Gave proof through the night

The piece I wrote yesterday about Jimi Hendrix and the anniversary of his death set me on a mission to find my Hendrix CD. It was purchased sometime in the 1990s, back when CDs still needed to be purchased in order to acquire music. I still have lots of old CDs, and fortunately I was able to find the Hendrix one without any trouble.

Probably my favorite song on the CD is his version of the Star Spangled Banner from his performance at Woodstock. It’s recognizable, but also twisted and contorted, just like I gather America itself was back then. When it’s understood for what it is, it’s beautiful, at least to me.

I had a “Francis Scott Key moment” of my own a couple of days ago. It started with the piece that I wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s tribute to Ron Santo in his first show at Wrigley Field. The piece ran on, and within a day it had made it to the top of that website’s “Most popular” list. It felt like having a #1 record must have felt for Dexy’s Midnight Runners with “Come on Eileen.” I had to get an 80s reference in there, somehow.

The piece showed some staying power, hanging on for more than a week in the top spot. I have to admit that I checked in on it, from time to time, and it always felt good to see something I had done sitting at number one. It’s not a feeling that I’m familiar with, to be completely honest.

And then, in the wake of a disappointing Bears loss to Green Bay, ChicagoSide ran a piece by longtime Chicago sports columnist Jay Mariotti about Jay Cutler and how much the Chicago Bears suck this year. Mariotti had a long run in Chicago as the daily opinion maker for sports in this town. While he’s not in Chicago anymore, his name recognition alone, to say nothing of his considerable writing skills, virtually guaranteed a wide readership for what he had written.

And soon enough, his piece appeared on the site’s most popular list. It quickly made it up to number 2 on the list, and that’s where it was when I went to bed on Monday night. I saw my Springsteen/Santo/Tribute piece still on top, and his Cutler/Bears/Suck piece gaining ground quickly. I went to bed, convinced that the pieces would be changing positions with each other that night.

On Tuesday morning I was pleasantly surprised, like Francis Scott Key, when I awoke to find that the Springsteen piece was still there, on top of the list. I thought to myself that Springsteen had trumped Cutler, and the Santo tribute had trumped the Bears’ suck. I was probably over-analyzing it, but when your own stuff is involved, I think that’s allowed.

It wasn’t, in my mind, a personal vindication of any sort. I just told the story of a well-loved rock star paying tribute to a well-loved ballplayer on a Friday night in Wrigley Field. Nobody sucked, nobody had disappointed anyone, and it was all about something good and uplifting. The other piece was about kicking someone who was down. He might even deserve to be kicked, because I’ve never really been a fan of Jay Cutler. But be that as it may, the catharsis that comes from releasing frustrations was evident throughout the piece.

Chicago loves the Bears, much more than I do. And so when things go badly, especially when the Packers are involved, people can go a long way by riling up the team’s fans. The truth is that the Bears have invested so heavily in Cutler that he’s not going anywhere. Chicago is basically stuck with this guy. Railing against Jay Cutler is like a wolf howling at the moon: it might feel good to do it, but in the end it changes nothing.

So the inevitable finally happened, at some point on Tuesday. The Springsteen piece is something I’ll always be very proud of, and the attention that it received was well-deserved. It was a classy thing that Bruce Springsteen did, and Ron Santo very much deserved a tribute, for the Hall of Fame, for what he did for Diabetes research, and for how much of himself he put into baseball and the Cubs. What does Jay Cutler deserve? Not very much, unless he can somehow find a way to win the Super Bowl. And even if he does, it’s unlikely that fans would think very much of him, anyway.

So the torch has been passed, and the Jay/Jay pairing now reigns. I’m hoping to have another piece up on the website soon, but for now it’s gone far better than I could have imagined. And it’s certainly worth writing about here, too.

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