Hirschtick has tried to explain baseball to people in the village, he says, but they do not follow. He's given them Cubs shirts, which they wear happily. "They think it's a religion," he says. "They think I'm praying to the god of the big red C."
In that, they're not far off. Every day (late night for day games; Thailand is 12 hours ahead of Chicago) Hirschtick watches his Cubs over the Internet. He rarely misses a game.
Against the Reds last week the Cubs took a 4--0 lead, blew it, scored two to tie it in the ninth and lost in extra innings. To Hirschtick, that's Cubs baseball. "When I was working, I enjoyed what I did most of the time," he says, "but there was plenty of drudgery and bull----. Now there's no drudgery. Watching the Cubs take the lead, blow the lead, come back, lose—it's aliveness."
And if the Cubs ever won it all? Hirschtick was born less than a year after the Cubs' last World Series appearance, in 1945. "I hope to see them win in my lifetime," he says, "but if they don't, that will give my daughter [Corie Henson, 38] a reason to keep on living. It's a virus, this Cubs thing. A virus. But for me, it's a virus of joy."
I tell Hirschtick again that he sounds like an optimist. He laughs and says, "I'm no optimist. I know the Cubs won't win. I'm not a fool." But then he sheepishly admits something. The Cubs raise a w flag every time they win, so that people in the elevated train will know about it. (The Cubs also raise an l flag after losses.) Well, Steve Hirschtick brought two Chicago Cubs w flags to this remote part of Thailand to raise on his old flagpole. Why two? He felt sure the first w flag would wear out after a while. And that, friends, is the very definition of an optimistic Cubs fan.