Planet Earth Is Blue.
That was the front page headline of CNN on January 11, 2016 — the morning after David Bowie died. It is one of the best headlines I’ve ever seen. Subtly capturing the lasting impression he left on the earth–from music to fashion to performance art–four simple words couldn’t have said it better.
Last night, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. They hadn’t even reached the Series since 1945, and not since 1908 had they hoisted a trophy in Wrigleyville. I couldn’t be happier for Cubs fans…one of whom is my cousin’s long-suffering husband…who dare be a brave soul to openly cheer for anyone other than Baltimore sports teams in my family. We all took a trip out to Chicago last summer when the O’s played Chicago (and the Cubs promptly swept the series). The Friendly Confines, as Wrigley Field is known, is a marvelous place. I was able to tour the stadium…press box, clubhouse, dugouts, etc….on a work trip a few years ago. Even the history of the ivy itself is astounding.
I’m connecting David Bowie to the Cubbies for a reason. I believe that the journey that this year’s Cubs team traveled on their way to the World Series was not unlike the journey in David Bowie’s 1969 song “A Space Oddity,” about the communication between “Ground Control,” and an astronaut named Major Tom.
You see, Major Tom was a brave and adventurous fellow. He was willing to take risks. He was unsure about where he was going. He was breaking new ground, and entering into uncharted territory.
Was he even going to survive?
Was he going to succeed?
And what he might encounter when he got there?
It’s a bizarre connection, I know. A David Bowie song to the Cubs’ ride to the World Series?
But Chicago has strange, karmic ties to David Bowie…..
Between September 2014 and January 2015, the Chicago Contemporary Museum of Art celebrated the life of David Bowie by hosting an exhibition called “David Bowie Is…” This exhibition, with over 200,000 visitors in just five months, became the museum’s most popular attraction ever. And it was the only American city to end up hosting the exhibit.
With David Bowie passing away in January, many musicians around the globe paid tribute to him by covering countless of his songs during concerts. One such concert took place in Chicago on June 24, 2016.
At Wrigley Field.
Phish played Wrigley that night for the first time in their 30+ history (and over 1700 live shows as a band).
Their own eclectic music was heavily influenced by Bowie’s diverse talents–they even have a song titled “David Bowie.” And they took to the ballpark outfield that evening with a special treat in store.
The second set ended, and they walked back out to the stage for the encore. But instead of picking up their instruments, the quartet gathered around a single microphone. And they debuted, for the first time, with 30,000+ fans singing along, an a cappella version of Bowie’s “A Space Oddity.” Fascinating? Maybe. But it’s a phenomenally weird tribute.
This Chicago victory was special. It steamrolled through the walls that separate sports and “real life.” The walls outside of the ballpark became a shrine, as fans of all ages wrote in chalk the names of friends and family members who passed away before they got to experience the thrill of a Cubs World Series.
A grown man in North Carolina drove all the way to his father’s grave in Indiana to keep a promise: That they would listen to the games together if the Cubs ever made it to the World Series.
So for my cousin’s husband, and millions upon millions of Cubs fans everywhere, both living and dead, I’m happy to say that through your eyes–at least for today–
Planet Earth Is (Cubs) Blue
Ground Control to Major Tom: take your protein pills and put your helmet on…
Ground Control to Major Tom:
Commencing countdown engines on (five…four…three)
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.
This is Ground Control to Major Tom, you’ve really made the grade.
And the papers want to know whose shirt you wear…
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare…
This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today!