Seven Games in September

Will I remember 
The seven games of September?

Could this be the beginning of a seven-game winning streak? Today weather permitting, the Cubs play the Cardinals for the last game at Wrigley Field of the regular season. Then it’s three games in Pittsburgh before closing out the season in St. Louis playing the Cardinals again. The Cubbies need a lot of help for the playoffs, but they can help themselves a whole lot by winning out.

Quite possibly the worst five-day stretch I have ever witnessed in baseball, the Cubs once again lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Cardinals. This time, after the Cubbies fought back yesterday to lead 8-7 at Wrigley in the ninth, our closer Craig Kimbrel threw two pitches to two batters (Molina and DeJong), and gave up two homers. Good guys down 9-8. And that was all she wrote. The Cubs had lost five straight at home, which had not happened under Joe Maddon since 2016, and four straight by one run which had not happened since 1972 (which in and of itself is pretty incredible considering how many bad teams were included in that stretch). I’ve been a part of epic heartbreaks before, 2003 being the best examples with the league championship series in both leagues, my Red Sox and Cubs losing in epic fashion. The Cubs were in first place for much of this season. Now their playoff chances have dropped from 77% a week ago to 9% last night according to FanGraphs.

The 21stof September was packed with sports. Along with baseball, there was also college football. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish was taking on the powerful Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, GA. My expectations going into the Notre Dame last night were even bleaker than my expectations going into the Cubs|Cards game. A big part of me knew we were going to get destroyed against Georgia while a big part of me prayed with a fervor reserved for five-year-olds Christmas morning for the toy they’ve been dreaming of, that Notre Dame would at least show up. I often found prayer my best friend, especially during sporting events. History has not emphatically proved whether that belief is actually true or not. I imagine the other teams may also be praying.

Already despondent as a result of the afternoon’s baseball contest, I decided that I would sketch and paint with watercolours while watching the college football game. While painting in anger can fuel amazing works of art in both oils and pastels, it’s virtually impossible to paint with anger using watercolours. The medium demands serenity. And serenity now it was while I decided the focus of my watercolour sketch to be my wife and me. I channeled my feelings for her as I looked at the photograph across the room of us at a friend of mine’s wedding a year ago. Grace is a wound up ball of instant energy, excitement and effervescence. I almost always immediately smile when she enters my view cos I know something funny or unexpected is about to happen (to which she always loudly exclaims, “why are you laughing?”). And the way she moves from one thought to another unrelated one blows my mind. She’s a handful which only contributes to this boundless love that I have for her. And as much as I feel for her, I get it back one thousandfold. 

Channeling that into my sketch while watching the football game, memories of the Cubs game had temporarily faded when a funny thing happened. Notre Dame was balling. Their defense looked fast. Their quarterback was connecting with their tight end — Book to Kmet became my favourite three words for a couple hours. By halftime, ND was up 10-7. Of course, Georgia turned it on in the third quarter and despite a valiant ND effort in the 4th, ultimately they beat ND 23-17. I was upset but not crazy upset. I kept looking back at the painting that I had just sketched.

I awoke this morning replaying last week’s memories of baseball, having gone to the last two games in Wrigley against the Reds and watching every inning of the games against the Cardinals, my baseball heart has been on overdrive going the wrong direction. I keep reminding myself of the unprecedented run we’ve had these past few years. The Cubs have made the playoffs five straight years; the most they had previously was three straight times and that was 1906-1908. We’ve gone to three straight NLCS after never previously been to two in a row. Of course, the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. However, I feel like we’re squandering away this core group of young talent much like a lifetime ago with Wood and Prior. This season is shaping up to be like last when we “fell to 9-10 in September, their second straight late-season fade after blowing a five-game division lead to the Brewers last year and then Game 163 to Milwaukee at Wrigley.” Maddon could be done after this year, which does bum me out for a bit considering everything he meant to the team the last few years. But that sentiment could all change…

This is game 1 of a seven-game season. Will I look back on this and say “do you remember the 7 games of September?”

I plan to look back at the painting I sketched of Grace and me early and often.

Time to head to Wrigley.

Go Cubs Go.

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