JOE COOL

With Zen-like calm and a World Se­ries ti­tle in hand, Chicago Cubs skip­per Joe Mad­don has his eyes on an­other thrilling run in Wrigleyville.

Michigan Avenue - - CONTENTS - by JAYE MAD­DON pho­tog­ra­phy by JACK PERNO

With Zen-like calm and a World Se­ries ti­tle in hand, Chicago Cubs skip­per Joe Mad­don has his eyes on an­other thrilling run in Wrigleyville.

RE­MEM­BER THE BILLY GOAT? BARTMAN? THE BLACK CAT IN ’69? All the su­per­sti­tions and talk of curses seem so silly now, be­cause none of it mat­ters: Af­ter 108 long, long, long years, our Chicago Cubs are the reign­ing World Se­ries Cham­pi­ons. All credit to Theo and Bryzzo and Zo­brist and Lester and the rest of the guys, but let’s be real: It was man­ager Joe Mad­don, with his slo­gans and goofy team dress-up days and de­meanor of (mostly) Zen-like calm, that al­lowed this young team to “em­brace the tar­get,” shake off the pres­sure, and take home the tro­phy. Now, in an ex­clu­sive Michi­gan Av­enue con­ver­sa­tion with his wife, Jaye, as the team kicks off a new sea­son, Mad­don re­flects on the World Se­ries win; con­tem­plates a Cubs dy­nasty; and re­veals what makes Chicago fans some of the finest in the world.

Jaye Mad­don: So Joe, how has life changed since the World Se­ries?

Joe Mad­don: I don’t think it’s changed a lot for us, babe. There’s been more re­quests—there’s al­ways been a lot of de­mands on time, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job [of man­ag­ing it]. There’s more at­ten­tion and I’m maybe more rec­og­niz­able. But for the most part, I haven’t felt a whole lot dif­fer­ent. How about you?

Jaye: Me nei­ther. Like you said, we’ve struck a bal­ance, so I agree with you. Joe: Wow. Mark it up! [laughs].

Jaye: What’s your fa­vorite mem­ory from the whole World Se­ries ex­pe­ri­ence? Joe: I gotta be care­ful there… My fa­vorite mem­ory of the whole World Se­ries ex­pe­ri­ence, I’d have to say, is the last out. Ground ball to third. You can talk ad nau­seum about all the mi­cro things that oc­curred: Be­ing with [you] on the field af­ter the game was out­stand­ing; that lit­tle rain—as we were try­ing to get back into the dugout it started to rain, and it didn’t mat­ter. It felt kinda cool based on what had hap­pened ear­lier with the rain de­lay. Leav­ing at 3 o’clock in the morn­ing on a 747, be­ing ex­tremely tired, get­ting to Chicago at 7 o’clock, and it did not mat­ter. It was great. But for me, the fa­vorite thing is that chop­per to third, man. Be­cause in that nanosec­ond you re­al­ize this play’s com­pleted and you win the World Se­ries for the first time in 108 years. God bless, that is a mo­ment you can never re­ally re­cap­ture.

Jaye: How does it feel to be known as the guy who broke the Cubs curse? Joe: God, I don’t feel that way. I feel like I’m part of it. I’ve only been here [in Chicago] two years. I’ve never felt the curse. I’m ap­pre­cia­tive of it, I un­der­stand it, I know folks have been con­cerned for many years, but heck, for two years we’ve been there—we’ve won an av­er­age of 100 games a sea­son, we have this great young team. It’s won­der­ful to be con­sid­ered part of it; I know in that black and white photo that’s hung up on some­body’s wall in the year 2050, you’re gonna look back and see the 2016 Cubs and it’s go­ing to get even more glo­ri­ous by then. To be a mem­ber of that is awe­some, but I’m just part of it.

Jaye: Look­ing back on last sea­son, what are you proud­est of?

Joe: I think the fact that we were picked from day one—even be­fore day one, from spring train­ing even, when I talked about em­brac­ing the tar­get. I’m most proud of the fact that our guys were able to deal with the pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tions as well as we did. And these guys are young—it’s not like you’re talk­ing about this salty old group of vet­er­ans. Young guys, in­ex­pe­ri­enced guys, tal­ented, but deal­ing with an enor­mous level of ex­pec­ta­tions and pres­sure, and go­ing wire-to-wire… To me, that’s in­cred­i­ble. It doesn’t hap­pen. How do you feel about that, babe?

Jaye: I think it’s a great ac­com­plish­ment be­cause only be­ing there for two years, there’s a cer­tain feel­ing of get­ting all the chem­istry and ev­ery­body work­ing to­gether and pulling on the same end of the rope. And some­times that takes a while. But you talk about how great ev­ery­body was, and you could ac­tu­ally see it. The team re­ally sup­ports each other, all the team­mates, no mat­ter who. It re­ally is a fam­ily. Which leads me into this ques­tion: Is this club ca­pa­ble of be­com­ing a dy­nasty?

Joe: That’s a big word. I know we won the World Se­ries last year and did not the year be­fore, but I like that two years’ body of work: [Cham­pi­onship Se­ries] the year be­fore, com­ing within four games of go­ing to the World Se­ries, to win­ning the World Se­ries. I don’t know what peo­ple con­sider a dy­nasty: Do you have to win the World Se­ries on an an­nual ba­sis, or do you have to get deep into the play­offs an­nu­ally? I think the last one was the Yan­kees in the mid-’90s or early 2000s, and they had this great core group of won­der­ful young play­ers, and we have that. So I think we’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing this for a long pe­riod of time; I think we have to do it for that word to be at­tached to us.

Jaye: What are you most ex­cited about for the team in 2017?

Joe: Most ex­cited about the fact that we could do it again. I’ve been fo­cus­ing on the phrase “D-peat.” I’m re­ally eager to see if we can play the same level of de­fense. Our of­fense is nat­u­rally go­ing to get bet­ter be­cause these guys are so young and so skill­ful and with greater ex­pe­ri­ence, they’re just nat­u­rally go­ing to get bet­ter. So I’m just eager to see the de­fense and see if we can play on the level we did last year, and if we can, we could repli­cate a lot of what we did last year.

Jaye: Last year it was “Try not to suck.” This sea­son, mot­tos like “Be un­com­fort­able” and “Authen­tic­ity” have been men­tioned… How do you think the slo­gans have helped the team?

Joe: I like an es­o­teric mes­sage that starts out as an es­o­teric mes­sage just among the group and then hope­fully blos­soms among the fan base. I like the guys to see—that’s why I like T-shirts; I like for them to see the mes­sage daily, and be re­minded about it daily. That’s where I’m com­ing from with all this stuff; just sim­ple re­minders of sim­ple mes­sages daily that I think can im­pact us in a re­ally grand way.

Jaye: Let’s talk about Re­spect 90. You’ve been very ac­tive in Chicago with your Re­spect 90…

Joe: Our.

Jaye: [laughs] With our Re­spect 90 foun­da­tion. Why is it im­por­tant to you that we give back?

Joe: Be­cause it’s all about that. I mean, what is the good of re­ally gain­ing any kind of per­sonal wealth or pres­tige, or how­ever you want to la­bel what hap­pens to us as we move this fur­ther along, with­out be­ing able to share it? If you can’t share it then it re­ally is no fun push­ing your­self to achieve more. I think achieve­ment needs to be shared.

Jaye: What is your vi­sion or goals for the foun­da­tion?

Joe: We’re still try­ing to de­fine all that. The vi­sion and the goals are to stay af­ter it hard in an at­tempt to raise funds and aware­ness for dif­fer­ent groups, whether it’s the home­less that we work with, the im­mi­gra­tion project, Mis­eri­cor­dia, the Crush­ers Club—what­ever groups we want to work with, raise aware­ness and then of course hope­fully be able to help them fi­nan­cially. The goal is re­ally just spread­ing the ten­ta­cles, try­ing to reach as many folks as we can. I don’t want to put re­stric­tions on the foun­da­tion by say­ing we’re lim­ited to cer­tain ar­eas. I like un­lim­ited growth po­ten­tial men­tally, and I think that’s what we should be about.

Jaye: You’re fa­mous for keep­ing your cool and your sense of hu­mor on the field. What keeps you so re­laxed?

Joe: My wife.

Jaye: [laughs]

Joe: I just wanted to hear you gig­gle. I do be­lieve my dad does [keep me re­laxed]. My mom was a bit more ex­citable, but my dad was the most pa­tient man I’ve ever met, so I think part of it is ge­net­ics—the Ital­ian side of my fam­ily, be­lieve it or not. They took life as it came. More specif­i­cally, I do like to med­i­tate as of­ten as I can in the morn­ings. I think that mat­ters, and I think rest mat­ters. I’m all about rest, I’m about med­i­ta­tion and ex­er­cise—if you’re able to ex­er­cise and clear your body and mind, that also [gives you] the abil­ity to tran­scend the mo­ment in a sit­u­a­tion where you can’t con­trol your­self.

Jaye: What are some of your fa­vorite things about Chicago?

Joe: Prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant thing is the peo­ple. I’ve said it be­fore: I think my home­town, Hazel­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, is like a mi­cro­cosm of Chicago. A lot of Euro­pean set­tle­ments in Hazel­ton, the way the city was set up with dif­fer­ent blocks of eth­nic­i­ties from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, and the same thing oc­curs in Chicago. So when I speak with the folks in Chicago it’s re­ally fa­mil­iar, man; it’s crazy. I feel re­ally, re­ally com­fort­able.

Jaye: How are fans dif­fer­ent here than in Florida or South­ern Cal­i­for­nia?

Joe: There are more of them—more of them ev­ery­where—and in some ways [they are] prob­a­bly the most un­der­stand­ing [fans] in the his­tory of the game. Even though the bur­den’s been lifted, for a long time, man, the sup­port was mag­nif­i­cent ab­sent of a world cham­pi­onship. To have as many peo­ple fol­low the Cubs as do and have had to go so long with­out an ac­tual ti­tle and still be as ve­he­mently loyal as they are, [that’s] unique. No other group can do that. I’m not de­grad­ing An­gels fans or Rays fans—they’re won­der­ful—but the Cubs fan is unique, man, and I didn’t know that un­til I got there.

Jaye: That’s one of the first things I no­ticed go­ing to Cubs games. That there could be so many peo­ple there in the af­ter­noon on a [week­day] and they’re all very en­gaged in what’s go­ing on in the game. It’s not a whole lot of fan­fare go­ing on with other things. There’s just the game that’s keep­ing peo­ple busy and en­gaged.

Joe: Sounds like I need to put you in the bleach­ers one game, babe. You might get a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

Jaye: I do sit in the bleach­ers; I can point out my seat!

Joe: In the out­field. The bleach­ers.

Jaye: Oh my gosh, yeah—that would be amaz­ing. I need to do that. [laughs] What are some spe­cific places around town that you en­joy?

Joe: We en­joy Oak Street, walk­ing up and down there, shop­ping a lit­tle bit. Rush Street, Michi­gan Av­enue… I would say we just en­joy down­town and ev­ery­thing it has to of­fer. We have our own ocean, we’ve got a great bike trail—i love rid­ing all the way to the turn­around at Hol­ly­wood Beach. So I don’t know, it’s hard to pin­point: the art, the cul­ture of the city, ev­ery­thing. You’ve got to em­brace and im­bibe in all of Chicago be­cause it’s all there. I’m en­am­ored with liv­ing in a big city for the first time, and then you mag­nify that be­cause I do be­lieve Chicago is prob­a­bly the most mag­nif­i­cent city in our coun­try.

Jaye: I want to ex­plore [more]. I want to go to the mu­se­ums, maybe go see a play. I re­ally do want to hit all those places.

Joe: We haven’t ex­plored all of that yet.

Jaye: I do like walk­ing around in dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods. I’m go­ing to have to ar­range some­thing.

Joe: She’s go­ing to Mary Tyler Moore around Chicago. Throw her hat in the air.

Jaye: [laughs] Def­i­nitely. What keeps you driven af­ter all your suc­cess?

Joe: To­day, to­mor­row… I don’t re­ally dwell on past suc­cesses in a [man­ner] that by hav­ing had them you lack mo­ti­va­tion for the next day. I’m re­ally into the word “growth,” as you know re­ally well. I am un­com­fort­able—i’m us­ing that word from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s not about be­ing driven by want­ing more—i’m driven by ac­com­plish­ment in the field that I’ve cho­sen in a sense that you al­ways want to be rec­og­nized as among the best, and you love to do it. Lis­ten, I haven’t re­ally wrapped my head around last year yet; I prob­a­bly won’t for sev­eral years. So it’s about to­day. It’s about this group. It’s about now.

Jaye: OK. And lastly, what’s your mes­sage to Cubs fans as we kick off the sea­son? Joe: Be un­com­fort­able. Be un­com­fort­able with us. Don’t be sat­is­fied with what just hap­pened. Of course, we’re all pleased, and it’s great that the bur­den’s been lifted, but I want us all to con­tin­u­ally want to do that on an an­nual ba­sis. So I want the Cubs fans to be as un­com­fort­able as we are.

“I HAVEN’T RE­ALLY WRAPPED MY HEAD AROUND LAST YEAR YET; I PROB­A­BLY WON’T FOR SEV­ERAL YEARS. SO IT’S ABOUT TO­DAY. IT’S ABOUT THIS GROUP. IT’S ABOUT NOW.”

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