Those of us who have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous Red Sox teams over the years, only to have the dark night of the soul lightened up a bit in 2004 and 2007 with World Series wins, sometimes forget that there are longer-suffering (and equally deserving) baseball brethren just 1,000 miles down I-90.
I speak, of course, of those who love the Chicago Cubs.
I am the daughter of one of them.
My mother, however, married into what we now know as Red Sox Nation, where her children and grandchildren are native born citizens. (Attention birthers: we have proof.)
But she left behind a family of Chicago Cubs fans.
My aunt, Mary Wolf Dineen, is one of them.
Red Sox fans used to piss and moan about all those seven game the near misses. 1946, 1967, 1975, 1978 (when ‘we’ didn’t even make it to the World Services, thanks to ‘Bucky f-in Dent’), 1986…
How’d you like to root for a team that hasn’t been to “the show” since 1945? And hasn’t won it all since 1908.
That would be the heartbreakingly hapless Chicago Cubs.
In 2003, it actually looked like there might be a Red Sox-Cubs World Series, a television dream scenario if ever.
The Cubs remained true to form, and the Red Sox reverted to form, and The Miracle of the Two Ancient Ballparks never happened. After our teams went down, I called my Aunt Mary to commiserate. Mudville One calling Mudville Two, I greeted her.
Anyway, Aunt Mary is one of 10 finalists in the Cubs “It’s a Way of Life” essay contest. If she wins, she’s going to get to throw out the ball at a Cubs game.
She’s been a Cubs fan for all of her 85 years. And she needs your vote. Even though fan votes only count for 20% of the Cubs decision.
In other words, rather than leave it up to whichever finalist had the best viral voting apparatus, they’re going to make a decision in the best interests of
baseball Cubs’ marketing. This will be a tough one. In addition to my aunt, there’s another older-gen fan. Then there’s the young woman who named her kids Wrigley and Addison (the street that Wrigley Park is located on).
Do the Cubbies go with sentiment? Trust me, I know how these Olde Towne Teams crank up ye olde history. (Johnny Pesky Day, anyone? And OMG, what we’re going to have to go through in 2012 when Fenway Park turns 100.)
But smart marketers – and Major League Baseball is full of them - also want to make sure they appeal to the rising generation of fans. You know , the kind that will name their kids Addison and Wrigley.
Not that I know about these other candidates by listening to their pitches or reading their essays on the Cubs site. No, in keeping with an almost unbroken tradition, I decide early on who I’m voting for, and read the news and watch the debates only to make sure that “my” candidate doesn’t blow it. And I’m almost strictly a party line voter. So, since there’s no way I’m going to vote for the other guy, why should I listen to his platform? What I know of the Cubbie competition comes from my cousin Ellen, who was with her mother when they went to Wrigley on the day the essay finalists were filmed.
I ask you to do the same thing I did and ignore those other candidates.
Just head to the polls and vote for Mary D. (Who, by the way, looks exactly like my mother and who also looks a good 10 years younger than her 85 years. Mary is what we all want to be at 85: active, engaged, vigorous, alert, opinionated, and still watching baseball.) My aunt’s a bit nervous in the video – in real life, Mary would never say talk about “her children” – she’d say “my kids”.
Listening to Mary talk about being a Cubs fans reminds me of the role that baseball – more than any other sport – has played in the Americanization of immigrants and their children.
My aunt talks about scoring games she listened to on the radio, and mentions that she doesn’t know how she learned that a “K” was a strike. Probably not from her parents, German immigrants who stepped off the boat – my mother in tow - a couple of years before Mary was born, and struggling to build their life in the New World. What would they know about how to score Tinkers to Evers to Chance. My grandfather, though, did become a baseball fan along with becoming an American citizen.
It’s interesting to note that, while she was born a North Sider, my aunt moved after her marriage to the South Side (White Sox territory) closer to where my uncle Ted (also a native North Sider) worked. Her kids and grandkids are a mix of Cubs and White Sox fans, which is the way the world works.
But Mary’s a Cubbies girl all the way. It’s been her way of life for a good many years – and, we’re all hoping, a good many more.
You can vote until noon (Chicago time) on June 2nd. What are you waiting for?
UPDATE – JUNE 6
No info yet on the Cubs web site, but it was announced during this afternoon’s game that my aunt won the contest. I just got off the phone with Mary, and she is thrilled.