I love baseball. I really love baseball. I love that when I turn on a game I see the same players every day and the images of thousands of people in the stands whom I will never see again.
I love bearing witness to the joy on a young girl’s face as she catches a foul ball unexpectedly in a life changing ‘dream come true’ instant. I love the role weather plays in a game, the umpires who often frustrate me, and the fact that the players hit a ball in the hope to get “home.”
Baseball happens in real time and there is no faking it. There is very little storytelling in the world right now that fits that criteria, and this brings me to part of why I love baseball so deeply - the stories; stories of everyone on the field and in the seats; tens of thousands of stories present behind the eyes of each person at every game.
I may not know the specific details of these personal legends, but there is an awareness of the certainty of these stories that deepens my love of the game as the years go on.
I’m always surprised by how much baseball adds to my life. A theater professional and champion of independent pathways, I never thought I’d be writing an article like this.
My viewpoint may be different than that of a statistical whiz or knowledgeable historian, but somehow the language of baseball and its vocabulary has seeped into me. From the squeeze play to defensive indifference, it is an unexpected love -- unpredictable, life changing and ever growing.
And as love often does, it can drive me crazy as much as it makes me sigh in revelation.
So, to celebrate the 2017 World Series (and mourn the end of a stellar Yankees season) I take us back to last year’s World Series with a story about the impact of baseball on a cynical chap who used to be my boss…
(I tell this story in Honor of Joe Maddon, the Cubs' current manager and out-of-the-box thinker who has inspired me both as an artist and human being since I started seriously following him during his time with Tampa Bay. Thank you, Joe.)
In November of 2014 this ex-boss and I made a playful “bet.” Here’s how it happened…
“The Cubs got Joe Maddon!” I enthusiastically beamed to my administrator as he sat at his desk, uninterested, eating a sandwich.
I knew how much it would mean to this guy for the Cubs to win a World Series, as we’d talked baseball for years.
Though he seemed tough enough to deal with the blows that came with being a Cubs fan, and though he’d built up that resilience over his life, I could still see the little boy in him who dreamed that it might actually happen one day. So I went into his office to share my excitement, knowing I’d most likely not get a response that matched it.
I went on to talk about how much I admired Joe, explaining that if anyone could lead the Cubs into a World Series win, it would be Joe Maddon.
My then-boss looked up at me and challenged me good! It was suddenly me vs. him, hope vs. cynicism -- a cynicism that protected him. It's a cynicism we’re all familiar with.
“If the Cubs EVER win,” he said, “I’ll give you (insert a monetary amount that you’d find compelling here), and I’ll symbolically cut my hand and smear the blood on my face, wiping away all my cynicism forever.”
All his cynicism about everything? I thought. Symbolic blood? Is this a Greek tragedy?
Cubs fans are serious.
Obviously, I took that “bet,” not really knowing if it would be two years or ten until it happened (but in my heart, I really felt it would happen).
Now, we all know what happened in 2016, but the question is…did this Cubs fan do what he said and come through on his side of the “bet”?
The answer is yes. At least with part of it.
After that Game 7 between the Cubs and the Indians (One of the best games I’ve ever seen, and will probably ever see) when the Cubs got that jubilant last out, I texted my ex-boss/now friend this message…
“And there you go….”
Right then he Venmo’d me (insert a monetary amount that you’d find compelling here), and in the subject line wrote, “Magic.”
To see the word “magic” in this response from him made me well up with tears. To think of the little boy in him typing that word on the other side of this life-long ride and incredible season, I thought…
“What a great story.”
One of millions last year.
Now, I have no idea if he has rid his life of cynicism or not (or if that’s even necessary), but I do know this:
When I see him now we are different with each other. Something has changed for both of us.
Here’s to the 2017 World Series! Go Astros!! Man, do I love watching Jose Altuve.