My phone was buzzing away on Friday afternoon, but I was busy banging on a keyboard, finishing out my work week. And by the time 5 o’clock hit, I was so eager to get home and eat my Door Dash sushi, I barely glanced at the long string of texts my family had been firing into our group thread, as I…well, dashed out the door.
I didn’t see the news until this morning.
It’s probably a good thing that I’ve kept baseball beyond arm’s length over the past couple years while I was preoccupied with getting sober, working on my marriage, changing careers — you know, all that annoying “real life” shit that adults have to deal with. There was a time I had a finger planted on the pulse of my favorite sport, but now, it can’t reach me to deliver a debilitating gut punch.
The Big Cubs Breakup has me feeling numb.
I’m in disbelief but not really shocked; the selling-off our 2016 World Series heroes was by no means a bolt from the blue. You’d have to be completely off the grid to miss the telegraphed signs of an imminent fire sale, and if you’ve followed sports for even a little while, you know these things are par for the cyclical course.
I feel more like one would if, say, her parents had been threatening to ground her for months, and all of a sudden one day, she found herself confined to her room with TV and phone privileges revoked.
They did it. They actually did it.
I used a teen-years analogy, I guess, because Cubs baseball always takes me back there. Those were the formative years of my sports fandom. In fact, the door of the room that would have been my prison — as if goody-goody Jenni Wielgus ever got in trouble! 😐 — was covered with Chicago Tribune sports page clippings and souvenir ticket stubs and scorecards, Scotch-taped over a giant Mark Grace poster. I sat in that room and listened to WGN game broadcasts on my Panasonic boom box and dreamed of someday covering the team as a career.
These days, the “vintage” 1995 Grace jersey I got for my 16th birthday hangs in the back of a closet, next to my high school letter jacket. Great memories. Too special to trash, but pretty useless, in a practical sense, at age 43.
Guess I can add Javy Baez, the only other jersey I’ve ever owned, to that dusty nook of nostalgia.
And while I’m at it, these guys probably belong back there, too, in the box where I keep my credentials from bygone sports journalism adventures.
It is kind of like packing away a piece of your childhood, when happy eras end. It’s like losing a little bit more of your innocence. There’s a sense of disenchantment, a realization that nothing lasts forever, and time really is passing by. Those moments of pure joy you desperately wish you could hold onto — dancing at your wedding, winning your rec league softball championship, holding your baby niece or nephew, KB throwing mid-slip over to Rizz and Rizz throwing his arms up at the end of Game 7 in Cleveland, every single Javy tag-out between 2014 and two days ago — are gone, and there is no going back.
I get hit with random feelings of grief like that from time to time. Like, whenever that damn fabric softener commercial with the Paul Anka song comes on. You know what I mean? 😭
Sometimes, to be honest, I get nostalgic about getting drunk. Those moments were the absolute best and the soul-crushing worst, wrapped up tightly together, and therein lies the rub…
Anyway, when it comes to baseball, I can’t let myself get too worked up over something that’s so totally out of my control. I mean, I’ve spent two years working on emotional moderation, which is, for me, the biggest key to a fulfilling life without alcohol. The over-the-top intensity and all-or-nothing attitude that fueled my addiction also made me one of those “passionate die-hard sports fans” — code for, no one wanted to be around me at sporting events if things weren’t going my way…or sometimes, even when they were 🥴 — and I just don’t want to ride that insane, out-of-control roller coaster anymore.
Recovery has been about calming the 🤬 down and sitting still long enough to get some perspective on life and what’s really important.
I guess that’s what I was doing this morning when I stepped outside, feeling tired and unmotivated and planning to take it easy with a slow walk in the neighborhood. The Cubs news had dragged me down, but it was a beautiful day, and I’d be even sadder if I just sat inside doing nothing.
Then, I saw the newspaper lying on my neighbors’ front stoop.
I stopped, stared, pulled out my phone and snapped a pic. I let it sink in. And then, I felt it bubbling up.
OMG YOU GUYS, I CAN’T F*CKING STAND THE YANKEES AND METS!!! THIS IS F*CKING AWFUL!!! F*CK! I MAY NEVER BE ABLE TO WATCH BASEBALL AGAIN!!!!
I quickly shifted gears, angrily swiping my phone screen to find my most intense workout playlist. And I did the only thing a woman in recovery can do on a beautiful Saturday morning when she suddenly feels like blowing her stack.
I took a deep breath, picked up my feet and started running. 🏃♀️