Quarterly Report #10

Ten quarters is two and a half years. Throw in the quarter where I blew off writing one of these, and I’m almost three years into writing this blog. My output last quarter was just under a post a day, and some of the posts I added weren’t more than a picture and a few words. But it’s clear to me I still enjoy doing this.

This quarter I quit drinking coffee, on the theory that I would sleep better at night if I cut back on the caffeine. And I also created an avenue for artistic expression with the teabag haiku thing that I do sometimes. I have fun with it, and that’s the best reason for doing it.

Last quarter I also didn’t eat at McDonald’s once, which is probably a good thing. I still overeat in other ways, and other fast food outlets may get a visit on occasion (darn you, Colonel Sanders) but on the whole this is a change that I’m glad to have made.

I also commented on some celebrity deaths last quarter, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Harold Ramis. We all die eventually, and a classmate of mine from high school died very suddenly this month,too. I didn’t know her very well, but again it’s a reminder that we have to enjoy the time that we’re here.

And lastly, I contributed a few things to four other websites, so that cut into the things that I put here. But it’s all good, because taking a thought from my head and then sending it out to the world always feels great.

The next one of these will be in the heat of the summer. Until then….

A bittersweet day

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There are some things in life that I truly enjoy, and writing is at or near the top of the list. While I’ve written things all my life, putting them into a form where they can be read by other people has been a relatively new development for me. And today offered some reminders of what this action means.

This morning I was paging through a Baseball preview magazine for 2014. It was the type of a publication that I would have devoured from cover to cover at one point in my life, before life and work and family came along. Baseball matters a great deal to me, but not at the expense of everyday life.

As I was flipping through the first few articles, I came upon a “storylines for 2014” article. All of the team-specific and fantasy baseball stories were still ahead, but this was a general type of a story, written in the form of a list. If it were a webpage–and for all I know, it does exist as a list somewhere on line–it would have been a click-through type of story, with a few ads interspersed along with the content. But this was a print story, and no clicking was required.

One of the points that the story identified as a storyline for this season was the progress of Chicago’s two baseball teams, from the wretched season that they both had in 2013. The story asserted that the 195 combined losses of the two teams was more than any season in the history of Chicago baseball. And I smiled at this, because it came from an idea I had, and some research that I had done last summer. Grouping the Cubs and the White Sox together goes against all Chicago urges and yet I did it, and wrote a story that ChicagoSideSports published in early August of last year.

I enjoy writing for different websites, or else I wouldn’t do it, but ChicagoSide holds a special place in my heart. I enjoy the books written by Jon Eig, the founder of the site, and I liked the print possibilities that writing for the site had offered. A piece I wrote for ChicagoSide last year occupied a two page spread in Roger Ebert’s newspaper on the day that he passed away. For the rest of my days I’ll be proud to say that.

Putting a nugget of an idea out into the online or print world is a very gratifying feeling, but unless outlets for these thoughts and ideas exist, there’s no reason to produce them in the first place.

When I read, in either late 2011 or early 2012, that Jon Eig and a friend of his were putting together a sports website, I wondered if I would be able to contribute to it in some way. My blog had been going for a few months by then, and I wanted to see if the stuff that I write might be of interest to anyone else. There was a great chance of hearing “no,” but I soldiered on anyway.

My initial idea for a ChicagoSide story was a recap of the first game that the Cubs and White Sox played against each other, back in 1997. I was at that game, and I had a particular idea about how to go about describing it. I planned to give a description of the game’s events, using only African American players’ names. At the end of the retelling, I would point out that such a story could not appear in 2012, because neither the Cubs nor the White Sox had a single African American player on their rosters. This was a disturbing development to me, as a kid who was raised on Lou Brock and Reggie Jackson and George Foster and many others in the 1970s and 1980s. Jon liked the piece, and said he would run with it in a multi-part series about African Americans and their dwindling numbers in the game that I love.

The series ran on ChicagoSide, but my piece was not included. I could have taken this as a sign that what I wrote wasn’t up to snuff, because after all what have I ever done? I’m well aware of my limitations when it comes to producing anything of note. But I sucked it up and pitched another idea at him, instead.

I was very clear that I felt like I could make a contribution, and would do whatever I could to make it happen. The piece was about an upcoming Bruce Springsteen concert at Wrigley Field in September of 2012, and I learned that it would run on the site at the end of August.

On the day that the piece was scheduled to go live on the website, I was at Universal Studios with my family. My girls were excited about going into the park as it opened for the day, while I was anxiously checking my phone to see if the piece was published yet. Seeing the piece go live, along with some Chicago-inspired art of Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. album cover, made a fun day at the theme park that much more enjoyable. I hope I never forget the feeling that I had that day, not only because I was proud of the piece I had written, but also because of the perseverance that it took to get to that point.

In the year and a half that followed, I had several more pieces  that  ran  on  ChicagoSide. I wrote stories that I thought were worth telling, and Jon made it possible for them to be told. His rewrites invariably made my work better, and I am grateful for the time and attention he put in on my behalf.

Earlier today, a few hours after reading one of my ChicagoSide ideas in print, I learned that Jon had sold ChicagoSide to someone else. I was saddened at the idea that I wouldn’t be able to send him any more of my story ideas. I have been told that I can continue to pitch ideas to the new editorial staff, and I’m sure that it won’t be long before I do exactly that. The well of ideas is forever replenishing itself, and I’m truly grateful for that.

I’m also grateful that ChicagoSide gave me an opportunity to share some of these ideas with its readers. I’ve started writing for other websites, as well, and my friends and followers on social media platforms are probably tired of all the ideas that I’ve set free over the past few years. But I’m glad to have done it, and I plan to keep doing it in the months and years to come.

The internet is a brave new world for writers and anyone else who wants to share their creations with the outside world. And as a wise lady once said, there ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it. I’m very glad that ChicagoSide has given me someplace to do it.

Some writings from this month

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Yesterday was the first time that I’ve had a piece published on ChicagoSideSports this year, but I’ve also been active on ThroughTheFenceBaseball and on FiveWideSports. I haven’t promoted them the  way that I would like to here, but I’m grateful to have a chance to share some of my thoughts with those in the online community.

Sweet Home Ditka-go

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It’s Mike Ditka’s city, and I just happen to live in it.

Last Spring, I celebrated Chicago’s annual season of hope by writing out a list of all the reasons I could think of for why Chicago was not only a baseball town, but the best baseball town in all the land. It was a labor of love, and when I saw the piece on ChicagoSide’s web page, I was as happy as I can be. The artwork was a Chicago flag, with baseballs superimposed over the four red stars. It was quite a sight to behold.

And, just to make the story even sweeter, the story was picked up to run in the Chicago Sun-Times. For a kid who grew up delivering newspapers to the houses in my neighborhood for six years, it was a dream come true. The thrill of going down to the local 7-11 and buying a stack of them for whoever might want to see it was a special treat, along with thumbing through the paper, looking for the place where the article would appear.

It made sense, with the Sun-Times being laid out as it is with the Sports in the back, to flip it over and work from the back cover in. But I reasoned that working from the front cover back would stretch the moment out just a little bit longer.

On the front cover of the paper that day was a picture of Roger Ebert, on what turned out to be the day that he passed away. Of all the stories that my grandchildren will half-ignore some day in the future, appearing in Roger Ebert’s newspaper on the day that he died will probably be the very first one. It will always be a special honor to be able to say that.

As I worked my way through the local stories, and the opinion pieces, and the classified ads, I began to get excited. The back end of the sports section was coming up soon, and unless some malfunction had come up, I was going to be in it somewhere. The suspense was quite a thrill.

And then I came to it, on a two-page spread between pages 66 and 67. “Second to None” the headline blared, along with a large color image of Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. The most storied moment in all of baseball history happened not in New York, or Boston, or St. Louis, but right here in Chicago. And all of Chicago was going to read about it, too.

Space limitations were such that only the first 50 reasons could appear on the two pages that day. The other 50 reasons were available on the ChicagoSide website, and my hope is that at least a few of those who saw the story in print made their way to the web site as well.

But what came after the teaser at the end of the piece was an unmistakable reminder of the true pecking order of sports in this town. For despite my attempts to raise the public’s consciousness of this city’s baseball history, the lower right corner told me—and anyone else who was paying attention—who really calls the tune around here.

“Mike Ditka: Player, Coach, Legend” read the ad, which also included a quote from da Coach and a website for DitkaSteaks.com. I appreciated the irony of a Mike Ditka ad placement on the baseball story I had written. I felt a little bit like Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars movie, when Han Solo tells him “Don’t get cocky!” For no matter what excitement the piece brought to me personally, I was reminded—and always will be—that Mike Ditka casts a shadow in this town that nobody else can match.

Congratulations on the number retirement, Coach, and thanks for all the memories through the years.

Quarterly report #8

Wrigley and Pearl Jam--Awesome!

It’s now been over two years since I’ve been writing this blog. It’s been a time capsule of my life, and the more I do it, the more comfortable it becomes. As I sometimes do in this space, now’s a time to look back, and try to see what lies ahead, too.

I passed 1,000 posts here back in July, which I didn’t think would happen at one point. I had visions of going off and trying to work on a book of some sort, and maybe that will in the cards one day, but writing little posts like these and putting them online has an immediacy that writing a book wouldn’t have. So I keep devoting time and energy to this, because it does scratch some sort of an itch for me.

But I’ve also had writings appear in other places as well. I started writing a column at ThroughTheFenceBaseball, and I am very proud of the work I’ve done there over the past two seasons. The off-season hibernation will start soon, but I think there’s still a little bit more to say while the playoffs are going on.

I also started writing for FiveWideSports over the past couple of weeks, and I’m happy with the first few pieces I’ve sent them. As the college football season rolls on, I’ll keep writing about my Northwestern Wildcats. It will be nice to talk about a winner for a change.

I also had a piece appear on ChicagoSideSports, and saw my visions of a losing season on both sides of Chicago realized, in a way that I didn’t see coming. A run at the old record of 191 losses for both teams in a season would have been interesting, but breaking the record with 195 combined losses was more than I ever thought would happen. It was brutal.

I also wrote about the Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field back in July, including my first-ever appearance in Zisk magazine, which I really like a lot. I’m glad that they agreed to run my report on the concert.

I wrote lots of other pieces here, and I’m happy that I can take a small moment, or a trip to the ballpark, and put a few words about them here. And I plan to continue this into the future, as well. It’s too much fun to consider giving this up.

The next report will  be written during the bowl season, I hope. There will be lots of things to say between now and then, I’m sure.

Quarterly Report #7

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I skipped doing a Quarterly report after the first three months of 2013, which would have been the seventh quarter that I’ve been writing this blog. Perhaps I was busy, of I kept putting it off until it was too late, but whatever the reason was, I didn’t do it. So this report is being written to get myself back on track with these. I really think it’s helpful to tie up the previous three months, and look ahead to the future a little bit. So here goes (and I’m not labeling this as #8, although I did think about it):

I recently celebrated the two year anniversary of this blog, and I really didn’t think that I would have stuck with it for so long. There’s a lot that I have already said in this space, and a lot more that I still want to say, and so the blog will live on until further notice.

At the beginning of this quarter, back in April, I was so sick that I couldn’t speak. That must have been the reason that I didn’t write the last quarterly report, now that I think about it. I had a great time in the Smoky Mountains and then in Memphis, and I wrote about some of it here.

The bombing at the Boston Marathon happened in April, and it was one of those times where I was glad to have some place to put my thoughts out to the wider world. So too was the passing of Roger Ebert a chance to speak to things that I otherwise wouldn’t address. Something that he wrote on his blog about alcoholism inspired me to give up drinking, and it’s now been two years since I stopped trying to wipe out my liver. I’ll be forever grateful for his candor about a subject that most people wouldn’t touch.

On the day that Ebert died, a piece I wrote for ChicagoSideSports also ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, which was Roger Ebert’s paper. It was thrilling to see my words in print, as it always has been since I began writing as a teenager. But then, when the word came that he had died in the afternoon, it became a connection to him that I never thought about before, and one that I will always cherish.

The baseball season began in April, and I returned for another year of writing for ThroughTheFenceBaseball, or TTFB as it’s also known. I started out hopefully enough when the Cubs won their first series of the year, but it has been downhill pretty dramatically since then. Some of my pieces were linked to here and here and here.

In addition to TTFB, ChicagoSideSports, and the Chicago Sun-Times, I also had the pleasure of seeing my pen name in the New York Times, and of course I had to write about that.When things like that happen, it’s better to get something on the record than to just allow it to slip by unnoticed,

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup at the end of June, and their thrilling run through the playoffs gave me some fodder for this blog, as well. May it not be the last Chicago sports championship that this blog will see.

There were other things going on in this blog over the last three months, and I’m proud–as I always am–of what’s been put out into this space. There will doubtlessly be many more things to write about in the coming months, and I look forward to having much to summarize when the end of September rolls around.

Link to a piece on ChicagoSideSports

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It’s been about a month since I had something appear on ChicagoSideSports, which is a website I really enjoy writing for. With the Bulls and the Blackhawks in the playoffs at the moment, and neither of Chicago’s baseball teams doing much of anything, there’s not much interest in what’s happening on the diamond. In fact, I write those stories for ThroughTheFenceBaseball, anyway.

This piece came to me as I attended my first game of the season at Wrigley Field a week ago. I’m not expecting to get back to another game this season, either. High ticket prices and bad baseball are not a good combination, if you ask me.

There’s hopefully going to be another featured piece on ChicagoSide toward the end of this month. I’ll be sure to provide a link when that happens.

Submitted for the Cubs’ consideration

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Dear Chicago Cubs,

I welcome the news that you will be turning away from random celebrities, in favor of giving the seventh-inning stretch more of a Chicago feel. To honor your decision, I want to kick off a campaign to secure myself an invite for one of the celebrity-vacated spots, for the 2013 season or whenever you see your way clear to inviting me.

To set forth some credentials, I offer the following: I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was seven years old. I wrote about my Cubs conversion, and have chronicled many other Cubs-related memories in this space, as well.

In addition, I also write about the Cubs for ThroughTheFenceBaseball, and would be happy to relate my experiences to that site and its readers. I also write for ChicagoSideSports, and what a story that would be for them, as well. I have several ideas to write about for them, but I promise that no other piece would matter until that story is told.

I feel, on some level, that I’ve helped to diagnose one of the problems plaguing the Cubs in the quest to win at Wrigley Field. Last year,  I wrote a piece about how Bruce Springsteen has brought success to the Bears, Blackhawks, and White Sox, after he played a concert in their home stadium. That piece ran in TimeOutChicago, and I was very glad to see it. But I also took it one step further on my blog.

I pointed out that Bruce Springsteen’s 2003 concerts at Fenway Park seemed to clear the way for the Red Sox to finally break their curse/drought/whatever in 2004. I looked at the playlists for those shows, and identified The Promised Land as a song that speaks of faith in someplace that hasn’t yet been seen. I theorized that if Bruce could play The Promised Land at Wrigley Field last summer, perhaps that would be enough to break whatever’s been afflicting the Cubs for so long. Nobody can say that Boston won for that reason in 2004, but nobody can say that they didn’t, either.

I went to the first Springsteen show at Wrigley last year, and even though I didn’t hear the Promised Land, it was a phenomenal show. I also picked up on a hidden Ron Santo tribute during the show, wrote about it, and sent it off to Jon Eig, the editor at ChicagoSideSports. He got the piece up on the site in time for others to read about it before the second Springsteen show, and this time, when My City of Ruins was played, I have to believe at least some at the show knew what was going on. Bruce even called the fans’ attention to it, in a way that he didn’t do at the first show. I can’t say I had a role in any of that, but again, I put the story out there and events played out as they did.

The second Springsteen show led off with The Promised Land, and I took to my blog the next morning and declared victory. I’m not foolish enough to take credit for the song actually being played. But I did lay down a marker that if anything good comes from it, I want it known that I pointed this out before the fact.

In the wake of the Ron Santo piece, I also wrote a Kerry Wood piece for ChicagoSide, and a Ryan Freel piece, and the Pete Rose piece that took off in ways I never imagined, and has helped lead to an evaluation of whether Rose has suffered enough for what he did. All of which has been very gratifying, and has put my words and ideas into the minds and on the tongues of many people.

I’m no celebrity, and I never will be, either. I’m just a dedicated Chicagoan who loves the Cubs like nothing else, short of my own family. My Twitter page, my blog site, my Tumblr page, and my Pinterest account all verify my devotion to the team, and my Facebook banner leaves no doubt as to my thoughts about baseball itself. And if that doesn’t merit even a bit of consideration for a singing gig at Wrigley Field, so be it. Just having the chance to type all of this up was interesting enough.

Thanks for the consideration.

Rob Harris

What’s in a name?

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I have a new-found respect for the work of William Shakespeare, after seeing Romeo and Juliet performed onstage these last couple of nights. He tells a great story, and the words coming from the actors’ mouths are secondary to the emotions being displayed. That’s what doesn’t come through in simply trying to read the plays. The annotations get tiresome, and the fact is these plays weren’t written to be read; they were written to be staged. For the first time in my life, I understand that.

Maybe Shakespeare’s most well-known line–and he has many of them–is in the balcony scene, where Juliet calls “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?” People who don’t know the first thing about Shakespeare know that line, 400 years after Shakespeare first penned it. But there’s another, also well-known line that Juliet speaks in the same scene.

Juliet is trying to come to terms with the fact that Romeo is a Montague, and she is a Capulet. Their families are enemies, and Juliet cannot understand why that should get in the way of her feelings about him. She asks the audience “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose would, by any other name, smell just as sweet.” And he’s got a point there.

Abraham Lincoln–who was known to be an avid Shakespeare enthusiast–would ask this question of his son: “How many legs does a dog have, if you call a tail a leg?” His son would answer “Five legs” and Lincoln would say no, reminding his son that calling a tail a leg did not make it a leg. The gist of this, I think, is that you can name something whatever you like, but that does not change what that thing actually is.

I use Shakespeare and Lincoln, two men I have great respect for, to bring up the fact that I have a very good name, but also a very common one. I share my name with many, many people and, as I discovered this week, an AP reporter in Great Britain.

There was a band in Los Angeles in the early 1970s that called themselves Mammoth. They started playing in clubs, doing the things that a band has to do to get noticed, but they had a problem. There was already a band named Mammoth, and people were never going to get to know their Mammoth if they had to figure out which one it was. So the newer band changed their name to reflect the last name of the guitarist and the drummer, and so Van Halen took flight. I think that name change worked out pretty well for them, so I’m going to try it for myself.

I can’t use the more formal version of my name, since that’s also the name of an established novelist (and I’m very fond of his work). It’s the name of a coffeehouse chain in New Zealand, as well, and one of my goals in life is to one day go to New Zealand, so I can walk around with a cup of coffee bearing my name (and his). So that’s out, too.

The most logical thing to do, then, is to look to my middle name. I’ve written before about how much I admire Lincoln, and how fortunate I feel to carry his name around with me through life. I’ll never be Abraham Lincoln–nobody could–but I can honor him, while also setting myself apart from all the others who share my name. So my Twitter handle is now going to be my pen name, as well. And if there’s anyone else out there using that name, they’re just going to have to get used to the competition.

Kate Upton and me (sort of)

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Trending on Yahoo is something that I have never done before the last couple of days. And, truthfully, I wasn’t trending at all. The “Pete Rose erased” story, which grew out of this piece for ChicagoSideSports and in the Chicago Sun-Times, was doing the trending. But I started it all off, and if that story appears next to a picture of Kate Upton, I won’t complain about that one little bit.

My 15 minutes

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What an interesting day this has been. A month ago, on January 13, I speculated that the first “double 13” of the year was an ominous thing, and there were still eleven more of them to go. Well, today was the second “double 13” of the year (and in our lifetimes), and I won’t soon forget it.

The Pete Rose piece that I wrote for ChicagoSideSports went viral, and has been picked up by many news outlets. I’ve seen my name in hyperlinks for the first time, and seem my name tagged in stories too. I’ve created lots and lots and lots of hyperlinks and tags in the time I’ve been writing this blog, so to imagine anyone doing the same with my name is humbling, to say the very least.

It’s also been very disappointing to see the vitriol that’s been thrown at me. I have thick skin, and there isn’t a name somebody can throw at me that I haven’t already been called at some other point in my life. So no worries there.

The anonymity of the internet leads people to believe they can say whatever they want about someone they don’t know and will never meet. And it turns out they can, sad to say. I don’t have the time or the temperament to seek out those who want to throw stones my way. If knocking me or a piece I wrote down makes them feel better, then I’m glad I could help them out in some way. And I’m glad I don’t have to live the life they do, either.

I did contact Topps for a comment about the piece, and if it was MLB’s decision–and not Topps’–to leave Rose’s name off of the cards, they had a chance to tell me that. The decision to use the Career Chase in the first place was probably Topps’ and not MLB’s. But the decision to tell me how many hits Starlin Castro–or any player who had their career hits total highlighted in this fashion–has was probably Topps’ call to make. By bringing hits into it, and thus leaving Rose out, Topps created this mess. They should have seen this coming when they did what they did.

I’m conflicted about Topps, since they have been on the receiving end of a lot of nasty comments about their decision. But then again, the amount of attention they are getting right now probably dwarfs what they usually get. As Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton will attest, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

It’s been quite a day, that’s for sure. It will probably be a long time before there’s another one like it. Or maybe another day is coming up in 28 days, when the next “Double 13” is upon us. I’ll find out soon enough.

Link to a piece on ChicagoSideSports

ryan_freel_cubs_chicagoside

Ryan Freel’s tragic suicide in December of 2012 might not matter to me if he had never played for the Cubs. I’m very provincial that way. Most fans probably are when it comes to their team.

The brevity of Freel’s career as a Cub does not mean that he was unimportant; It’s actually quite the opposite. Here’s a link to the story so you can find out more. But be aware that there was no happy beginning, middle, or end for him in Chicago.

Freel gave everything he had, and more than he probably should have given, and that alone deserves to be recognized. There are questions to be asked, and lessons to be learned, and if I’ll be very pleased if I can help to move this process along in any way.

Link to a piece on ChicagoSideSports

It’s all over but the bowl game now. The college football season was exciting, but ultimately disappointing for me as an alumus of Northwestern University. Not one, not two, but three games got away from the Wildcats, and that’s why there’s no game to look forward to this weekend. That’s why this feels more like 1996–the year that I went to see the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on new year’s day–than like 1995, when a top five ranking was a possibility.

I sometimes deal with disappointments by writing about them. Here’s a link to the ChicagoSide piece. Enjoy it if you can. I like the artwork, though.

Quarterly Report #5

It’s been an exciting three months in this space. I’ve written some things that I’m very proud of, and I’ve carried out a format change, as I suggested I would the last time I wrote one of these reports. I like the format of displaying images from the most recent posts on the right, and being able to scroll through each post by title, without having to read through any text. This feels like an improvement over the way that I used to do it, with the MLB retro theme.

I’ve had some things appear on ThroughTheFenceBaseball, as I have all season long, and some of my thoughts have appeared on ChicagoSideSports, as well. I’ve also hit the 500 post mark, and made it beyond 300,000 words for all of the posts here. I’m cranking out words, and enjoying this burst of creativity for as long as it lasts. I’m hopeful for a long and enjoyable ride, just as I’ve been having already. This is too much fun to be giving up anytime soon.

Link to a Kerry Wood piece on ChicagoSideSports

Kerry Wood got a Wrigley Field send-off yesterday, and as a long-time Cub he deserved something nice. But for all of the celebratory things that were said about him, I thought of what might have been, if only his potential had been a bit more fully realized.

The piece itself appears here. It’s not really a joy to read, but every word is true.

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 ChicagoSideSports.com, 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.

Wrigley, Ronny and the Boss

ChicagoSideSports is a new website in town, and it focuses on topics that mean a lot to me. Chicago is a great sports town, and ChicagoSide presents angles on it that national outlets like ESPN never could. I was thrilled when my first piece for them was published a couple of weeks ago, and even more thrilled when they ran another piece that I wrote the morning after Friday night’s Springsteen concert at Wrigley Field.

The piece came together quickly, between my writing it and the efforts of Jonathan Eig, the Editor-in-Chief of ChicagoSideSports, to get it up on the site. As a result, a hidden tribute to Ron Santo from Friday night’s show was more visible to fans at Saturday’s show. The piece has received a good deal of traffic in the three days that it’s been up, and I’m quite pleased that it’s worked out as it has.

I’ve written about Ron Santo before here and here. Chicago has a spot in its heart for Ron Santo, and as a result, the piece had an inherent interest the moment it was published. But add that to the historic nature of Springsteen’s shows at Wrigley, and the large community of people who follow his music, and it was a unique opportunity to write a piece that appealed to many different people. I’m very proud that I was able to weave these threads together, and I’m grateful that it has found an audience that’s much larger than my humble blog’s will ever be.

Additional pieces, whatever they should be about and wherever they may be published, will be cross-posted here, as well. Stay tuned.

One week to go

It’s Friday night, and at this time next week Bruce Springsteen will be onstage at Wrigley Field. September once seemed far away, and now it’s almost here. It promises to be a rockin’ good time.

Earlier this week I had a piece published on ChicagoSideSports about how Springsteen will be the first artist to play at all four Chicago sports arenas: Soldier Field in 1985, the United Center beginning in 1999, U.S. Cellular Field in 2003, and now Wrigley Field in 2012. It’s worth pointing out that championship banners have since come to each of those first three venues, so that bodes well for Wrigley and the Cubs. As I wrote back in March, I believe in the Promised Land.