Believe it or not, these are the times that I'm happiest to write for an (albeit small) audience. On the walk back home last night and until I fell asleep, I thought of no less than 20 different angles and leads for what I wanted to present as my public take on the most heartbreaking sports collapse I've witnessed in exactly 19 years. It's challenging for me to swallow snap judgements and opinions. But I know that I'm capable of providing perspective and a voice of reason and occasional humor.
There is a line in a Chicago Tribune article today that says something like "Losing is dying lite." Sports obviously escapes the finality of death because there is always another game tomorrow or next spring, but plenty of Cub fans have been grieving since the 5th inning yesterday if not much longer. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book called On Death and Dying in which she outlines her theory on the 5 stages of grief. I saw evidence of every one of the stages in myself and the people around me at the game.
- Denial and Isolation (No, not me, it cannot be true) - The 44 year old northside electrician on my left had to get up around the 7th inning and told me he wouldn't be coming back. "I need to spend some time alone up at the fence."..."This can't be happening."
- Anger (Why me?) - "Baker, you suck!"..."Why is Veres in there?"...Large drunk punches the wall.
- Bargaining (Yes, me ... but) - "Please, God, just this one time."..."I'll build my dog a house made out of Old Style cans if you just let the Cubs get to the World Series."
- Depression (Yes, me) - My head in my hands for the final 2 innings...The woman 2 rows behind me with tears in her eyes...The people at home today because they just didn't feel like they could go to work.
- Acceptance (It's okay) - I guess this is where I am at now, because this season was fantastic and unexpected. It made me smile more than it hurt. Next year really does sound promising. And we got flat out beat by a better team, no matter what you think. Yes, we were close, and that makes it sting, but we got beat and I tip my cap.
I am glad I was at the game, even though it was so difficult to be in the midst of that amount of negative feeling and frustration for the latter half. I'll be in line next February (as I am every February) for my tickets. Let me know if you want to go.
Ugh. I sympathize. I want to go lay down now.
And can we talk about money now? Hendry made the Trib cough up more than it normally permits the Cubs by showing MacPhail and his overlords exactly who the team needed in order to contend - and he proved he knew how to spend the few crumpled bills very well. That, and the fact that the post-season drummed up a Cubs frenzy the Trib accountants weren't capable of imagining before, might open the purse strings even further this off-season. If Hendry can coax the salary budget up to the 100m level that the traditional contenders live by, there'll be plum free agents out there hoping to be plucked by the most popular team in the league. (Also, everybody seems to want to play for Dusty.)
One of the lessons the Marlins taught us is that it's not enough to just have adequate players in almost every position, as novel as that idea was to us, if your goal is to go all the way. Other than the bullpen, the Cubs don't really have holes to plug, but it's time now to think beyond competency. And way beyond bargain hunting. Now is the time for Hendry to grease some serious cherry-picking cash out of the Trib pants pocket and spend it like a junior Steinbrenner gone ape-wild.
Names that should be available:
Miguel Tejeda at short, Richie Sexson at first, Keith Foulke to close
Throwing money at a team doesn't always do it. Ask the Mets and Dodgers. And look at the Twins who do well without the big buck stars. It clearly made a difference for the Cubs this season and if Hendry continues to go after the right sort of guys, it should work out.
Great point about how the postseason frenzy showed the Trib what sort of dough can be made. Because we all know that's the thing the Trib cares about (like all for-profit companies should): the bottom line.