Baseball more than a pastime, columnist says

Story by Thom Fountain

Monday was opening day for most major leaguers and just about every fan. Every team, American League or National, started that day with a clean slate. Each club started with a certain ounce of hope that this could be their year. This could be their chance to head deep into October and cement their legacies in the history books and Hall of Fame.

A few hours into the day, however, my fleeting hope was shattered in an embarrassing 16-5 loss. Just another notch in the belt of a Chicago Cubs fan.

For those of you not aware of the Cubs’ tenured relationship with heart-crushing failure, let me run you through the short way. The Cubs were on top of the world in the early 1900s, winning the World Series in 1907 and 1908 and returning seven more times between then and 1945. That would be the last year the Chicago north-siders would make an appearance in the Series. From then on the Cubbies made notable runs in the ’60s, ’80s and the last decade but could never seal the deal.

Needless to say, I grew up realizing the crushing blow that can be failure.

I was born and raised to sanctify the game we know as America’s pastime. I can remember running off the school bus into a house filled with the sounds of WGN radio, with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, longtime Cubs announcers, bantering about the game at hand. There wasn’t a summer night that I wasn’t out with my mom or dad tossing the ball back and forth, placing my fingers along the red laces trying to find the perfect release point of my split-finger fastball.

For me, watching baseball was more than just a way to relax; it was a way to connect to my family and to find my own identity while growing up. I lived in eight houses between kindergarten and senior year, but no matter where I resided, I was a Cubs fan. No matter what school I was going to, I could name the starting rotation and most of the bullpen. It was a constant that ran through my life and kept stability wherever I was.

Glorifying the ’69 Cubs (one of the greatest teams in the history of the game that befell a crushing collapse at the end of the season to the now famous Miracle Mets) wasn’t about the past. It was about the excitement of watching the ball roll off of Greg Maddux’s hand with my mom and dad and the hope we shared for the next 161 games.

And that’s the hope I have carried my whole life. It’s only April, and there are six months of baseball to come. Say what you will about the Cubs or the game of baseball, but I can say it has had a profound impact on who I am as a person. One hundred years of not winning the big one, changes in players and management and even a 16-5 defeat won’t change that.

Fountain is a sophomore liberal studies major and currents editor of The Spectator.