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Chasing October: A Fan's Crusade
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by Erik Childress

"Fuckin' Cubs!"
4 stars

There are many insensitive comparisons I can make to what it was like for me in the October of 2003. But any serious sports afficionado cannot even fathom what it was like to be a Chicago Cubs fan during that infamous week. Red Sox fans, with all due respect, can kiss my ass. Not only do you normally make the playoffs, but our first baseman (Leon Durham) did the ball-between-the-legs thing two years before Buckner, whom I may mention bled Cubbie blue from 1977-1984. Nevertheless, when HBO finally got around to making their little Cub retrospective (years after insufferably playing the whiny Red Sox version ad nauseum), it was kind of a half-assed effort. At least to this Cub fan who in the wake of 2003 cried wrote an article about the greatest mini-series that never was; a chronicle of that Cubs season that had all the twists, turns and excitement of three Naturals, five 61*’s and ten Field of Dreams. I know precisely how Matt Liston felt.

Liston was another die-hard Cubs fan, like the rest of us, hoping to see his beloved hometown team make a title run after the historic collapses of ’69 & ’84. Not many of us can claim to have communicated with legendary Cubs broadcaster, Harry Caray, during a dream though; a conversation which gave him the Gray’s Sports Almanac-like knowledge that the Cubs were going all the way in 2003. Liston was inspired to quit his job, pick up a camera and document the first season of Dusty Baker’s managerial tenure in Chicago.

There was nothing to suggest the Cubs were headed for a playoff run; let alone a World Series, other than pure faith. This is a team that’s only had six seasons above .500 since I’ve been alive up to that point and finished 28 games below just a year before. But by coining the phrase “Just Believe” on memorabilia he funded only to give away, Liston began a journey of exuberant obsession that may cost him more than just his savings account. With a loyal friend to help with filming and a girlfriend being warned by others far less tolerating than her that Matt’s an irresponsible nut, even his parents begin to question this endeavor which didn’t really begin to take fruit until after the All-Star Break over three months into the season.

Unfortunately for Matt, the greater the Cubs got that year the more his personal life began to flounder. Debts were piling up. We witness as his girlfriend, Fatine, is hit with a miscommunication so embarrassing it’s impossible not to feel sympathy towards her and scorn towards Matt’s frugal spending. Nick Hornby would delight in these moments as they are the closest anyone has come to truly capturing a worthwhile adaptation of his novel, Fever Pitch. The footage itself is of the home movie quality which works both for and against Matt’s intentions; taking us out of what’s supposed to be a cinematic effort but providing an intrusion quality that unites it with the voyeuristic masochism that comes with being a Cubs fan.

Chasing October will only have the broadest appeal for the legions of Cubs fans across the country, thanks to the syndicated WGN feed and underdog quality of now having won in nearly a century. Maybe White Sox fans will see it as the “docu-comedy” it intends to be while the tragic implications of the Bartman finale are almost too much to constantly relive for the loyalists on the Northside. Liston has fun though dispensing of the various curses and getting interviews with lifelong fans like Joe Mantegna, Jeff Garlin and Gary Sinise among others that may not be as revealing as in the HBO production or the fine Ron Santo documentary, This Old Cub, but is a testament to their undying loyalty to their hometown team. The same can’t be said of Bernie Mac who refuses to be suckered in again (probably cause he’s a Southsider) and Liston misses a golden opportunity (perhaps due to the MLB charging footage by the minute) to capture Bernie’s Wrigley reappearance with a 7th inning stretch rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame telling the crowd to “root, root, root for the CHAMPS!” just a half-inning away from the Game Six collapse. We’ll blame Bartman forever, but that sure sounded like a jinx to me.

Alas, Chasing October is not the all-encompassing document on the Cubs that I’m sure even Liston would love to see someday. But it is another chapter in the book racking up more disasters than the Old Testament. Maybe we’ll also be saying “wait ‘til next year”. Maybe we can hope that Ken Burns will undertake such a project for his next series. But for now, it’s 2007. A new Cubs season is upon us and Chasing October will certainly serve as fuel for hope springs eternal. For now, that is.

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originally posted: 03/23/07 15:00:00
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User Comments

7/25/11 Cindy Blart Loved it!!! 4 stars
5/09/07 David Pollastrini Go Cubbies! (I love you Dad) 4 stars
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  23-Mar-2007 (NR)



Directed by
  Matt Liston

Written by
  Matt Liston
  Gary Cohen

  Matt Liston
  Chris Karnak
  Fatine England
  Jeff Garlin
  Joe Mantegna
  Gary Sinise

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