More Than Just A Game

I encountered the game of baseball around the age of six, when I joined my local park district team. My career ended mercifully after one season. Even though most of my time as little-leaguer was uneventful, one moment lives on today.

It was raining one summer day, so we had to play our game indoors. I was installed at first base, hoping that the ball somehow would avoid me. A kid on the opposing team hit a pitch high into the air, all the way up to the ceiling. Magically, the ball landed in my open glove and stuck there. I had no idea what was going on, but my dad was in the gym, and he was cheering for me. That’s what he always did.

Today marks five years since my father died, and all I keep thinking about is baseball and our relationship to it. I’ll never forget how my dad, a huge Cubs fan, used to find out when my favorite team as a kid, the Atlanta Braves, would be in town to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He made sure that I got to see my team in person at least once a year. He rooted for me even when we weren’t rooting for the same team.

By the time college rolled around, though, I started following the Cubs and quickly became a big fan. One year after graduation, in 2003, I was having a difficult time in my life. It was often hard for me to get out of bed and face the world, but that summer dad encouraged me to emerge from my darkness and watch Cubs games with him. Again he was cheering me on, wishing the best for his struggling son.

Sadly, 2003 went down as another lost year for the Cubs. After beating, ironically, the Braves in the first round of the playoffs that October, the Cubs were five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945, when dad was just nine years old. The Florida Marlins scored seven runs in the eighth inning, though, and won game 6, forcing a game 7.

Hope was tough to come by at the start of that last game. The Cubs couldn’t recover from their previous defeat, and just like that, a promising postseason run went up in smoke.

The loss was hard enough, but I didn’t make it any easier for my father, telling him right after the loss, “It’s just a game.” Of course, I was trying to cheer him up as he had done for me that whole summer, but he was so heartbroken that my words were empty.

Three seasons later, in 2006, my father’s health was in decline. We still watched the Cubs, of course, but I could tell that it was harder for him to enjoy the games. In April, while the Cubs were in Los Angeles and playing the Dodgers, Cubs first baseman (and our best player) Derrek Lee broke two bones in his wrist during a collision at his position. Right after it happened, dad said, “There goes the season.”

I tried denying the truth of that statement, but I knew he was right. I didn’t know, however, that in one month my father would be gone.

When the season ended in October of that year, the Cubs finished in last place with close to 100 losses in a 162-game schedule. They watched the postseason from home as their archrivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, went on to win the World Series.

From my first-grade team, to my favorite club being five outs from the World Series, to watching last night’s contests on TV, baseball’s been more than just a game for me. It’s a part of who I am and part of who my father was. It unites us even though we’re not here together, cheering for each other.


The Grammar Police

My degree in English literature may not have netted me big bucks, but it has paid off. These days, better known as the Age of Texting, grammar is suffering. Many folks now make their mistakes public on Facebook and Twitter, but—armed with my fancy diploma—I manage to avoid the following nine issues, all of which annoy me enough to blog about them.

Lay vs. Lie

You lay a book down, but you lie down in bed. It’s like the difference between set and sit. You set your keys down, but you sit at a table. I blame “Now I lay me down to sleep” for screwing up even professors on this one. By the way, once you’ve laid the book down, it’s then lying on the bed.

You’re vs. Your

This seems simple enough, and yet here I am trying to explain it. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are,” whereas “your” indicates something attributed to you. If you graduated from grade school, you’re smart enough to know your teachers should’ve gone over this rule a few more times with some kids.

Me vs. I

Lots of intelligent people mess this up. Bob gave the book to me. Clearly, it’s not, “Bob gave the book to I.” Somehow, when another person is added, folks forget this rule. Chris gave the book to Kim and me. No way would this be correct: “Chris gave the book to Kim and I.” If you simply remove the other person, you’ll soon re-discover that “I do something,” whereas “something is done to me.”

Who vs. Whom

This one is often hard to grasp. “Who” is a lot like “I,” while “whom” operates much like “me.” Take this sentence: Jim hurt Frank. Jim is the one who did the hurting. And whom did he hurt? That would be Frank. It’s not, “Who should I call?” but “Whom should I call?” because the person on the other line receives the act of your calling.

Commas and Periods Inside Quotation Marks

In Britain, all punctuation marks go outside the quotes. But early American printers were worried that commas and periods would be lost somehow if they ended up outside the closed quotes. So, in America, this sentence should read: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool.” Most people, though, write: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool”. To confuse things further, colons and semicolons always go outside quote marks, wherever you live.

Its vs. It’s

The crowd is on its feet is correct because “its” is attributed to the crowd. “It’s,” however, is the shortened version of “it is.” It’s a beautiful day, you’d write to a friend. This problem resembles the “you’re vs. your” issue discussed in part one. In both cases, the words sound alike, but the grammar rule demonstrates the difference between the two.

Than vs. Then

“Than” is used in comparisons, such as, Mike is taller than Joe. I’ve seen people mix this up with “then,” which is used to indicate a current condition or some point in the future. If you’re too short, then you can’t ride the rollercoaster. Mary will see Sally then. Again, because of their similar sound, these words tend to confuse some writers.

There/Their/They’re and To/Too/Two

This one aggravates me. Here’s another example of words that sound alike but mean something different. “There” is a location, “their” shows that a group (they) own something, and “they’re” is the contracted form of “they are.” Why folks don’t know that “to” is a preposition, “too” is an adverb, and “two” is a number, is beyond me.

Should’ve, Not “Should Of”

Oh my, this one’s amazing. “Should’ve” stands for “should have.” The rather unfortunate “should of” exists in error only. It’s another example of sound confusing sense. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve let these language issues go, but the English major in me couldn’t keep his good grammar snobbery to himself.