Saturday October 22nd, 2016.
My hometown team had already been eliminated, the Toronto Blue Jays sent on immediate vacation by the Cleveland Indians, the Indians advancing to the World Series. There had been the worrisome possibility that my hometown team would end up meeting Dr. M’s hometown team the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. So we dodged the connubial bullet on that one.
But there was still the Los Angeles Dodgers, my adopted home team whom – “which”, “that, I have no idea – I had followed since my L.A. arrival in 1974 and whose whipsawing up’s and down’s I had endured throughout this entire Division-winning season.
Vying for the right to meet the Indians in the “Fall (bordering on winter) Classic”, the Dodgers were squaring off in a “Best-of-Seven” series against the Cubs.
I did not anticipate a problem. Dr. M does not normally follow baseball (or any other sport.) We did go to a Cubs game in Spring Training in Arizona last March, from which her strongest recollection of the experience was the authentic Portillo’s “Italian Beef” sandwich she enjoyed, shipped in directly from Chicago. She rooted a little, but mostly not to be bored. And not think about another “Italian Beef” sandwich.
The Dodgers-Cubs playoffs arrive. I look beside me and there she is – uncharacteristically, to say the least – watching the games with me. And reminder, “tick-tick-tick”…
We are not rooting for the same team.
Now you have to be sensitive with Cubs fans. They had not won the World Series since 1908, or even participated in the World Series since 1945. (Longtime Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse once philosophically opined, “Any team can have a bad century.”)
They came close a couple of times, but something inevitably transpired, enabling the Cubs to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Is that right? What I am saying is, they always lost.
This experience can take its toll on people.
Consider Dr. M’s inability to remain in the room during “Game 4”, a game the Cubs were at the time leading 10 to 2. Battered by history, she fervently believed the roof was about to imminently cave in.
They’re leading 10 to 2, for heaven’s sake. And she is unable to stay in the room!
The League Championship Series proceeds, the Cubs enjoying a three-games- to-two series lead. Implication to the uninitiated: The Cubs need to win one more game to advance to the World Series. For them to advance, the Dodgers have to win both “Game Six” and “Game Seven.”
The subject of baseball comes up as we lunch with friends before “Game 6”, and I hear Dr. M sagely – and pessimistically – observe:
“We probably won’t win ‘Game 6.’ Kershaw is pitching for the Dodgers.”
My head whips around to confirm who said that. It appears some baseball “insider” has taken over my wife’s body.
“Look who knows ‘Kershaw’!” I exclaim in shock, confusion, admiration and surprise, not necessarily in that order.
At which point a woman from a nearby table chimes in,
“That’s because he’s cute.”
It’s true – Kershaw is cute. But I believe Dr. M’s trepidations about Kershaw taking the mound for “Game 6” relate to his exceptional ability as a pitcher, which Dr. M suddenly knows enough about to be seriously concerned. My astonishment could not have been more genuine.
When had the woman I love become part of the “baseball cognoscenti”?
We are home, anticipating “Game 6”, enjoying baseball-appropriate cuisine of hotdogs and (now a stadium staple) garlic fries. I have also slipped across the street to the nearby convenience store, supplementing our resonant repast with a large bag of (in the shell) salted peanuts.
The game begins. I am determined to be a good husband. Though I am inwardly churning for the Dodgers, I adopt – for her sake – an external demeanor of “Que Sera Sera.” Cubs win? That’s fine. It isn’t, but that’s the kind of marital partner I am.
Cubs jump ahead, 2-0 in the first inning. Dr. M, cellphone in hand, “texts” continually back and forth with her younger brother, living in Chicago. Every time the Cubs do something good, I hear the telltale “woop” of mutually congratulatory communications.
The Cubs score two? – a “woop” from her brother, a return “woop” from Dr. M. They score again in the second – a “woop” and a “woop.” An additional run in the fourth – “Woop” – Woop.” Another run in the fifth – “Woop” and then “Woop.”
I am quietly going crazy. Not just because we are down 5 to 0 in the determining game of the series but because of those infuriating “woops”, cell-e-phonically rubbing it in.
“You’re losing” – “Woop.”
“You’re losing more” – “Woop” – “Woop.”
I say nothing about the “woops”, though they are killing me worse than the game. It’s just a “text noise.” But timed to when the Dodgers are in trouble, it feels very much like they’re gloating.
The game ends. The Cubs are victorious.
“Woop” – “Woop” – “Woop” – “Woop” – “Woop” – “Woop” – “Woop!”
Disheartened by the defeat, I have nobody to “woop”… even if I knew how. No one to commiserate with, while brother and sister “Woop woop woop” all over the place! Okay, their team hasn’t appeared in the World Series for seventy-one years. But what about us? We haven’t been in the World Series since 1988.
That’s a long time!
Eminently gracious to the end, I tell her, “Text your brother, ‘Go Cubbies!’” Do I mean it? What’s the difference?
I’m a good husband, dammit!
And that’s what we do!