Throughout my relationship with my dad, baseball was the constant. When we first moved to Pennsylvania, Dad got a Sunday season ticket package for a few years, which ended up including trips to the NLCS and World Series in 1983. When I was a teenager, we usually stayed closer to home, going to dozens of Reading Phillies games each summer. And the last trip I ever took with my dad and my brother was a long baseball weekend out to Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
When we found out he was sick, we were literally days away from leaving for a family reunion and trip to Wrigley, which obviously we ended up missing. I've always secretly wished he'd been able to wait to get his diagnosis, just so we could have one last memory. But it wasn't to be.
I know I'm only one of many sons that are thinking of their fathers today, who weren't here to see the Cubs finally win the World Series. I honestly don't know what he would have made of it; he was never a demonstrative person, and between you and me I think he was more of a Phillies fan for the last few years of his life, having watched the core of those great recent Phillies teams develop in Reading. But I know he would have been happy, and would have loved that game. More than anything, my dad just liked to watch baseball. He was just as happy going to Reading as he was going to a Major League park (probably moreso, when you consider the out of pocket costs). He liked to remind me that he'd sometimes take me to watch slo-pitch softball down the street. He was never a diehard, because to him the result wasn't what mattered, it was the fun of watching the game.
Earlier this year, when it was clear that this could be a special year, I made it a point to go and see the Cubs when they came through Philadelphia. I took my daughter with me, even though she's not much of a fan, and doesn't pay attention, and can't sit still, and wants something to eat every two innings, and it meant I couldn't keep score, and we'd be leaving before the game is over, and all those other things that probably bugged my dad when I was nine. But she loved it, wearing the Reading Phillies hat her grandfather got for her at her first ever baseball game years ago. I hope I can spend the rest of my life telling her that she saw the Cubs the year they finally won the World Series after 108 years. After all, that's why sports matter. They bind us together, as family, friends, and community. They give us common ground to relate to one another, even during the hard times. And they allow us to stay connected, even to loved ones that have long since passed.