A long-suffering Cub sulks among the Giants
When a laughing Odin casts me out of Valhalla upon my death, it will be because I have lived a petty life dominated by envy.
And it's about to get worse this weekend when I accompany a group of friends to San Francisco to watch their Giants play a pair of games against the Milwaukee Brewers.
It will be my second trip to AT&T Park, a jewel tucked in a beautiful stretch of the Bay.
Last season I wandered down there with this same group to watch my Chicago Cubs blow a late lead against the Giants, who would eventually go on to win the World Series.
The Cubs, of course, went on to flub their way to a sub-.500 season, landing with a wet thud at the bottom of the National League Central.
Spending time around Boston Red Sox and Giants fans, who comprise my core group of Ashland homies, sometimes leaves me feeling irritable and desolate.
We are the baseball guys. We invade Omar's or the Oak Tree and demand at least one flat screen be fastened to a baseball game. With any luck we get two.
Our request usually is greeted with a moan from some booze mule at the bar who always has some crack about steroids or how boring it is to watch.
It's interesting, though, to watch the reactions at the bar when the Giants are locked in a tight pitching duel. I notice how eyes start to follow the action, and when a big hit comes in the late innings, all conversation stops and the same schlub who was complaining when we walked in suddenly jabs his finger at the screen and gives a yelp of surprise and excitement.
"Ah man, he got it! Go go go!" he barks, seemingly unaware of the contradiction his life has become as the runners truck around toward home.
Beyond all the crap, the salaries, the medical cheating and the waning popularity of the sport among the young, the game endures.
My time watching the Giants at Omar's has taught me this.
Yet, as much joy as I've gotten living in Southern Oregon and following the nearby Giants, and even though I've come to adopt this particular squad with its oddballs, freaks and country boys and that magnificent gift of a stadium, my heart belongs to the perennial losers who muddle their way through 162 games a season on Chicago's North Side.
In this drama I have become Heath Ledger's sad and fractured cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain," whose forbidden love has torn his life asunder. The Cubs are my Jake Gyllenhaal, my reason for living but also the reason life will never be a smooth, straight road leading to sunshine and warm climates.
There are times I want to lash out at the Cubs, screaming, "I wish I could quit you!" but I know I will always accept them back into my cowboy tent.
To their credit, my friends Trevor (Red Sox fan) and Keefe (Giants fan) never rub it in that they have tasted the sweet, cool waters of the mountaintop as I remain wracked with typhoid at base camp.
I sometimes wish they would rib me as we watch Cubs' leads dwindle, as the strikeouts and errors build to a late-inning crescendo of futility.
But they usually just clap me manfully on the back following another heartbreaker loss. They look at me like I am their well-meaning but clueless cousin who just squandered my third nest egg investing in penny stocks and a used boat lot outside Elko, Nev.
"Sorry, bro," is what I get.
This year has been particularly tough. I knew we were going to be bad. That was a given. Too many huge contracts doled out to too many aging players who are through caring about bringing victory to the North Side. There's a lot of paycheck cashing going on in Wrigley Field these days.
But unlike shoddy Cubs teams of old, this one can't even lose interestingly. We give little effort and then slink off the field in a daze when it all goes south. And no one really seems to care, not the fans, not the announcers and not even the normally pitbull Chicago sports media machine.
Which is the complete opposite of these Giants fans I'm going to encounter this weekend. These people speak of their team with eyes filled with love and admiration.
And why not? They deserve it.
So I will enter AT&T Park to root for a team whose bandwagon I have strapped myself to on a, hopefully, brief detour that will someday lead me 1,800 miles east to the corner of Waveland Avenue and Addison Street, back to where the Cubs play in their "ivy covered burial ground."*
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Taken from the late Steve Goodman's song "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request."