Chicago Cubs, Last Day Regular Season, Thoughts

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

On this cool, dreary, cloudy October 4, a day more akin to November, it’s warm, bright and sunny in Cubdom.

Cubs

The guys with this emblem on their jerseys will play in the post season. Bu for how long?

Yes, it’s the last day of the Major League baseball regular season, and my Chicago Cubs — actually everyone’s Chicago Cubs — will be playing a meaningful game later this week.

Counting the hours, no minutes, until the first pitch Wednesday, against the very dangerous and talented Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, where my Chicago Cubs will be playing a wild card, single elimination game in order to advance to the National League playoffs.

Well, let’s check that: Last night’s shutout win added more thrills to the 2015 season; the Cubs may host the Pirates at Wrigley Field with a win today.

As a lifelong and long-suffering Cubs fan, of course I’m thrilled my Chicago Cubs are in the post season.  And, while I won’t make a prediction, I will share these thoughts.

An artist's rendering of proposed renovations to the venerable Wrigley Field.

Later today, we’ll know if the Cubs will play the October 7 Wild Card game at Wrigley Field.

On the Field Headlines Are Best. Throughout this glorious season, one where the Cubs provided tremendous baseball drama, that drama was confined to the field of play. I can’t recall news reports of Cub players or management making headlines for what took place off the field.  (Well, unless you count the litigation with the property owners on Waveland and Sheffield avenues.) In short, skipper Joe Madden and his boys behaved themselves, keeping the focus on baseball and not antics that could get them in trouble.

Treating Baseball as It Should Be: A Game.  Years ago I read an article that included a line that stated: “The umpire yells ‘Play Ball’ at the start of a game, not ‘Work Ball.'” My 2015 Chicago Cubs know how to enjoy the game of baseball, but they do so in a workmanlike way. Scenes in the dugout show a team that’s relaxed but focused, and seemingly unaffected by a bad loss or bad call from umps. These guys are having fun, which much of the time leads to winning.

Little Things Lead to Big Wins. Visit this page from Major League Baseball for official stats. But some casual observations of my Cubs reveal a team that rarely got beat when failing to execute  fundamentals: Hitting the cutoff man, hitting behind the runner, laying down the bunt, putting the ball in play, turning the easy double play.  These little things have paid big dividends for the 2015 squad, setting them apart from many, many Cub squads of past seasons.

My Cubs today have as many wins this year as they had losses in  seasons not too long ago. In around an hour from now, they’ll take the field for their final regular season game against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

It means something, because the Cubs may get home-field advantage and host the Wild Card game.

Regardless of where the game is held, after the ump yells “Play Ball,” I’ll be watching, waiting and hoping.

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But wait! There’s more from the PRDude on the Chicago Cubs:

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Three Recent Black Eyes in the World of Sport (And What Should be Done to Fix What’s Broken)

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

In the past 10 days, three blockbuster stories surfaced in the world of sport.  Each story involved a different sport.  Each — to date — has (or should) shaken the very foundations of their respective sport.  And, sadly, each scandal allegedly was wrapped up in “mistruths” or better known as “lies.”

Let’s start with the first story to surface.

Baseball Hall of Fame Prospects Strike Out.  On January 10, the Baseball Writers Association of America, the men and women who determine who enters the Hall of Fame, did not elect one former recent player into the Hall for 2013.  (Well, the Veteran’s Committee did elect three guys who were involved with Major League Baseball — but 80 or so years ago.) And, this was in light of players who hold record-break statistics for pitching and slugging.  You probably know who I’m referring to, and you probably know the underlying reason: The prospect that for a few decades, some ballplayers used performance-enhancing drugs.

Fans of baseball, which endured a strike in 1994 that canceled the World Series, were thrilled to watch a game that evolved from speed and defense to home runs and more home runs. I applauded like everyone else. Yet I — nor the League, the owners or the sportswriters — really questioned why some ballplayers sported Herculean physiques and knocked out 50 or 60 homers a year. We watched this happen and did nothing but cheer, and perhaps hope to catch a foul ball.

Lance Armstrong Peddles Into a Brick Wall. In his recent television interview with a famous former talk show host — okay, Oprah Winfrey — cyclist Lance Armstrong Lance Armstrongadmitted he — like some Major League ballplayers — was juiced when he cycled to seven Tour de France titles.  And, the story takes an even more disgusting hairpin turn when considering Armstrong denied doping allegations for a decade and reportedly pressured colleagues to do the same.

What were the officials of the cycling world doing?  Fixing flat tires? Along with cycling through the French countryside, Armstrong also made millions as a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service and a founder of Livestrong, the non-profit that helps those with cancer, in 1977. Didn’t the folks who deliver our mail and the directors at Livestrong want to investigate the doping concerns when they surfaced a decade ago?  Or did they not want to know?

And, the Manti Te’o Love Story That Wasn’t. This bizarre blemish to the college sporting world continues to unfold.  For the uninitiated, star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, a runner up for the Heisman Trophy, suffered a loss beyond the pummeling his team suffered in the Bowl Championship Series game against Alabama: He lost his girlfriend to an auto crash and cancer.  The issue: The girlfriend was fabricated, and Te’o only communicated with her via phone and online.

notre_dame_te_o_football_14811187-f1b79521771010adb67c15144481bff69b286467-s6-c10Lots of fingers are being pointed here: At Te’o, his family, the Notre Dame athletic department and others. But in a close-knit structure like a big name college football squad, didn’t his coaches or teammates suspect there was something odd about this “relationship?”  The media, of course, swallowed the whole story until it was revealed last week as a hoax.

So what to do? Here are a few thoughts:

1.Recognize that athletes are fallible, but hold management responsible. They’re human and they make mistakes. Yet, today, they’re paid exorbitant sums of money to play games that many of us play for, well, the sport of it all. Hold those responsible for managing and overseeing sports to a higher level. Perhaps those responsible for pro baseball, cycling and college football should be held responsible for some of the blemishes that have soured the game.

2. Incorporate sound public relations strategists to help rebuild trust. This is not blatant self-promotion for the profession. The sports mentioned, and others, should be concerned about their immediate and long-term future. Fans and sponsors are — or should be — very concerned about continuing to follow and allocate marketing dollars at athletic competitions that are fundamentally flawed.

3. As fans of professional or college sports, we should not stand for any further scandals centered on cheating or lies. Period.

Your thoughts on the above?

Snapdragons in November, Part IV

What’s a sure sign of spring?  The start of the baseball season.

Today is opening day for Major League Baseball and my beloved Chicago Cubs are already taking it on the chin in Atlanta.   As any baseball fan knows, the Cubs have had their share of public relations nightmares, due in large part to a century and a year drought in winning the World Series.  Ah, but maybe this year.

Regardless, despite the absence of winning the big one, inept play on the field, boneheaded front office decisions and some purported curse caused by a goat, the Cubs remain one of the best brands in all sports.  Sold out crowds at Wrigley Field and lucrative TV contracts attest to that.   Hey, I’d take a public relations job with the Cubs, if for the sake of getting into the ballpark to see a game now and then.

But, for you loyal readers, enough talk of the Cubs.  Here’s the fourth and final installment in my work of fiction, “Snapdragons in November.” Thanks to all who’ve read it; I’d welcome any comments.

The door opened and he could smell the cleansing rain for a moment. A couple, mid-twenties, somewhat reserved and looking slightly rumpled in their torn dark denims and faded leather jackets, took seats to his right. They studied the food menu – burgers, sandwiches and wings, mainly — for what was a long time and scanned the chalkboard that listed the dozens of beers available. He tried to listen to their conversation and heard the guy offer thoughts as why the pale ale was a better choice than the kolsch. The girl, almost pretty in a gaunt way, listened intently.  For some reason, he liked these two. They probably are artists, or want to be artists, but have to work at some crap retail job to afford a one-bedroom flat in one of the buildings that line this once working-class neighborhood on the upswing.  They had conviction, even in ordering a beer and food from a bar menu.

He wanted to talk to them, and find out more about their lives and what brought them together and to Wellington’s on that early Sunday evening in late fall.  He wondered: What will their conversation be about a year, five years from now? Will they find a common bond built upon something so everyday like what kind of beer to drink?  He sort of envied them. Together, life was unfolding and could take any direction they pursued.

Finishing his fifth Metropolitan, he gestured to Sam for a check. “Hey good lookin’. What’s the damage today?” he asked. “It’s time I started dinner. Otherwise I might get to like this place and stay here all night.”

“Don’t wear out your welcome,” she said. “You could walk out of here for sixteen.”

“I always knew you were a cheap date,” he said, leaving a $20 bill and some singles on the bar. “When’s your swan song shift?”

“Oh, you mean when’s my last shift here?”
“Uh huh.”

“Next Sunday.”

“Well, I’ll plan on being here and plan on being thirsty.”

“It’ll be a little emotional, you know?  I’ve been in Chicago for four years, and I’ve been here three years. Tried to make it work here, but I’ve got to put down new roots where I think they’ll have a better chance to grow. Sometimes, you gotta take that first new step.”

“And, I’m ready to step out and navigate my way home. Goodbye for now, California girl. You ain’t seen the last of me,” he said, pushing open the heavy door.

Damn the rain, he thought, walking at a deliberate pace home. Like the old lady said, it washes the bad crap away.  So what if he got wet.  So what if he stayed at Wellington’s longer than he planned.  So what if dinner would be ready a little later.  So what.

He knew she was not home when he unlocked the back door.  The lights were off and the shades were not drawn. The house was dark inside save for the yellow glow from the street lights. It looked warm, welcoming.  And there, on the kitchen counter, were the snapdragons.  She neatly pruned away the nearly dead leaves and blossoms to create a small beautiful monument to the end of a long, long season.  Little bursts of color in a vase against the black counter top.

There was no note, but he knew where she went, off to buy her milk and probably lots more stuff they didn’t need.  Her unpredictable spirit.  That’s part of what defined her, part of what made him fall in love those seemingly simple years and years ago.  There was goodness in her soul, and perhaps he was too inflexible to recognize this.  Perhaps he had better reap whatever good things – big and small – he could gather.

Keeping his wet jacket on, he went back outside in the rain to wait for her to return. He would inspect every car that drove up their street, toward the home they built together, and hope the next car would be her’s. He would rush to help her carry the groceries they didn’t need. He didn’t care how long he had to stand in the rain.

The End