Celebrating a Championship

As you may have heard (or read, seen personally, etc.), the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup earlier this week. I mentioned that they were in the final in my last post, focusing there on the idea of the way our superstitions affect – or, more likely, don’t affect – sports games.[1] My extremely generous wife agreed to stay home with our sleeping son while I went to a bar with my brother[2] so that we could watch together. Sports are always more fun when they’re shared so we went out, we drank, we ate, we watched and most importantly, the Blackhawks won.

It was a fantastic ending. The Blackhawks were terribly outmatched in the first period and were lucky to finish only down 1-0. They played much better in the second and tied the game. About halfway through the third, Boston took a 2-1 lead and as time wound down, it looked like Boston would win, sending the series to a winner-take-all game 7. But then, with 76 seconds remaining in the game, the Hawks scored to tie it and only 17 seconds later, scored again to take the lead, which they held for the win. My brother and I were understandably thrilled that our team and city were once again hoisting the Stanley Cup, the best championship trophy in all of sports.

And I missed it.

About five minutes into the third period, my wife called me to say that our son had woken up sick and she needed me to come home. We left the bar and came straight home so I could put some newly dirty clothes and blankets in the laundry, clean up in the living room after Eitan got sick a second time and comfort him while my wife took a shower to clean herself off. It wasn’t until early the next morning, after Eitan had gotten some much needed sleep, that I had a chance to see the highlights of the end of the game.

Here’s the most important part: it didn’t bother me at all.

I couldn’t believe it. I had just missed my team winning the championship, something that theoretically may never happen again[3] and I was totally fine with it. My wife tried to tell me on the phone as I was walking home from the bar that I could go back and she could handle the situation by herself[4] and I said, “Absolutely not, I’m coming home.” She even apologized to me at one point for my having missed the end of the game and I told her she was being ridiculous. I knew where I needed to be and what I needed to do.

It’s a weird thing about fatherhood. I’m not going to pretend that Eitan was born and I immediately snapped into the father of the year. If anything, it’s taken me a long time even to get to the place where I am now and I’ve still got a long way to go. But fatherhood has grown on me. Maybe it’s because Eitan is older now and is more interactive. Maybe it’s that I’ve gotten more used to the idea of my new responsibilities. Maybe it’s that Eitan finally stopped peeing on me every time I changed his diapers. Maybe it’s even the idea that the more time I put in now, the more I’ll be able to share these sports moments with Eitan when he’s older.

Whatever it is, apparently Eitan isn’t the only one who’s growing.


[1] If you look back at the comments on that article, you can safely assume that my brother’s jersey was set down on his couch during game 6 and no one was allowed to touch it.

[2] Not the jersey on the couch brother; the other one.

[3] I’m a Cubs fan too, remember?

[4] I told you she was generous.  To be fair, though, this was before Eitan got sick a second time.

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Lesson #2: The Chicago Blackhawks

I’m not generally a superstitious person.  I don’t throw salt over my left shoulder; I don’t have a rabbit foot on my keychain; and if I break a mirror, I’m much more concerned about avoiding getting cut by shards of glass than I am about incurring seven years of bad luck.

 

That being said, though, I do think about superstitions fairly often.  If I’m walking outside, I tend to avoid the cracks in the sidewalk panels so I don’t “break my mother’s back.”[1]  When I open my umbrella indoors to let it dry out in my hallway, I think to myself about whether that will bring bad luck.  My family has a superstition that if you either step over a person who happens to be on the floor or walk in a complete circle around someone, you both acquire all of their sins and invite the evil eye upon them.  I’ve never bought these ideas, but they do pop into my head whenever I step over my son while he’s playing on the floor.

 

Sports superstitions are even more extreme.  People will go to incredibly great lengths to replicate the circumstances that they experienced in past years because they think that somehow they can influence the outcome of a game.  I’m talking about seating position, whether the lights are on or off, being at the game or watching from home, which hand they’re using to hold a drink.  Bud Light was airing commercials about superstition during the 2012 NFL season[2] using the tag line “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”  Most people use these kinds of superstitions to win championships; I once banished my own mother from the room where I was watching a random regular season Cubs game against Cincinnati because both times she had come in earlier, the Reds tied the game.  Never mind the fact that the Reds probably scored because they were playing against the Cubs (see Lesson #1); I was convinced my mother was bad luck for the Cubs.[3]

 

This is what brings me to the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League.  Just like I didn’t get into all of the Cubs’ history in my previous post, I’m not going to do that for the Blackhawks either.[4]  In any event, there’s too much to get to in one post, including their start in the Original Six, the stellar goaltending of Tony Esposito, the loudmouthed Ed Belfour and Jeremy Roenick, the terrible ownership of Bill Wirtz and the subsequent resurrection of the franchise that culminated in a Stanley Cup win in 2010.

 

My point is that the Blackhawks are currently competing in the Stanley Cup Finals once again this season and I am trying to figure out how to help them win.  I’ve watched parts of the games, but none all the way through and definitely not the majority of any of them.  I didn’t stay up for the end of Game 1, a three-overtime affair that ended in a Hawks win around 1:00 AM.  Game 2 also went to overtime, I also didn’t watch the end, and the Hawks lost.  I probably watched the most of Game 3, a 2-0 shutout loss, and the least of Game 4, a back-and-forth contest that also resulted in a Hawks overtime win.  Now they’re going to Game 5 with the series tied at two and I find myself almost considering not watching because it might somehow help them win.

 

I realize that this is absurd.  It’s irrational and kind of ridiculous to believe that a team playing an arbitrary game with arbitrary rules hundreds of miles away from me is going to be affected in any way by whether or not I decide to watch on my television.  But then, if I do watch and they lose, I know that a part of me will feel at least slightly responsible.  And yes, I know that’s ridiculous too.

 

But if it works…


[1] I don’t completely alter my stride to avoid them, though, and I definitely have stepped on more than a few cracks in the past few days.  And my mom’s back is fine, thanks.

[3] It should also be noted that the Cubs won the game while my mother was safely somewhere else in the house.

[4] Feel free to do your own Internet research, including checking out my brother’s blog, Windy on the Banks, which focuses much more heavily on Chicago sports.

Lesson #1: The Chicago Cubs

Baseball is stupid.

I know, you’re confused. “What do you mean? You said this is a blog about sports and I know you’re a baseball fan! How can you say baseball is stupid?” Just bear with me.

I repeat: baseball is stupid. One guy throws a ball, another guy tries to hit it, and eight other guys run around throwing the ball to each other. Some of the position names make sense (pitcher, catcher, baseman) but some definitely do not (what’s a shortstop?). The managers and coaches never play in the games but they wear the same uniforms as the players.[1] Some teams don’t even put their players’ names on the backs of the uniforms so unless you follow the team closely or you’re watching on television, you don’t know who you’re watching.[2] And the game is so freaking slow.

And yet, it’s our national pastime. It’s the oldest of the four major sports, and it has the most documented statistics from as far back as 1860. Baseball movies are more beloved than any other sports movies.[3] People who don’t know anything about baseball know who Babe Ruth was and about the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Baseball was the first organized team sport to break the boundary of racial segregation. Entire cities define their identities based on their baseball teams.

Baseball is also the sport that’s most often talked about as being passed down from father to son.[4]  Fathers teach their sons about the terminology, the players and the history, as well as the intricacies of base-running, pitch location, positioning in the field and countless other minutiae that will take up valuable space in their brains for years to come.  Fathers tell stories about players they’ve watched and the passions they’ve developed for the teams and the game.  Yes, fathers may teach their kids to shoot free throws or to throw a spiral, but neither of those compare to playing a simple game of catch.[5]

As I said in a previous post, I’m teaching my son lessons about Chicago sports.  Lesson number one is the Chicago Cubs, the baseball team of which I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember.  I’m not going to go into the whole heart-breaking history of the team here; that’s what the internet is for.  Plus, everyone already knows about their century-plus streak of futility, from the curse of the Billy goat to one of the worst collapses in baseball history[6] to Leon Durham to Moises Alou.  Some people even acknowledge the good players that have been on the team, including Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance, Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Kerry Wood and a bunch of others.  Rest assured, Eitan will hear and learn about all of it, plus the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, the rooftops, Santo’s black cat, the Hawk’s home runs, Wood’s bathtub incident, Dusty’s mission to overwork every pitcher he ever works with and Prior’s intimate relationship with the disabled list.  He’ll know the difference between a curveball and a slider, running on contact, the infield fly rule, the steroids era, fantasy sports and the league’s apparent refusal to use replay technology to ensure that the right calls are made.[7] He’ll know that it’s important to stick with your team, even when they’re horrible, because it makes it that much sweeter when they finally win.

It may be a stupid game, but it’s the first one I ever learned about and it will be the first one I teach Eitan.

Go Cubs Go.


[1] Can you imagine if they did this in the NBA? Picture Stan Van Gundy or Tom Thibodeau wearing a jersey and shorts.  Just make sure you don’t mind not being able to unsee things.

[2] Reason number 2,840,751 to hate the Yankees.

[3] Try to argue with me about this. All I have to do is say Major League and Field of Dreams and I win.

[4] And daughters, too, obviously, but I have a son, so we’re sticking with that.  On a different note, I wouldn’t be surprised if a big reason for the transmission of baseball traditions to younger generations is the speed of the game.  Basketball, hockey and football all move too quickly.  Watch a hockey game; the only times you can actually go to the bathroom without fear of missing something is during the intermissions between periods.  Basketball has stoppages for free throws, time-outs and quarter intermissions, but it’s otherwise continuous action.  Even football is pretty fast-paced, as there are only 40 seconds between plays.  Baseball allows for discussion between innings, between batters and even between pitches.  There’s nothing to do but watch and talk about what the teams are going to do next.

[5] There’s a reason this book was written: http://www.amazon.com/Hey-Dad-Lets-Have-Catch/dp/097865840X

[6] You’re welcome, 1969 Mets.

[7] I told you – baseball is stupid.

What I Didn’t Expect

(Sorry for the delay in posts.  Work and preparations for Eitan’s birthday party have kind of dominated the last two weeks.)

 

Parenting is a weird business.

Weird may not be the best word for it; I just chose it because there are so many different ways of looking at being a parent and so many different things to experience that “weird” seems like a catch-all word.  Parenting is the one job[1] I can think of that can make a person laugh, cry and want to punch a hole in the wall all in the span of five minutes.  It’s exhilarating and heart-wrenching, amazing and overwhelming, all at once.  The biggest thing about being a parent, though, is this:

You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

There’s no way to prepare for being a parent.  You can read every single book, every article, listen to every podcast.  You can baby-proof every single inch of your home, from the electrical outlet covers to the toilet lid locks to the rubber pieces on the stove that keep kids from turning it on by mistake.  You can do all the research about which toys stimulate kids’ intelligence, which car seats have the highest safety ratings and which strollers are the sturdiest.[2]  But even with all of that, parenting is going to throw you curveballs every single day.

For instance, last night, I came home from work, said hi to Trudy and Eitan, and went to vacuum our apartment.  I brought the vacuum into the living room, plugged it in and turned it on.  (It should be noted, by the way, that Eitan loves the vacuum.  Loves it.  Some kids get freaked out by loud noises; Eitan is drawn to them.  The vacuum, Trudy’s hair dryer, the dishwasher, he loves all of them.[3])  For whatever reason, neither Trudy nor I had put Eitan in a place where he wouldn’t be able to get in the way of the vacuum, so he was still playing on the floor with his toys.  He hadn’t seen me take out the vacuum, but the second I turned it on, he turned around, crawled right over and put his hands on the machine.  He then proceeded to use the vacuum cleaner to stand himself up and, while I was holding it, pushed the vacuum across the carpet like he’d been doing this his entire life.  When we got to the end, he cruised his way to the front, got on the floor and pushed the vacuum back towards our starting point.  This went on for a good ten minutes or so.

That’s what I mean.  Parenting is one of those things that will give you a moment every couple of days (if not more often) that will make you stop in your tracks and ask yourself, “Is this really happening?”[4]

With last night’s fun in mind, I thought I’d come up with a list of a few other things that have happened over the past year that caught me by surprise:

–The feeling you get when your child smiles at you when you walk into the room.

–The searing pain when your child sinks their teeth into your toe (or shoulder, finger, arm, nipple…)[5]

–The sheer volume and variety of types of baby foods.

–The distance that poop can travel up a baby’s back when the diaper just isn’t doing the job.

–The amount of laundry that ends up getting done within the first few weeks after a baby is born. [6]

–The terrible terrible consequences of messing with a baby’s nap and feeding schedule.

–Sports themed baby products.[7]

–The similarities in levels of security between car seats and Las Vegas casino vaults.

–A child’s ability to find every last place you missed when baby proofing your home.

–The speed with which a baby can disappear from a room, even before they can walk.

I think that’s a pretty good list for now.  Feel free to leave comments about things that you hadn’t expected in your parenting experiences.


[1] You don’t get paid to be a parent, but make no mistake: it’s a job.  And I’m not even home most of the time.

[2] Here’s a quick note about strollers: it’s probably less overwhelming to just buy a new car.

[3] Except the really loud hand dryers in public bathrooms.  Doesn’t like those.

[4] Hello!  My son is one year old and he’s vacuuming!  What is going on???

[5] That was for Trudy, as Eitan has reportedly started biting occasionally when nursing. Eitan has never bitten my nipple.  He has, however, yanked out clumps of my chest hair, which I imagine is somewhat similar.

[6] “It’s a baby! They wear onesies and don’t do anything but eat and sleep! How often am I really going to have to wash things?” Oh, you poor, unsuspecting man…

[7] I don’t just mean clothes. A friend of ours got Eitan a pair of Chicago Bears pacifiers. He never used them but it was still one of my favorite gifts that Eitan received.