Holy Cow: Cubs Win the World Series and Our Hearts

This is a story of resilience, of hope rewarded, of an underdog rising to greatness. It’s a story of generations, of love passed down through DNA, of unifying triumph, of a storybook “happily ever after” and banished curses.

It’s a moment in history that’s been over a century in the making, and everyone wants a part in it. Five million people filled the streets of Chicago on Friday in the seventh-largest human gathering of all time–and the largest ever in our country–to watch the Chicago Cubs’ victory parade. “Thank you for your patience,” the lauded World Series Champions of 2016 said, giving as much praise to their fans’ perseverance as their own. The Chicago Cubs had had the longest drought of any professional sports team in the history of the USA: 108 years without a championship.

#FlytheW–the Cubs won the World Series! Photo courtesy of my friend Arnaud Buttin, who attended the rally.

That number, 108, keeps popping up in uncanny ways, signs of destiny that 2016 really was our year–according to Inside Edition, the list includes:

  • The building that broadcasts Cubs games: 108 stories high
  • Stitches on a baseball: 108
  • Original address of baseball manufacturer, Spalding: 108 Madison St., Chicago
  • Run time of movies Back to the Future 2 and Taking Care of Business, who predicted future Cubs World Series wins: 108 minutes

Here is the Inside Edition video, published 10/25, predicting the win:

Also, another that came forward, necessarily after that video: Joe Maddon, the manager of the Cubs, presented the championship trophy to the rally in Grant Park at 1:08 p.m. on Friday.

This feeling of destiny is a heavy weight lifted off the shoulders of so many who have inherited this love of the Cubs from others. At first, I thought the story I shared last week about our family Cubs tradition was unique, but over this past week, I’ve read many other touching stories of people rejoicing more on behalf of their loved ones than themselves.

One man drove all day to Greenwood Cemetery, Indiana, to keep a promise to his dad–that they would listen to the World Series together. He set up a radio and a lawn chair, and they did just that.

In my own family, my dad kept an unspoken promise to his mother, who raised him to be the Cubs fan he is today. She wasn’t far away during that epic game 7 of the World Series. Her mass card sports St. Anthony of Padua, who she always loved as the patron saint of lost things–and lost causes, she added. My dad kept her mass card and the lucky marble he’d shared with her on the table we surrounded while we bit our nails, jumped up and down, hyperventilated, and nearly collapsed during that game.

St. Anthony of Padua on my grandmother’s mass card, and the lucky marble my dad shared with her

The next day, he looked everywhere for a newspaper to take to her grave–an acknowledgement, a celebration, of the moment they’d been waiting for for many decades. And while she didn’t get to see it while she was here with us, she had the ultimate view from Heaven.

The newspapers were sold out at four different stores my dad went to, but he randomly found a pristine copy of two in the wrong spot by the coffee at Jewel. Even the cashier shared her shock he’d found one, but he smiled, knowing it was a special delivery.

Special Delivery: Victory Newspapers

We figured out later that our grandma was definitely watching the game from Heaven, when we realized the three final winning games had significant dates for her: her death anniversary, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day.

The game went on forever, in a good but completely nerve-shattering way. After jumping at a leaf the next day, my mom announced her nerves were shot. Several of our friends had to turn off the game at one point because they were about to be physically ill. As for me, my heart was racing for the entire game, but I determined to make it through, no matter what! After all, if these underdogs were about to change history, I didn’t want to miss it. As a bonus, I discovered I actually can hold my breath for 4.5 hours.

The game was as epic as a Lord of the Rings movie–and this, coming from an LOTR superfan–but it was like the climax lasted the entire duration. Movie producers would dismiss a script like that because it would be too unbelievable. When the game went into an extra 10th inning because of a tie, and then when there was a rain delay–even nature was adding to the drama–that was the breaking point for some people. For the Cubs, though, it was the moment of truth–Jason Heyward, outstanding outfielder for the team this year, gave a rallying speech to the Cubs that they could break the tie, break the curses, that not all was lost.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, it reminded me of another rallying speech:

Image result for aragorn speech gif       Image result for aragorn speech courage of men

Indeed, after that rain delay, the Cubs pulled it together to achieve a final score of 8-7. To say the crowds went WILD is an understatement. It’s no wonder that the celebration is still going strong–“Go Cubs!” has replaced “Hello” around here, and “Go, Cubs, Go,” is the anthem of every place music might be played, from my own band’s performance to our hospital’s black-tie fundraising gala. Fans–of the Cubs, of Chicago, of the underdog story–want to acknowledge this moment of unity, perseverance, and reward of faith invested, breaths held for over a century. Our fandom only increases as we learn how the players are using their fame to give back to fans, including Anthony Rizzo’s foundation for cancer research he started after beating it himself. These aren’t just good players; they’re good people. These are heroes for America’s kids that we can be proud of. That goes for the Cleveland Indians, too–I was really impressed with the civility and kindness between the opposing teams. Now that’s a lesson we could carry with us!

Thank you, Cubs, for bringing us such a happy moment in history–something we could really use right now, especially in Chicago. Here’s to hoping we can carry this optimism and camaraderie with us beyond baseball. And even though 108 might be my new favorite number, here’s to hoping for another thrilling win in 2017.


Drawing by my very talented sister

Go, Cubs, Go: What Baseball Means to Me–and Chicago

It was a loud, proud night in Chicagoland Saturday night. Fireworks and cheers erupted over the region, and the closer you were to the epicenter–Wrigley Field, that is–the more you could feel the roar of excitement, relief, and pride. That pride rippled around the world, as I saw posts from some of my friends in different countries, struggling to find an internet connection to add their own voice to the cheering. Every local television channel switched to broadcast the news: the Cubs won the National League champions pennant, marking the first time they’d be in the World Series since 1945!

Image result for cubs world series

Are you wondering what blog you’re reading right now–when did I become a sports fan, right? In a way, you could say this year; in a way, you could say my whole life. I’ve become more invested in the Cubs this year, partially because of the community. One of my friends, Grace, had a playoff game playing at her birthday party, and while we were all there for her (she is wonderful), and while we enjoyed the made-from-scratch food, it was the game that caused the excitement that brought us closer together. I’ve become keenly aware of the game schedule, too, as the bass player in the string band I’m in is unequivocally not available for practice or performance on any game days (and it would be unthinkable to perform without our crucial Billy on bass!).

While I’m not much of a sports fan in general, I’ve always been a baseball fan, to some extent. Our family has gone to baseball games together since I was little (though my early Cubs memories mostly revolve around Cracker Jack and Lemon Chills). Now, we try to attend Kane County Cougars games at least once a summer.

Always the highlight of our summer–great family bonding time at Cougars games! My dad found this helmet for me in my favorite color so I can safely attend post-TBI–have to protect the noggin from foul balls and homers. 😉

Although our childhood focused heavily on music (my adulthood, too!), our dad made sure my sister and I learned how to play baseball the right way. To his shoulder’s chagrin, this involved swinging a ball attached to a rope around his head for us to bat as hard as we could, without the risk of it flying into a neighbor’s window (both the technique and the caution were learned from his childhood). We played catch, too, focusing on proper form. They’re all fond childhood memories for me.

Baseball is somewhat of a family tradition for us, though I’m sorry to our lineage that my sister and I inherited mostly the enthusiasm, not the athletic grace, of the sport! My dad bonded with his dad over many things, but baseball might have been the strongest one. Even though my grandfather had to use a prosthetic leg, he didn’t let that stop him from enjoying the game with my dad, by expertly playing catch, as well as coaching my dad’s little league and senior league teams. My grandmother, too, was an avid baseball fan, mostly of the Cubs, while my grandfather was more of a White Sox fan. I guess, by my generation, we are both, a mix not only of genetics, but also fandoms. We call ourselves “Chicago fans.”

And thank you, Cubs, for giving us Chicagoans something to be fans of. Thank you for making Chicago a proud city this weekend, when we’ve had so much tragedy this year. What’s remarkable to me is the uniting factor of the game, bringing together people of all ethnicities, all genders, all generations, all religions. In a time when our country is so divided over politics, we can all come together and be proud of something quintessentially American, no matter who wins the World Series–but this fan hopes it will be the Cubs.

When I found this video, I got goosebumps. Talk about unity–you can hear thousands of people singing together in joy from almost a mile away, high in the air. This was from a National League wildcard game this season (if the embedded version doesn’t work for you, try this: https://youtu.be/Drszsid3I1s ). Skip to 1:43 for the best sound quality on Chicago’s favorite song this season!

This flag’s tradition started in the 1930s as an announcement after every Cubs win–but now, fans have adopted it to represent the Cubs in general. I guess that shows the level of confidence in our home team! Go, Cubs, Go! (Thanks to Octavarius.com for the image)

Bagels, Baseball, and Babies!

Happy weekend, everyone! Mine started out with quite the fun Friday! I spent most of the day with my dad, who had asked me to go on a daddy-daughter bagel date. I think it’s important to keep up any kind of relationship with “dates” or one-on-ones. Sure, it’s fun to go out in groups of friends or with your whole family, but I think the main gems that cement a relationship are those quality one-on-one conversations. I do feel bad for my dad, because I always seem to occupy the majority of our time together with asking him his advice/guidance. It’s kind of funny, because although we are both quite opinionated/strong-willed, to put it mildly, we do get along really well. I think we have empathy for each other, knowing the burden of going through life, never being able to look at a situation without forming an opinion about it and sharing that opinion with everyone, whether they want to know it or not. Hahaha.
Here we are having bagels for brunch after Easter mass last weekend. You’ll have to forgive my dad’s not quite looking at the camera; I made him take the picture, since I’m pretty uncoordinated with the “selfies.” This hat is my newest acquisition in what Jeremiah calls my Ridiculous-Hat Collection. I happen to think they are all lovely, thankyouverymuch, even if especially when they are usually enormous with flowers on them.

Bagel buddies, after Easter mass

Bagel buddies, after Easter mass

Springtime means baseball, and although my sister and I dodged being drafted for tall-girl sports all through school (this wasn’t as hard as we’d like to think, once coaches saw our physical coordination), baseball was the one sport we actually liked. We are pretty decent at it, too, although we never really pursued it much, because we were so serious about our music studies (piano, violin, cello, guitar, hand bells). This limitation was partly because of time commitments, and partly because we had to be so, so careful with our hands; both of us strongly considered being professional musicians for a career.
Now, although we both have pursued other careers, there’s another fear with playing baseball: traumatic brain injury. As any news report will tell you, it’s not a newly occurring phenomenon, but awareness and hopefully prevention have increased lately. It certainly has for our family. With my work with Marianjoy and the Brain Injury Association, I see people all the time who have suffered traumatic brain injuries from sports, including baseball. Having sustained my own traumatic brain injury, I have to be even more careful than other people. I thought this meant staying away from playing baseball or even attending games. Well, I was wrong.
When my dad suggested that our family go see a baseball game together this summer, I was a little hesitant. He suggested we go look at batting helmets. I was so happy at what we found: an adjustable, durable, padded, ventilated helmet–in my favorite color, no less!

Baseball batting helmet victory!

Baseball batting helmet victory!

(Please excuse my dishevelment in the above picture; I had been pulling off and on a lot of different helmets!) As you can see, I was REALLY excited to find this. Ultimately, I ended up getting a helmet with a face cage attached for even more head protection. I chose to post this picture instead, though, since you could barely even see my face with the helmet I got, but I suppose that is the point!

The final selection

The final selection

I think we hit a real “home run” with that purchase. You can buy one here, if you’re interested. My sister actually liked mine so much that she got one herself in silver. So, that was my day in a (pea)nutshell. OK, done with the bad puns now. 😉 Onto poetry!

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was a lot easier for me than yesterday’s:

Because I am a rather obvious person at heart, I challenge you to write a cinquain on this, the fifth day of NaPoWriMo. A cinquain is a poem that employs stanzas with five lines. Each line has a certain number of accented or stressed syllables, and a certain number of overall syllables per line. In the “American” cinquain, a form invented by a woman with the highly unfortunate name of Adelaide Crapsey, the number of stresses per line is 1-2-3-4-1, and the number of syllables is 2-4-6-8-2. So the first line would have two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed. The second line would have four syllables, two of which are stressed, and so on. This kind of accent/syllabic verse can be a bit frustrating at first, but it’s useful for learning to sharpen up your language!

I loved the idea of matching the day to the prompt. (Because I didn’t know about the challenge until two days into it, I’ll have to tack on two more days into May to complete it.) Also, I’ve become a big fan of rhythmic forms over the years. It certainly is difficult to cram all of a thought into such a tight format, but I have also found empowerment in constraint. If the thought is too big for the space allowed, well, then, it’s not the right format for the idea. There can be such an explosive effect from a tightly-wrapped kernel of thought, a seed planted into a fertile ground for an idea to blossom. That fertile ground is YOUR mind, dear readers! My kernel for tonight is this little darling right here:

Oreo, sleeping on me

Oreo, sleeping on me

I couldn’t narrow down which version of this poem I liked best. What do you think? Comment and let me know; thanks in advance!

By: Amanda K. Fowler

sleeping soundly
tiny body bobbing
with the rise and fall of my breath.
This: bliss.

sleeping soundly
tiny body bobbing
with my breath. For him, peace. For me?

sleeping soundly
tiny body bobbing
with the rise, fall: our breath combined.

Thanks again for the input, and enjoy your weekend! 🙂