Tuesday, September 18, 2007

don't tempt the gods

on the heels of a game like that, it's very easy to believe that everything is coming up metaphysical roses. mark derosa's capping of a gutty ninth in what had been to that point a dismally played affair makes a lot of wrongs right.

but please -- have more respect for your history than to run around as though the cubs have won something or pretending that something magically ordained is happening. even novice cub fans have been here before, and old heads really ought to know better. remember 2004? remember 2001? nothing here is determined and nothing is sure -- except that whom the gods would destroy they first make mad with hubris.

as i strolled to my train in from the suburbs this morning, coming the other way i encountered some middle-aged guy wearing a cub hat, 1984-style pullover jersey and carrying a glove and ball. breaking a longstanding morning rule of not talking to anyone before my second cup of coffee, i asked him if he was coming back from last night's game.

then i remembered why that rule is a rule -- this poor fellow was exactly the sort of cub fan i tend to avoid, but i was too sleepy to read him at a distance. driven to a jittery state that mimics mild mental dysfunction by the agitations of the season, wild eyes and some speak-shouting about "oCtObEr bAsEbAlL!!" told me all i needed to know and i averted my eyes with a quick laugh and kept on walking.

naturally that wasn't punishment enough. the guy followed me into my train car, chattering aimlessly about the cubs, holding the venti four-shot latte that he surely shouldn't have had and that i desperately regretted not having had before i opened my yap. over the next half-hour, as i came to find he was on his way to the game today and not home from yesterday's, every molecule of caffiene he drank was thoroughly metabolized into the venom of hubris. the poor guy actually talked about which american league team he'd like to play in the world series (his thought: the yankees, because "you want to beat the best"). to him, milwaukee was as much an afterthought as the white sox, their inferiority so blindingly apparent to him that every mention was colored by contempt. the whole scene was such a caricature of the cub-fan-escape-beyond-reason that i unconsciously began to look for the candid camera.

when folks like this are afoot, my friends, the gods are being tempted.

the cubs have now won six of their last seven to get to 11-7 in september -- and it's hard not to get carried away with that kind of run. but the resurgent brewers are 10-5 and look to this old cub fan like the perfect instrument of an ironic deity. one has several reasons to expect to come out ahead on what little remains of this year. the cubs play no one -- a brilliant schedule of patsies in cincinnati, pittsburgh and florida -- while milwaukee gets atlanta and san diego. the cubs have a couple off days to rest the bullpen; the brewers have none. best of all, the cubs still cling to that one-game lead.

if you're a cub fan, this is all good news. but -- if you're truly a cub fan -- if you don't expect some shoes to drop you haven't been paying attention. indeed, the sum of it all is, to jaded eyes, simply to add a couple rungs to the ladder the team can fall from.

by all means, enjoy it. the promise of an autumn pennant run is why we bother to endure years like 2006.

just don't tempt the gods. don't look forward. don't look back. live fully in the moment and keep your head down. that's the only and best advice i have.

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