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Experiencing 2005: Chicago throws a parade

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October 27, 2005

The LaSalle Street Metra station is quiet this Wednesday morning, as I wait for the train to come in. My father drove to Joliet to take Metra downtown for the parade. My mother, a school teacher, is working. She could have taken a personal day, but she was worried about getting “caught” by any of her students that might be at the parade, too. I find this absurd—What else are personal days for? And if her students are here, they’re skipping school, too, so don’t they cancel each other out?—but Mom is very ethical about such things.

The south suburban train pulls in, and as passengers start to disembark, I think it will be easy enough to spot Dad. He is, after 6’ 4” tall and towers over most people. The first trickle of people turns into an ongoing wave. They are all wearing White Sox hats, jackets, sweatshirts, t-shirts. They are carrying flags and shakers and signs that say, “Thank you, Ozzie.” And they keep coming. I have never seen so many people on a Metra train in my life (not even the late night trips home from Ravinia). As the people stream past me, I am worried that I will miss my father, or have already missed him, in the hordes. He and Mom don’t have a cell phone.

But then I spot him—the loping gait, the glasses and old, beat-up Sox hat, and yes, a head taller then everyone around him.

We find a spot along the LaSalle Street canyon, between Adams and Jackson. It is early enough that we are only three people deep. Forty minutes later, the sidewalks are full, and we start hearing the cheers coming from further up the street. “Your mother really should be here for this,” Dad says. “She did as much as anybody to bring home the victory.”

I laugh. Sure, Dad, as much as the players and coaches and trainers. But I know what he means. He wants Mom’s faith (she predicted a 100-win season back in March, remember) to be rewarded. It is a momentous occasion, and I wish she were here, too.

The double-decker buses are in view, and then they are upon us. The confetti canons shoot enormous amounts of black and white paper shards into the air. We are waving and cheering, and my father is exclaiming, “Oh, look, there’s Ozzie!” “Ooh, ooh, there’s JD!” “There’s Paulie!” He has turned into a 12-year-old boy, thrilled at the sight of his heroes.

It is all over too soon. As Dad and I turn away from the curb, off to find lunch, I bend down and pocket some of the confetti.

* * *

Three days later, I am at a Halloween party. Several people are wearing Sox jerseys and hats, and the DJ is requested to play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” more than once. As Steve Perry croons, “on and on and on and on...” I spin in the center of the dance floor.

* * *

The off-season feels like one impromptu fan convention after another, a happy version of the Kennedy assassination: where were you when? My friend Karl missed the final play of the World Series because the cable feed of the strip club he was at went out. My aunt and her boyfriend may have been the only people in Billings, Montana who cared. Wally, with whom I started the journey on Opening Day, spilled beer on his fellow party-goers as he jumped up and down.

* * *

Final note from the future: The man I went to Game 1 of the ALDS with became my husband. My mother still has those homemade pom pons. At my father’s celebration of life, on the table next to the de rigueur photo collages was a laptop playing Game 4 of the World Series.

Fandom makes little sense, investing so much time and emotional energy on something over which a single individual has no control. Rooting for a franchise like the White Sox can feel especially futile. Until, against all odds, on the back of extraordinary pitching and if not exactly overwhelming, then certainly timely, hitting, they magically win the World Series. The sheer disbelief of it mingled with joy resulted in an emotion I have not felt since.

Now let’s go win another one.