT play. The subsequent booting of the inning ending double play. At that moment I just knew it was over and I was devastated. Yes, it’s just a game but Brett, you verbalized just how much an event in a game can change people’s lives forever.

    • Fishin Phil

      Damn! Now I need another drink.

      • MichiganGoat

        Like you need an excuse… Cause I don’t

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Katie. And, yup – sounds about right.

      • Katie

        Thanks Phil, MG, and Brett! Again, amazing article!

  • Jeff

    This my first commit on this site I read it everyday. But this was an excellent piece. Thanks for all your hard work Brett.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Jeff.

      • MichiganGoat

        Wow we must have 100 Jeffs… But welcome Jeff glad to have you around

  • WiscoCubbie

    This is just fantastic. Well done Brett! I actually wrote a paper last semester on how the Bartman play significantly changed my fandom. Can’t focus on anything today but Cubs baseball. Happy Opening Day everyone!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Wisco.

  • hansman1982

    Here is my attempt at being serious for the day.

    I was in Advanced Training at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds that fall and was watching the game with some buddies, and out of the whole mess that was those 6 months of basic and advanced training for the Army that play with Gonzalez is probably one of 4 moments that stand out to me.

    Within a month I had graduated training and was assigned to the 1st Cav and told I was shipping out to Iraq and shortly after Opening Day 2004 I was standing looking at the Tigris River out my base’s back gate thinking, great, I am going to be stuck over here when the Cubs win it all.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      So, at least you didn’t miss out, right?

      (I tell you what, that last month of 2004 was MISERABLE.)

  • Lokanna

    Thank you for sharing Brett. That article not only invokes the inner turmoil I constantly deal with on a yearly basis by being a Cubs fan, but also the conflicted nature of that fateful 2003 NLCS game.

    I know some to some people that sports is “just a game,” but Cubs fan know all to well how emotions can swing from dismal lows to stellar highs by the performance of a group of men who you follow on a daily basis to see if they can play better than someone else’s favorite team. Thanks to my father, who on 4/23, will be begin a fairly in depth set of surgeries for his heart, I am a life long Cubs fan. Sure, we have the obligatory White Sox black sheep uncle in the family, but we just point and laugh at him as a true Cubs fan should do. Thanks to my dad, his love for sports, and his insistence on listening to WGN Radio games and napping in the afternoon to Harry and Steve, I developed a desire to watch the pin stripes take the field under windy conditions and watch as my childhood idles battled to odds.

    The 80′s were my “high point” as a Cubs fan. Playing little league, I did my best to emulate my favorite Cub, Ryne Sandberg. I chose #23, played 2nd base, and took pride in my defense and playing the game the right way. I too raced home to watch the Hawk hit another home run, or Grace scoop a ball out to save an errant throw from Dunston. All of that is a fresh memory in my mind as I hear Harry belt out his trade mark “Holy Cow!” and “Lemme hear ya! Ah 1, Ah 2, Ah 3…. Take me..” It seems like yesterday.

    All of those memories flooded into my head during the 2003 campaign. Watching the new vanguard, as you so eloquently named, in your article brought smiles to my face. That is, until ‘The Game.’ Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and looking back, you have to wonder if SOMETHING could have been done to fight off destiny. Could the manager visit the mound to settle down Prior? Could the Umpire have called fan interference? Might a pitching change sooner negate all of that? Or perhaps, could the person upstairs have made the wind blow juuuuuuust a bit more to the right to bring that ball further back into play?

    Anything can happen, and nothing is any one players fault. It makes my stomach churn thinking back to that game. My youthful anger comes back with such fire and passion that I have a hard time remembering the journey to even get to the playoffs that year.

    But with all that said, with all that history, and in my father’s name, I am, and will ALWAYS be, a Chicago Cubs fan. Nothing can change that, it’s who and what I am. In fact, for all the “maybe next year’s” and “spring training can’t come soon enoughs”, I hold my head high and proudly announce my baseball affiliation. Because when the Cubs do win the World Series (and they will damnit!), I will reach for my phone to call my dad and say “We did it dad! We finally got to see it.”

    I just hope he’s around long enough to witness it.

    Thanks Brett, for taking me down memory lane and reminding me why I’m a Cub fan for life.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Glad it did that for you, Lok. And thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Josh

    Brett that was beautiful, I cant say I have the life experience you do because of me being only 14 at the moment, but I can say I felt the pain that every Cub fan felt that day. I felt anger because of a guy I didnt even know at 5 years old. I didnt even know all the rules of baseball at the time and i felt terrible pain. The Cubs are my life, my bar mitzvah was dedicated to the cubs with sign in front of wrigley as my welcoming board. I check to see if there are any new posts on your site at least 5 times a day. i dont know what im trying to say anymore but thanks Brett for writing that, it was a pleasure to read and im sure i’ll read it again sometime.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thank you, Josh.

  • SirCub

    You just don’t find this stuff on White Sox blogs. There is something special about being a Cubs fan. Thanks for sharing, Brett.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thank you, Sir.

      • SirCub

        No, thank you.

    • MichiganGoat

      They are too busy planning hate crimes

  • Bric

    The one thing I remember was Bernie Mac saying “The champs” instead of the Cubs. I already knew he was a Sox fan and didn’t begrudge him that, but after the disaster that followed I laid blame squarely on his shoulders. He put the hex on us all. At least that’s the way I remember it. I’m just glad I’m not the only one who noticed when it happened and still remembers too.

  • gritsngravy

    Great read Brett. I am turning 30 in June so I can relate. I remember where I was and how I felt when I saw it all slip away. I remember sitting there with my buddies who were braves fans because I am originally from south Louisiana they were yelling and screaming and all I can remember is seeing there lips moving but not hearing anything. I some how knew at the point in the game when alex g booted the double play ball that it was over. I saw the documentary catching hell on espn and I enjoyed it. It brought back alot of memories of both Cubs baseball and life. With the bad memories of the baseball season came great memories of life. You do a great job with this sight and I spend alot of time on it during work.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks GnG. Appreciated.

  • Justin

    Great read. It’s strange how much of this parallels to my own life just one generation sooner. Sitting watching game 6 as a 14 year old on his golden birthday is a birthday present I could have only dreamed of the years prior, but when it finally concluded that “gift” was one I did not want. I shall never forget that day as I know most of the people who read the article would agree. Being a college student, now only makes that team seem so distant in the past and the return of an era of Cubs baseball like that even more so in the other direction. I hope when the time finally comes and the Cubs win it all that looking back on 2003 from that moment in time will seem like a shinier past then it does now. Here’s to always looking forward and going where ever this crazy world takes us.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Justin.

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