That was a long walk.
Three runs in the bottom of the ninth — the same number of runs as walks Kerry Wood gave up in the fateful inning to blow it for the Cubs — brought the house down at Busch Stadium and immediately made me a target unlike I have ever been before.
To be fair, in the wake of the Cubs’ heart-wrenching 5-4 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon, I bore the brunt of joyous Cards fans’ exuberance only a couple of times. At least directly. The words can’t be posted here, but that’s fine. It’s all a part of the game. If I wasn’t willing to put up with the aftershocks of blowing a ninth-inning lead, I would’ve left the hat and the jersey at home.
All I could do, I found, was shake my head and smile. What do you say? Your team lost, and lost in spectacular fashion at the hands of the bitter rival in its ballpark. I had invective ready on my lips to give it back — exactly what can be truly accomplished in early July when there are still more than 70 games to be played; and telling us it’s going to be “another” 100 years before the Cubs ever do anything isn’t entirely accurate until October 2008 comes and goes (OK, so that’s splitting the narrowest of hairs) — but in reality, there’s not a whole lot to say. The Cubs lost today. The Cards beat them.
They play again tomorrow, not long after the sun comes right back up.
I won’t be at that game, but you can bet a Cubbie win on Sunday would go a long way in how I remember this trip for the rest of the season. I know the trip will leave a good taste in my mouth as time passes, because I got to see this great rivalry in all of its true glory. In a way, I feel like I’m more of a Cubs fan now, that I’m validated in some way. I’ve seen a hard-fought Cubs win in the Cards’ park, and I’ve felt the heartbreak that is associated with being a true fan of this team.
And I did it with a blue-pinstriped target on my back.
I am not just a fan of the Chicago Cubs now. I am a Chicago Cubs fan.
There’s a difference. I realize that now.