Wicked

Today is Mark's tenth birthday!

(Yes, I know the cake has only seven candles.)

All together now:

Happy Birthday to yoooooooooouuuu!!!

Ah, never mind.

The title of this post has nothing to do with today's 9-7 Cub loss to the Rockies -- and oddly, at least at the time I posted this, the headline read "Chi Cubs 2, Colorado 1".

We took Mark to see the Chicago performance of "Wicked", billed as "The Untold Story Of The Witches Of Oz".

Review: three stars. The story is about Glinda (known early on in the show as Galinda, a running joke that gets a little wearisome as it goes along), known to Wizard of Oz fans as the Good Witch of the North, and Elphaba, better known in the film as the Wicked Witch of the West; it tells of how they were born, gives a "backstory" of how they were educated and became who they were -- Elphaba, played by Ana Gasteyer, better known for six years on Saturday Night Live and her role in Mean Girls, spends the entire show in garish green makeup -- that, you'll remember on the Wicked Witch from the movie.

Plenty of joke material is made from this, and the fact that she doesn't have any friends apart from the sister she is charged to care for after the sister is born to a life in a wheelchair. Later, we learn that the sister also has a "backstory" to a character in the film.

Homage is paid to several memorable lines in the movie, and toward the end of the show you actually "see" Dorothy's house fall, and the Yellow Brick Road, and discover how Glinda was actually involved in the entire plot to get the broomstick of the Wicked Witch to the Wizard. There are also clever stories told of the origins of the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion.

It's a fun show -- not the greatest Broadway-type musical I've ever seen, but fun, although our seats in the loge level were odd for two reasons. At first the usher couldn't find the seats, because they didn't appear to be in any row. They weren't. They were actual chairs set by themselves, at the end of an aisle. This would have been fine if the theater hadn't been so darn cold.

And the whole day would have been better if the gate at the parking garage hadn't come crashing down on the hood of my car. Fortunately, I only got a few scratches, but had to file a damage report with the garage office.

So you see, watching the Cubs' self-destruction in the wild-card race today wasn't so bad, was it? I did switch on my cellphone during intermission to check the score (5-3 Cubs in the 5th at that time), but that was about all I saw.

Scott Williamson, who really isn't ready to return to the major leagues, succumbed to one of the worst diseases inflicting Cub pitching staffs in recent years -- inability to get third outs, after retiring the first two batters in an inning easily. Naturally, after the damage was done -- the three-run homer by Jorge Piedra, who was once in the Cub farm system, he struck out Luis Gonzalez to end the inning. Too late, Scott.

And naturally again, after it was too late, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez hit homers in the ninth inning, making the score look closer than it apparently really was.

I see also that Corey Patterson reached base on catcher's interference. Without even seeing this play, I can surmise that it resulted from his usual M.O. of sticking his bat in places where it doesn't belong.

And so, my friends, it does appear that the Cubs are pretty much out of the wild-card race. Losing two of three to a team as bad as the Rockies are, even in Denver where they are a .500 team, is simply not something a contending team can afford to do.

But am I going to completely wipe out this season? Pretend that there aren't 38 games left? Bitch and moan and complain every single day about the things and players we all know are wrong with this team? Nope, sorry, not in my nature.

There will be plenty of time after October 2, to hash out what went wrong in 2005, and what has to happen to make 2006 the year we all have dreamed about. For now, there's still some of the rapidly-waning summer left, and this week's weather is supposed to be spectacular in Chicago -- so I fully intend to go and enjoy some baseball at Wrigley Field. Maybe the Cubs will even win a game or three.

There are still some individual achievements to watch for. Derrek Lee does still have a shot at the Triple Crown, and even if he doesn't get that, maybe he'll win the batting title, something no Cub has done since 1980; Lee also has 77 extra-base hits, and thus has the chance to become only the second National Leaguer since 1948 (Sammy Sosa, 2001, was the other) to have 100 "long hits" (as they are called in many record books). Greg Maddux should get at least seven more starts, maybe eight, in his quest to have an eighteenth consecutive 15-victory season (he still needs five after today's loss, his first ever at Coors Field).

Is this a disappointing season? Hell, yes. Is there enough blame to go around -- players, field management, front office? Hell, yes. But to go and fire Dusty Baker now -- what point would that serve? Jim Hendry didn't build this team very well, and the reasons are well known, and his attempt (Matt Lawton, about whom we'll say 10 years from now, "Did he really play for the Cubs?", is about the weakest mid-season pickup since Bobby Bonds in 1981) to fix the problem didn't work.

Baseball, however, is still baseball; I still love the game.

And that, after all, is one of the reasons we are all here. Let's savor the rest of the summer, as best we can.

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