By BROOKE MORRISON
Growing up, my family had only a few concrete rules: 1. You loved God. 2. Family always came first. 3. UK basketball was the only option. AND 4. You cheered for the Chicago Cubs. My dad, Mitchell Gunn, instilled in me a fierce loyalty for our favorite teams. We loved them, win or lose, good times or bad. From a very early age, I recognized the importance of Jesus, the Cats, and the Cubs.
Not many girls growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s had my type of sports upbringing. From the moment I was born, I was immersed in a sports’ fan culture. I wore jerseys that were adorned with my dad’s number, 32. I joined my dad on softball tournament trips and watched him play pick up ball with the guys. While most girls my age were swooning over the New Kids on the Block, I was playing catch with my dad in the front yard. While they cried because they didn’t get tickets to their concerts, I cried because I couldn’t attend Spring Training with my dad, his buddies, and their sons. Balls over bows. Bats over Barbies. Sports reigned supreme.
Before I could walk, I was attending UK men’s basketball games at Rupp Arena. Before I could fully say my ABC’s, I could recite the early 80’s rosters (I loved saying Sam “Ka”Bowie). It was years before I even knew that any other team existed (and let’s be honest — they really don’t in the grand scheme of things). In my lifetime, I have witnessed 16 SEC Tournament Championships, 9 Final Four Appearances, and 3 National Championships. I have attended countless games live — even traveling to Chicago to watch the beat down they gave UCLA in December, 2014.
I suffered through the Billy Gillispie and Eddie Sutton years. I watched teams crumble, excel, fight, and survive. I celebrated a championship win on Euclid in 1998. Last year, I cried at Christmas when I opened my gift that held tickets to the UK-UL game at Rupp Arena. That would be another memory that my dad and I would always share.
The months of October through April revolved around all things UK basketball, but my summer months were reserved for Cubs baseball. I attended my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field in July of 1988. It was a doubleheader with the eventual World Series champions, the LA Dodgers. The green ivy is something to behold and I cannot fully describe an experience like a game at Wrigley. I watched the deterioration of a 3-1 lead in the 2003 NLCS. I ranted and raved at a little man in headphones on my TV screen because he was representative of all the years of our failure. I mourned as some of my favorite players were traded to other teams.
In 2011, Dad took my sister and me to Boston to watch the Cubs play the Red Sox at Fenway. The Cubs hadn’t been to Fenway since the 1918 World Series. We were able to explore the city and witness history. During much of my life, I have been ridiculed because I am a Cubs fan. I have questioned my sanity as I continued to recite, “There is always next year.” Even though it sounded false in my ears, I would say it and hope that it was true.
I anxiously anticipated the month of October like a kid on Christmas morning because that meant that my summer of “it wasn’t this year” was over and that my Cats would soon be taking the floor. BUT something changed this year. Years of disappointment in a beloved franchise would be over and I would be in a bittersweet predicament. On October 30, 2016, for the first time in my life, I had to choose between watching the Cats play and watching the Cubs play in the World Series! I never thought I would have to choose, but to be honest I was elated. It was the first time that a hard choice between two of my loves actually made me happy. Thank the Good Lord for DVR!
I watched the Cubs win Game 5 of the World Series and happily skipped through commercials to watch my Cats pound Clarion. In the words of a great philosopher, Ice Cube, “I got to say it was a good day!”
I have been asked which was better, watching the Cats win a National Championship or the Cubs win the World Series? To be honest, neither is “better.” I am as invested in the UK Wildcats as I am the Chicago Cubs. After the initial shock and awe of the Cubs win, I think there was a moment of relief. I feel justified with my complete devotion to a team that many ridiculed. I know that it may seem silly to some observers — this utter commitment to my favorite sports teams. This insane dedication.
But, if you were raised as I have been raised, you would understand that my roots run deep. I thank God each day my father instilled that fierce loyalty in me. It has helped shape who I am and how I raise my own children. There is nothing in this world like Jesus, the Cats, and the Cubs.