Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thank You, I'm Sorry

Blast off.

The title of this post says all I really need to say. But I almost always say more than that, so here goes.

Thank you for reading. If this is the only post you've ever read or started to read, I appreciate the effort it takes to force your eyes over these words I choose and to process the nonsense they represent. I try to make it fun and worthwhile, but you have no guarantees. You entrusted some amount of time and mental energy to me, and I want you to know I don't take it lightly. I appreciate everyone who makes the questionable decision to read what I write. I respect the people who don't.

So to those of you who have followed along since the beginning (or since just now) you have my deepest gratitude. And I'm sorry for wasting your time. That's a flimsy apology, really. I enjoy a little time wasting. I guess I try to get people to stop and look around once in awhile so they don't miss life. (I think Ferris is a righteous dude.) But I'm still kind of sorry for wasting so much of your time. Even if it's only been the last couple minutes. There are approximately 36 trillion ways you could have better spent your time than reading this blog about the Cubs.

Honestly, it's bad enough we follow this team, isn't it? The Cubs appreciate our allegiance probably in much the same way as I appreciate yours. They're grateful to have so many fans, I'm sure of it. But they may also feel compelled to apologize for the end product.

That's how I feel, anyway. I can't thank you enough for following along. I wish I had done better. I wish the Cubs had done better. But I'm a fool for expecting either.

Self-deprecating realism aside, I'm proud of this blog. I'm happy with how a lot of things turned out. I've enjoyed getting to read the thoughts of the people who expressed them here, on twitter, on facebook, and in various places like that alley behind the Addison El station. I'm glad I stuck with it as long as I did. I have made myself laugh a few times and forced myself to think at least twice. I have a pretty good idea a few people have laughed and thought along with me, and it would be an insult to them if I weren't at least a little proud of that.

And as much as I give Cubs fans a hard time, I admire the poor decision making and dreamy hopefulness that brings anyone to a point of Cub-related fanaticism. I like Cubs fans. I rarely agree with them about everything, but I don't really agree with anybody about everything. I enjoy disagreeing with people. Disagreement is what drives me to learn. And learning is pretty awesome. I like being around people who are willing to argue with me. But all the same, I'm glad we can agree on our desire to see the Cubs win.

So if you're a Cubs fan and you're reading this, I'm doubly indebted to you. I wish I had more time to make you glad to have stumbled upon these words of mine (and to offer you some consolation for the disappointment of loving the Chicago National League ballclub).

Fortunately, I do have more time. While I am sad to be leaving the confines of And Counting, I'm completely excited about I'll be writing at least as much if not for in the new location, and I can't tell you how honored I am to be sharing the space with Tim, David, and Jeff, at least not without going into an embarrassing awkwardness I'd rather not breach.

So thank you for reading. I'm sorry this had to happen to you. I hope it happens many more times at Obstructed View.

Go Cubs.

Oh My DeRosa . . .

Obstructed View: It's Elemental

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Okay to Idolize Us

Seacrest out in 3, 2, 1 . . .

(By the way, if you like Idol or hilarity, you should check out my other collaborative work, American Idol recaps with the epically talented Beth of I Should Be Folding Laundry fame. Diversify, people.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recounting: the Way, Way Back Machine Heads to 2003

Long before this blog got started, I ran a daily trivia email that was as close to a blog as anything could be without taking on that exact form. I later turned it into a trivia blog that, while not formally frozen in carbonite like this one is about to be, has gone effectively dormant for quite awhile. I didn't usually talk much about sports, but after the Cubs got ever so close to World Series glory in 2003 only to fall short, I couldn't help but talk about it. I really couldn't remember what I said, though, until I just dug through the archives of a backed up Outlook file. Some of it I'm proud of, some of it is facepalm fodder. But for posterity's sake, here you go (and feel free to take a stab at the question . . . just don't cheat):

Well, the Cubs season is over, so here are a few things everyone should remember, just to keep a proper perspective on things.

1. Baseball's purpose is to entertain, thrill, delight, inspire, unite, and distract us from the less desirable moments of life. If you're a Cub fan who feels this season/postseason has failed to do that because they lost, reflect on what a joy this season has been. If you hate baseball, laugh at me.

2. If you're team gets derailed by a bespectacled, headphoned, not-even-drunk fan, they're clearly not good enough to be in the World Series.

3. If you seek to harm another individual in any way (verbal, physical, any other al words you can think of) because of a baseball game, you are the biggest loser there is.

4. The Marlins are a better team than the Cubs. This one is painful but true. Let's face it, the Marlins had a better record than the Cubs. They have more speed, more consistent hitting ability, a more solid defense, and a not-too-shabby pitching staff. They really are the most complete team in the National League. Everyone thought the Cubs got a break because the Marlins beat the Giants, but what they fail to consider is . . . the Marlins beat the Giants because they were better than the Giants. And for the last two-thirds of the season, they were better than anybody in baseball.

5. The Cubs didn't choke. It's not a curse to lose when you're not that good. I defy anyone to name one player on the Cubs team who underperformed. You can't, because the Cubs played about as well as they can play and still lost. That's not choking. That's getting beat. Get over it.

6. Wait till next year actually means something this year. Didn't we learn anything, people? The Cubs have a manager that always wins and everybody wants to play for, a pitching staff that is only getting better, and a front office who actually seems interested in bringing in good talent. The Cubs were awful last year. They were good this year. Next year actually has promise!

7. It still hurts, though, doesn't it?

Anyway, here's today's trivia:

Cher, Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, Walter Matthau, Carrie Fisher, Dick Vitale, and Jack Lemmon all had their lives saved by what groundbreaking procedure?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Recounting: The 163-mph Hoax Is About to Turn 26

This was one of my favorite posts I ever wrote. It's not even really about the Cubs. But since April Fools' Day is almost upon us (it's Opening Day, appropriately enough), I thought I'd break it out in anticipation (and awareness that I won't be posting here when that day rolls around).

One barefoot, boot-clad hurler put one by us in unforgettable fashion.
I'll never forget the cool April evening when my dad came to dinner carrying an issue of Sports Illustrated. That was enough right there, you understand. It really didn't matter what came next from his lips. My jaw hit the table when I saw that strange concoction of contradictions before me: my dad, an open issue of SI in his hand, and a look of transported glee on his face. This. Did not. Compute.

Two things you have to understand about my dad: 1) He hates sports. He likes to listen to Ron Santo and Pat Hughes on the radio because he loves radio and the hilarious interplay that unfolds between the pitches. He used to like to go to baseball games in Cleveland (near where my mom's family lived) and hockey games in Detroit (where he grew up) because he enjoyed strolling the arenas and watching fights break out in the stands. He even liked coming to watch me play baseball or even bringing me and my siblings to Wrigley, because he loves me. But make no mistake—my dad hates sports. 2) He's a professional reader. He is to oral interpretation what Vin Scully is to baseball play-by-play. For almost my whole life he's been the host of the internationally syndicated Music thru the Night, which (if my numbers aren't lying to me) is the top-rated late-night radio program in Chicago. My point is, the man can read a story. And when he finds a story he likes, you can be pretty sure that he will read it to you until you like it even more.

It was this second trait that so obviously won out that night, and my curiosity was piqued as to why a sports journal would, for once, trigger my father's passion for storytelling. He sat down, donned his reading glasses, quieted the room with his eyes (no small feat with six kids huddled around the table), and said in his deep yet gleefully quivering radio voice: "Listen . . . to . . . thissssss."

He began with the headline and subhead: "The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch. He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball."

Okay. My dad was reading me a story about baseball. Or Yogi Bear. I wasn't sure, but either way, he had my attention.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Unfinished posts: Money from the Sky

As the countdown to March 27 rolls on, whereupon will unleash its discredited fury on Cubdom, I thought I'd do a little housekeeping by finishing posts I had started and left unfinished. And by "some," I mean, "at least one." I'll probably post a favorite or two (as ACB and Aisle 424 are doing) and maybe some posts I wish I'd written. But for now, since the NFL has chosen to test the work stoppage waters, it seemed like a good time to dust off and finish up this post originally scheduled as a Day-Off Reflection in 2010.

At Shea Stadium on opening day in 1995, three fans wearing shirts that read, "GREED," tossed dollar bills onto the field then gathered near second base, clenched fists raised in protest. Baseball had returned after the worst sports work stoppage of my lifetime, the strike that cost 1994 its World Series.

One image sticks with me from that year: Shawon Dunston, sitting in the dugout, arms folded across his knees and head bowed in disbelief. It was the last game of the year, one that had already been drained of any hope of being The Year for Dunston and the Cubs and their fans. But you could see how it affected the O-Meter man. He was sad. He was angry. He was not going to be playing the game he loved because his fellow players and the MLB owners couldn't agree on how the proceeds should be distributed.

Some people blamed the greedy players. Some people (myself included) blamed the greedy owners. I was mostly just greedy for baseball.

So in 1995, I attended my very first Cubs home opener. The Cubs gave away free magnet schedules. The fans gave a whole lot of them back. You see, the thing about magnetic schedules is that those suckers have serious aerodynamic efficiency about them. One fan from the upper deck managed to hit home plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck with one. (I don't know who the home plate umpire is, but I'm trying to finish up a year-old post on a dying blog, so I'm too lazy to look it up. And yes, I don't know for sure it came from the upper deck, but doesn't that make the story more interesting?)

It was dumb of the fans to throw those schedules, but not nearly as dumb as it was for the team to say, "We understand you're angry over the strike, so to make it up to you, we'd like you to have some projectiles. Enjoy."

So on this or any other day when I'm unable to enjoy a Cubs game or baseball of any kind, it seems extra stupid to intentionally avoid playing baseball when there's an opportunity to play it. Especially when, as Shawon clearly displayed, the players want to play as intensely as the spectators want to watch. I'm sure the owners don't object to making money whilst playing real-life fantasy baseball, either.

Get along, people. Coalesce. Stop screwing over each other. Be greedy for baseball.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sammy's Skin

I thought this wasn't supposed to matter. Sammy Sosa hit 545 home runs in a Cubs uniform. Some people hate him because of his boom box. Some people hate him for cheating with a corked bat and a chemically altered physique. Some people hate him for caring more about putting on a show than being a good teammate. Some people hate him because it's fashionable.

Now Sammy Sosa's skin is lighter than it used to be. I understand neither why that's funny nor why anyone cares. But apparently people do.

Never mind the fact he was really good at baseball. Never mind the fact that he restored enthusiasm in baseball not only in Chicago but also in North America. Never mind that while he played with the Cubs he paid very little effort into anything other than being prepared to play baseball well and to entertain the fans who watched him.

But his skin is lighter now. So . . . LMFAO.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Counting Down

When I started this blog two years ago, I was an idiot. The Cubs had been bounced from the playoffs for the second consecutive year via their second consecutive sweep at the hands of an NL West team. But the Cubs had also been to the playoffs for two consecutive years. And on paper, in the offseason between 2008 and 2009, the Cubs had improved.

I was already blogging about other stuff, but mostly on a personal basis for the benefit to the detriment of people who knew me personally. Blogging about the Cubs, I figured, would be a chance to reach people who shared my particular dysfunction of liking the least successful sports franchise of the last century. But it didn't feel like that stupid of an inclination at the time. I thought I'd be blogging about The Year.

And if by The Year I meant, "the most frustrating winning season in Cubs history," then I was right. But that's not what I meant.

Now that I've had a chance to chronicle the Cubs for two seasons that weren't particularly enjoyable, I can confidently say that I'm still an idiot. But I've learned some things.

I've learned that I like you. If you're reading, I like you. I can't help you, but I like you.

I've learned not to count on the World Series.

I've learned when to quit. Well . . . kind of.

The life of And Counting as an active Cubs blog is coming to a close over the next week or two. I'm counting down instead of counting up. And by the time the season starts, you can expect to see this page go unchanged for quite some time.

BUT . . .

You aren't quite rid of me yet. If you've been paying attention to Another Cubs Blog, you know mb21 is bringing that fine Cubs shrine of discreditation to a close as well so he can start up something new with berselius and a couple other Cubs bloggers. I'm proud and honored to be an Other. [UPDATE: so is Tim.]

I'll have a few more posts to throw out here before it's all said and done, but I just wanted to give you all both the opportunity to count down with me. And thanks for reading. I appreciate it more than you know. Okay, I appreciate it a lot. Now you know. See you in another life, brotha.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Random Acts of Cubness

Marlon Byrd and Victor Conte still having a working relationship should change people's impressions of Victor Conte.

Geovany Soto is going to get on base and hit the baseball hard.

Chicago Code isn't a very good show, but I'll probably still watch it forever.

And while I'm talking about it, the fictional White Sox fan cop called Cubs fan cop "Ron Santo" for saying he preferred 12-inch softball to 16-inch softball. But Ronnie played 16-inch softball. So I guess the White Sox cop fan's character is pretty realistic.

Why did the mother pig kick the three little pigs out to go build their own houses? They're little pigs.

I still miss Ron Santo.

Starlin Castro is going to be exciting to watch play baseball.

Also: errors shmerrors.

Tyler Colvin is probably better than I think.

Spring training still means nothing.

Randy Wells is in the starting rotation. He's in.

Carlos Silva has something to prove. I hope for his sake he's at least as good at proving things as Matt Damon was in Good Will Hunting.

Also, Carlos, if Andrew Cashner asks you if you like apples, don't answer.

Kerry Wood is a Chicago Cub.

Mark Prior is a New York Yankee. His stat line so far in spring training, which, I know, means nothing, says he wants to remain a New York Yankee.

ERA: 0.00, 3 G, 3.0 IP, 1 H, O R, 1 BB, 4 SO, WHIP 0.67
I'm pretty happy about Kerry and Mark.

This Cubs team is not going to surprise a lot of people because too many people are saying they're going to surprise a lot of people. You people suck at surprises.

Mike Quade is an interesting fellow.

April 1 can't get here soon enough.