I am a football guy – and – a baseball fan.
In all honesty, I cannot count myself part of Cubbie Nation. Legion. Or whatever it is called.
I am not a band wagoner.
I even declined my mom’s offer for championship hats and shirts.
I feel that I did not earn them.
But after witnessing this World Series, especially that soon to be legendary game 7, I may have to pay more attention to the happenings over on Wrigley Field.
It’s not that the Cubs are foreign to me.
Growing up in Hinsdale, the games were always on. Heck, back in the day, I got heapin’ helpins’ of both Cubs and Blackhawk games on trusty ol’ channel 9.
Even when I was getting my haircut at the York Barbershop, more often than not, we were all watching the Cubs play. And it was understood that the cut could take a little longer if there were men on base and no outs.
I remember Ron running off the field and clicking his heels after a win.
Ernie making the plea to play two.
Billy, Glenn, Randy, Fergie and Don.
Listening to Jack before Harry took center stage.
And all the good-natured ribbin’ between all of us Chicagoans and my Pekin grandpa “the Cardinals fan”.
As a baseball fan, I absolutely love the way the game is played in October.
Now, even more so considering how my game is being played.
It is just different.
Especially this time.
As my daughters will attest, or protest, when we attend camp or watch football games “the coach goggles” are always on.
And putting them on for this series made everything about each moment totally riveting.
I swear I could “see” what Coach Maddon was doing.
Not just for each at bat, inning and game, but all those going forward. Next season and those beyond.
A steady hand was crucial this time of year in particular.
For as things began to unfold, one would think there wasn’t enough Tums in the world to quell the dyspepsia being generated.
Like, for example, after game four.
But Coach Maddon never flinched.
He remained deliberate in his words and actions. He stayed firmly in the moment, yet with an eye on the horizon.
But most of all, he was careful to preserve the confidence in all his players – despite dire circumstances – even while demanding the most from them.
Case in point – Aroldis Chapman.
Many will beg to differ, but it took brass ones to keep going back to that kid, even once his pitching arm started hanging lower than the other one.
I bet the tears he shed coming off the field, heading into the rain delay weren’t those of relief.
I bet they were of joy. Flowing because Coach Maddon believed in him.
And there were others.
But Coach kept at it. Finally, at one for eighteen, the kid did it.
Right when they needed it.
Maddon understands that he has a group of kids that could play together for the next 10 years – well into their baseball prime.
He recognized two utterly interrelated things regarding confidence that he needed to accomplish simultaneously.
They had to win now to set the foundation to win many, many more going forward.
Call it commitment, confidence, belief or faith.
Whatever it was, he held it all together.
Those kids tapped into it.
Did the same.
And then some.
To be a witness to that proved an amazing experience for this old man.
It cemented me.
Not just as a fan.
But now as a baseball guy.
For no matter your allegiance, this is precisely what us sports people desperately needed.
To experience what it is supposed to be about.
A team effort – from bottom to top and back down again.
Like no other I have seen – even through my coach’s goggles.
A feeling I know of and can relate to.
A goal I will strive to duplicate, whether at work or as I coach each fall on Friday nights.
My fervent hopes?
That those kids will stay grounded and maintain a deep sense of gratitude for what they are together.
That all those real Cub fans understand what Tom, Theo and Joe have put together.
And that those same fans will shut up about the moves these guys make and the things they do.
Cause it seems to me they all totally get it.
From bottom to top and back down again.
My 25 cents.