The Cubs are in town this weekend and AT&T does not show Milwaukee channels in Oshkosh – seeing as how I cannot afford another night of swearing at a TV in a bar, I will have to watch the pitch-by-pitch on the Brewers website. This will, sadly, make my usual recaps dry and uninteresting.
So instead, I’d like to tell you a few stories about the men in my family, toeing the (state) line, and a bet that will surely go unpaid for decades.
I’ve told you briefly about my father. He was born and raised in suburban Chicago and played baseball for most of his life. He was an avid Cubs fans – and though I will not say with any authority that he would skip school to catch games in the City as a young man – I certainly imagined that he did so. The point of this back story is to explain that my Dad is a man of unshakable faith in the Cubs. When he moved to Milwaukee with my mother and older brother – then just a toddler – he brought his love of Chicago sports with him. This proved tricky with my mother who did in fact skip school with striking regularity to watch the Brewers play in County Stadium. I applaud my father just because I can only imagine the kind of scrutiny he is under among his colleagues at work being a card-carrying Cubs and Bears fan living in the city of Milwaukee.
Anyway, once when I was probably seven or eight my father took my brother, my cousin, and me to a game at County Stadium. The Brewers were playing the Mariners at the height of Griffey’s career. My brother and cousin were both cheering on the Mariners that day – my brother went so far as to get one of those plastic batting helmets with the Mariners logo on it. I decided that sense no one was rooting for the Brewers (or so I thought) I might as well shoulder the karmic load. I got a Brewers helmet ( I can’t remember now if it was purchased at that game or brought from home – each seem equally plausible to my foggy memory) and tried to remain strong in the face of my brother’s taunting that Griffey would hit three home runs and the Brewers would lose. The Brewers did end up winning, and my brother had to eat crow the entire ride home. From that day on, I was an official Brewers fan.
Fast Forward to my final years of High School, circa 2005. I have a sweet Green Camry that regularly drives to Miller Park so my friends and I can watch the Brewers play. I was just growing out of my “I’ll root for the Cubs if the Brewers are losing” phase that I adpoted through my pre-teen years, mostly because when I’m with my dad we talk about baseball. And when my Dad talks about baseball, he talks about the Cubs. So for years I played diplomat, telling myself I could root for the Cubs and Brewers, but alas, it could not last forever. I was a Brewers fan. I’m still not sure how it sits exactly with my father – but we both agree it would be worse if I were a Cardinals fan. This is the year the bet begins.
It began pretty simply, the Brewers were off to a quick start and at the top of the division. This allowed me to give my father just the slightest bit of crap regarding the Cubbies. I believe there was a text message exchange that went something like this:
Me: Brewers will win the division. Guaranteed. Lol, , etc.
Dad: Wanna bet? Brewers will choke. They always do.
Me: Sure. How much?
Dad: You don’t have any money.
Me: The Carwash pays pretty good. You scared the Brewers will win?
Dad: Brewers suck. How bout dinner? If the Brewers win or finish better in the division and I will take you out for steak, and when the Cubbies beat the Brewers you will have to foot the bill.
We had an accord.
Incidentally, the Brewers did choke that year – and early. They collapsed slightly after the All-Star Break. The Cubs finished higher in the NL Central and I had to buy dinner. Except I didn’t. We went double or nothing the next season, and the season after that. By the time I was a junior in college, I think I owed my father about 8 dinners. Luckily for me in 2008 and last season the Brewers did finish better than Chicago, so I’m pretty sure if I bring brats down to my dad’s house this summer or catch a good sized fish, we’ll be all square. In truth, I don’t think the bet holds anything more than a way to stay interested in the season and connected to one another through baseball. I might be saying that because I’m a terrible gambler, however.
The bet is still standing, even if it is informal at this point. Hopefully this weekend will give me a leg up on the competition. At the very least it will be an ongoing text message barrage about offensive strategy, poor management choices, player insults, gloating and thinly veiled accusations of game fixing. All’s fair in family and baseball I suppose.
So this weekend, enjoy the Brewers-Cubs series and all the awesomeness that goes along with it. I know we will.