Hope. Hope upon hope. Hope met, ever-so-recently, with a reality that just might be able to justify it. Hope that springs out of a century of nearly unremitting despair, punctuated by brief moments of brilliance and a deep, abiding love. Love of a city, rising high above the heart of the country, that draws in the great harvests of the Midwestern plains and spreads them across the world. Love of a city of neighborhoods, of incredible diversity and heart and hustle. Love of a city that disappoints us sometimes, that struggles to face its own violence and embrace its darkest corners and draw them into the light. Love, still, of a city on a lake.
Love of a ballpark, less than a mile from that lake, from whose uppermost reaches you can see the white-topped waves bobbing the white-topped sailboats in the water a few hundred meters from shore. Love of a ballpark of ivy, of red brick walls and wrought-iron gates, of childhood memories and grown-up delights. Love of a ballpark of green, green grass, set perfectly against a brilliant blue sky and displayed best in the sunshine of summer baseball. Love of a ballpark for its history, for the legends who walked here before, and the legends who walk here still.
And love of a team. Love of a team that has disappointed us for so many years, that has rebelled against our unconditional love to disappoint us time and again in spite of it. Love of a team that needed to lose to find out how to win. Love of a team full of players we’ve come to know from their earliest professional days, led by a manager and by a front office in whom we’ve learned to place our trust. Love of a team we know could break our hearts even now, if that trust is betrayed or if—worse yet–our hope turns out to be unjustified.
It’s hard to know what to write on this, the eve of the most hopeful of Chicago summers. There is nothing left to be done, this offseason and this Arizona spring. The team looks as good as it possibly could, as good as any team this 2016 season possibly could. And yet it could still disappoint us. They all could have. Many did, in the end. It’s hard to know what to write because as you feel hope burgeoning out of that place in the soul where it sleeps, you feel as well the voice of reason, the voice of experience, saying, “Don’t love too hard. Don’t care too much.” That voice has helped you grieve before. Has steeled you, cynical and hard, against what you know will probably come.
But tomorrow isn’t a day for that voice. Today is a day for hope. Today is a day for beginnings. Today is a day for Chicago, and the belief that—against all odds—this may finally be the year. Let’s play ball.
Lead photo courtesy Aaron Doster—USA Today Sports.