Wednesday, November 2, 2016

a comedy sketch I wrote for a Second City writing class in 2004 about the Chicago Cubs and failure

For once—and only once—I'm happy to be proven wrong. Congratulations, Cubs.


"FAILURE" by Robert Cass
3/14/04 (version #2)

CAST
Peter Hillman - white, 36
Alex Hillman - Hispanic, 12

(The Hillmans' backyard on an afternoon in April.)

(Peter and Alex are playing catch.)

PETER
You're going to have the best time tomorrow, son.

ALEX
I guess.

PETER
Your first Cubs game. Your first chance to see the legacy up close.

ALEX
I've already been to a Cubs game.

(Alex drops the ball.)

PETER
What?

(Alex picks up the ball and throws it back to Peter.)

ALEX
When I was six. It was Orphan Night at Wrigley Field, so the orphanage took us.

PETER
                     (disappointed)
I didn't realize.
                     (loudly)
Grounder!

(Peter throws a grounder to Alex, who bobbles it.)

ALEX
All of us got our picture taken with Sammy Sosa and the Dominican flag. Nobody seemed to care that we were Puerto Rican, but it was still fun.
                     (pause)
I still want to go tomorrow.

PETER
Okay. Good. Because becoming a Cubs fan isn't just about baseball.  It's about learning how to live with failure.

ALEX
What do you mean?

PETER
The Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908. They haven't even been in the World Series since 1945, which was almost a century ago.

ALEX
Well, actually, it's 1908 that was almost a century--

PETER
                     (continuing to talk)
Some people would say the Cubs aren't worth the hair that's about to start growing all over your young body, Alex, but those people know nothing about hope. They think it's easy to create a winning team out of thin air, but it's just like bringing a child into this world. It takes perseverance. And lots of money. And maybe even a scientific breakthrough of some sort.

ALEX
The Cubs never give up, huh?

PETER
No, they give up every season sooner or later. But the fans never give up, no matter how many times they're let down. And tomorrow you'll begin to understand what hope really is. Tomorrow you'll begin to see what failure is all about.

ALEX
What if the Cubs win?

PETER
(laughs)
That's my boy!
                     (loudly)
Pop fly!

(Peter throws the ball high up into the air. Alex catches it a few seconds later, then speaks.)

ALEX
Dad?

PETER
Yes?

ALEX
I don't want to play Little League this summer.

PETER
What are you talking about?

ALEX
There's a summer math program at MIT that my teacher told me about. It sounded like fun, so I applied for it.

                          PETER
Well, don't be disappointed if you don't get in, okay? Think of it as a learning experience so you can brace yourself for future disappointments.

                          ALEX
But I got in. The letter came yesterday.

                          (Peter doesn't say anything.)

ALEX (cont'd)
So is it okay with you if I go? Mom said I could.

PETER
Alex, you signed up for Little League last month. You have to honor your contract, just like the Cubs do.
                     (loudly)
Hard grounder!

(Peter throws the ball at Alex's chest.  Alex catches it, then drops it, then picks it up and throws it back.)

ALEX
That wasn't a grounder.

                          PETER
I changed my mind. You've got to stay focused.

ALEX
Okay, but ... see, MIT's practically paying me to go there for the summer. The Stanley's Wash-and-Shine Rangers aren't paying me anything.

PETER
That's not how Mr. Stanley operates.

ALEX
But I don't like playing baseball. I'm not a good athlete.
                     (slight pause; proudly)
I'm a mathlete.

PETER
Alex, remember what we said about not using made-up words in the house? That applies to the backyard too.

ALEX
Sorry. But it's true. I'm never going to be any good at baseball.

PETER
(long sigh)
You're right. You're absolutely right. You're not that valuable to the team.

ALEX
                     (surprised by Peter's honesty)
Well ... yeah, I guess.

PETER
So you admit you're a failure at baseball! See, Alex, you're no better than the Cubs or me!

(Alex holds the ball in his throwing hand and doesn't toss it back to Peter. There's a long pause.)

ALEX
I don't think you're a failure. And I'm not a failure, either. I just know what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I try to concentrate on the strengths the best I can.

PETER
(at the borderline of a breakdown)
Oh, so if I was able to conceive children with your mom, that would be one of my strengths, but since I can only shoot blanks, that's my weakness? Well, I can't control that, my darling little boy! And you can't let the things you can't control control you!

                          (There's another long pause.)

ALEX
I'll just be gone for eight weeks.

PETER
(composes himself)
Sounds good.
                     (pause)
And I'm sorry for that little outburst. I just ... it's just that I sometimes forget you already had a father before I came along.

                          ALEX
But I never even knew him.

                          PETER
I know. But you're his flesh and blood, not mine. You'll never be like me. And I can't change that.

                          ALEX
But you're my dad. I don't have your eyes, or your smile, or your short temper, but I do have everything you've taught me.

(Alex throws the ball back to Peter. They resume playing catch.)

                          PETER
Alex, there's nothing I can teach you that you don't already know. You're a kajillion times smarter than I'll ever be.

                          ALEX
                     (slight pause while he thinks)
But I wouldn't be this good at math if you hadn't asked me to calculate the stats from all those scouting reports during the off-season. 

                          PETER
I won a lot of bets in spring training because of those stats.

                          ALEX
You sure did.

(Peter walks over to Alex and puts his hand on the back of Alex’s head.)

                          PETER
Hey, here's a math problem for you, buddy -- if you add a little brother or sister to our family, how many family members will there be?

ALEX
                     (excitedly)
You're serious?

PETER
I've got to have somebody to take to Cubs games while you're gone. I can't just lay in bed with your mom for eight weeks!

(Blackout.)