Cubs fans are a funny bunch. Down 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth, 2 outs, and up comes Darwin Barney (winner of April's NL Rookie of the Month and a personal favorite) to the plate. At this crucial juncture the game, the Cubs have mustered 2 hits against
So, there were the Cubs, down 10-0 on a rainy afternoon in Chicago. I might've left the game a couple of innings ago, but I was lucky enough to be in a box (dessert cart!!!), thanks to my friend Andrew. Since the game has been out of hand for a couple innings, my friend Nick and I have turned to an old past time to create interest- 25 cent bets. After some disastrous bets on my part- I trusted a little too much in Neil Walker- I was down 75 cents. So here's Darwin Barney, stepping up, and I turn to Nick and say, "Double or Nothing- Darwin Barney gets a hit." Nick thoughtfully chews on his S'More cake and finally shakes my hand, solidifying the bet. I start cheering, the last thing I can do to influence Darwin. Nick and I had this conversation earlier- the only possible thing we can do to influence the game is cheer, and that's exactly what I'm doing.
Barney goes down 0-2 quickly. In my head, I'm already thinking about how I'm going to pay Nick his $1.50, what I'll do to make it up to him. I sarcastically say that Darwin hits better when he's down 0-2, anyway, and prepare for the inevitable strikeout or groundout that comes next. And then, remarkably, Barney hits an infield bloop that falls perfectly between the pitcher running out and the shortstop charging in. The throw to first is too late, and Darwin Barney has singled and saved me $1.50.
Of course, at this point, I'm screaming with joy, celebrating the timely hit, number 3 for the Cubs all game. But oddly enough, the rest of the stadium is cheering with me. All 10,000, give or take, fans that have remained at the game, the hopeless souls who still believed, are wildly cheering, half with sarcasm, half with hope. A chant of "Let's Go Cubs!" is heard throughout the stadium. Up next is Starlin Castro, the lone bright spot for the Cubs in this game, and, for the most part, this season. The remaining fans are as energetic as they can be, trying to will Starlin to start the most improbable comeback, the one that every person remaining has secretly been harboring in their head, the one they might've sarcastically talked about before but now that notion is playing around in the back of their head, and they'll be one of the glorious few who stayed at the game and saw the Cubs come back from 10 runs. The story of a lifetime. We've been beaten down for years, for more than a century, but we'll be there at the very end waiting for the small chance of joy, these 10,000.
Starlin takes a couple pitches, and then hits a fly ball almost straight to the right fielder. The fans initially see it and hope for a home run, and make the excited sound for a half second before it is cut off by the realization that this game is over. And, like that, the game is over. No comeback, no Go Cubs Go today, no W flag hanging over Wrigley.
Yet that moment of excitement after Darwin's hit is still there, that residual feeling. While some of my friends just say that the Cubs suck, my friend Andrew has a different feeling, half joking, but at heart, we want it to be true. "I think that Darwin Barney hit was the turning point for the season, no, the franchise," he says, "I want to look back and tell my kids that I was there when Darwin Barney hit a bloop single in the bottom of the ninth. Sure, Starlin Castro popped out the next play, but it changed things."
I stopped, turned in my All Star Ballot (Starlin at shortstop!) and say, "If the wind was blowing out, that would be a home run."
We talk about more things as we zombie shuffle out of Wrigley, like how every shirt or jersey we buy for a player ends up with him sucking or leaving (That's why I didn't buy a Starlin T-Shirt, and perhaps Andrew saying he got a D-Rose jersey explains some things from the Bulls series..), about the Champions League, what have you, but the exchange about the wind sticks in my mind.
We're Cubs fans. Even in the face of a three hit shutout at the hands of Paul Malholm, an absolute drubbing by the Pirates, we're standing and cheering after a 2 out single, waiting for the wind, for once, to be blowing our way, for the impossible release of joy to occur. It's pathetic, but we're locked in. At this point, it's been too long for us to give up, can't admit that we've wasted any time supporting the Cubs. We've subscribed to the fact that one day we'll get it. Till then, I'll be right there with ya till the ninth inning, looking to the flags to see if they're finally flapping out.