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What A Picture Is Worth

November 4, 2016

By Ross Blumenfeld

Let me tell you about this picture. It was taken the night of the Cubs first World Series Championship in 108 years. It was taken just moments after Kris Bryant, with a smile on his face, fielded a softly hit ground ball and threw it to Anthony Rizzo. Grinning like a kid the first time he played the game.

First let me tell you about Yuriy Moskovoy. Seldom do you come across someone so loyal and passionate. Seldom do you find someone as selfless. He’s infectious. The way he speaks sticks so deeply in your mind that you find yourself imitating his speech patterns or humming something he said around people who have absolutely no idea why you’re chanting things to the rhythm of “Take It To The Limit”. The man is a pimp. The man is a beast. He’s the rare Pimp-Beast.

Next we have Steve Selejan. He’s someone who makes you feel better just by being in the same room as him. A cliche statement maybe, but none-the-less it’s true.  He’s the kind of man who always wants to be better than he is even though who he is is someone truly amazing and special. There’s no one I’d rather grab Chicken Planet with more than him. I appreciate him for everything he does for me and for the people I care about.

From age 11 to the early days of age 13, John Ciecholewski was an urban legend. I’d hear mention of his name and listen to stories of all the unbelievable, improbable things another junior high kid was doing. Yet I never met him. So I had to invite him to my 13th birthday party, despite never meeting him. First conversation we had with one another he handed me a $20 bill (which when you’re 13 is a fortune). Eighteen years later the urban legend is long gone and my friend is someone even more incredible.

I met Vadim Vaytsman in eighth grade. He walked onto the Skokie Jr. Vikings’ practice field with the same grin he has on his face in this picture. I couldn’t know then I’d have the privilege of attending his wedding as I did a few weeks ago. I couldn’t know he’d become one of my closest friends and someone who genuinely finds my rare (frequent) bad jokes funny. Whether it be Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ohio State, or the night of the Rushing Attack mini-game comeback to end all Rushing Attack mini-game comebacks in my parents’ garage, he is one of the few people who appreciates the same things in life I appreciate in the same way I appreciate them.

Dan Cunix works as hard as anyone I know.  Dan is as generous as anyone I know.  He’s the kind of person who shares his successes with his family and friends.  He’s the kind of person who considers his success to be the group’s success.  I don’t know who the funniest person in my life is, but he is in the running.  He’s got an unique ability to turn a dull, mundane night into a memorable one.  As much as anyone, he can come up with the absolute perfect thing to say or find the perfect thing to do at the perfect time.  Like when he jump-kicked me through a wall.  And that’s the greatest thing he ever did.

There are people who were the room when this photo was taken who aren’t in the picture. Jennifer Litvak, Hannah James, Lauren Blackmun, Jessica Ciecholewski, and Mackenzie Wrist. I can’t tell you how happy I am that these guys in this picture, who mean so much to me, were able to meet women like you. I couldn’t realize it until now, but the group was not complete until you became a part of it.  I can’t tell you how honored I am that I am able to call you friends. You are all something special to me.

There are special people in this beloved group of friends who aren’t in the picture and weren’t there that night (so if you’re a part of this group and I don’t mention you, know I feel the same way about you). But someone I want to single out is Nate Warsaw. You’re still the man to me. You always will be.

Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States of America.  He was also a general in the American Civil War.  He’s focal point of the picture hanging in the background.  President Grant, I’ll never forget your ability to drink from sun-up to sun-down.  I’ll never forget your stern, militaristic gaze on the fifty dollar bill.  Thank you for Vicksburg.

Which brings me to my three oldest friends. The “original” Chris Bryant, Christopher Brisch, and Michael Beller.  I met Mike and Brisch when I was 4 years old playing Skokie Youth T-Ball.  I met Chris Bryant in first grade.  We sat next to each other in Mrs. Ferguson’s class.

I highlight them because they are the three people who I have watched more Cubs games with than anyone else in my life.  They are the three people with whom I wanted to celebrate this championship.

It almost didn’t happen.  Brisch had been living in London for the past two years.  Thankfully he moved back at the beginning of the summer.  I was overjoyed to hear that he was moving back to home.  Of all the things that happened on the night this photo was taken, the two of us walking the streets of Chicago, high-fiving complete strangers from Fullerton to Wrigley Field after midnight will stick out as strong as any. We walked for probably 30 minutes and didn’t say a word to each other.  We didn’t have to.  It was a perfect night that wouldn’t have been complete without him.  Maybe that’s why the Cubs lost in the NLCS last season.  Because we weren’t all together.  Or the Mets were better than us but whatever.  On the night when it truly mattered, he was there for it.  Like he never left.

In this group maybe more than anyone Bryant has been there for me in my toughest times.  Not that he or anyone would know it because if you know me, when it comes to my personal life, I internalize things, often irrationally (with the exception of this very long post).  Even with my family.  Even with my closest friends.  Whether it be by coincidence or by design, Chris frequently been a bright spot when I needed one.  I hope that I’m as good a friend to him (and everyone I have or will mention in this post) as he is to me.  Yet it’s not the tough times that define our friendship.  Because when you have friends like Chris, when you have good people in your corner, the tough times can be conquered.

Finally, we have Michael Beller.  The reason this night was special.  The reason I am a Cubs fan.  The reason Vadim is a Cubs fan.  Mike is the grandson of one of the greatest Cubs fans, Peter Masson, to ever have graced the earth.  There is an endless list as to why Pete would be proud of Mike.  One of those reasons is Mike is the embodiment of a Cubs fan.  He’s forgotten more about the game of baseball than I have ever known.  He’s forgotten more about Cubs baseball than the majority of the North Side.  I won’t go into why Mike and I are friends because there’s 27 years worth of reasons.  But I will share this story with you as to why this night is special.

Peter Masson passed away in 2004.  Like many others the Beller/Masson family purchased a commemorative brick outside of Wrigley Field to honor his memory.  That brick was engraved with the message, “Peter Masson: In Heaven And Still Waiting”.  Today in bright yellow chalk Mike updated the message.  Two simple words written underneath the original engraving.  “Not Anymore”.

The Cubs won the World Series.  I am 31 years old and I have had over a day to process this.  I still can’t.  I’m still crying.  Not just because a baseball team won a game.  Not just because the future of this team is so bright after being so dark for so long.  Not just because we’re not a punch-line anymore.  Not just because, unlike so many others, including Peter Masson, we lived to see it.  Not just because this was the year.  Because nights like this night remind me just why it is I love the people I love so much.  Because I can tell you about pictures like this.

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