CHICAGO — There's always more to the story. In the world of anything, it's a bad idea to judge a story by its cover.
Take Ian Kubbe, a senior business student at the University of Northern Iowa, at Wrigley Field during a Cardinals-Cubs game on Saturday afternoon.
Kubbe is a true-to-the bone Cardinals fan, so when Cubs' infielder Tony Kemp homered into the bleachers and Kubbe caught it, Cardinal Nation required him to hand the ball back, throw it away, or act as low key as possible. Sportscenter happened to catch Kubbe celebrating with Cubs fans and putting on a Cubs jersey. Oops.
This didn't sit well with Cardinals fans, even after the team rallied with a pair of 9th inning solo home runs to win the game, 9-8, effectively burying their division rivals in obligatory. They stuffed social media with nasty messages, normal rage, and everything in between.
They didn't see the full story, something Kubbe offered later in the weekend. In a long Instagram post, Kubbe gave the full tale, including his initial reluctance to wear the jersey, what the Cubs offered him and the reason he put it on.
In a conversation on Sunday night, I spoke with Kubbe, so he could come clean about the event and find a way to win back some St. Louis natives who only saw what the television wanted them to see. Or, simply give his side of the story in a fleshed-out manner.
The television won't tell you that Kubbe first thought about his dad, whom he tried to call and ended up leaving a noisy voicemail.
"After the ensuing celebration, I called my dad immediately because we usually watch every Cards game together and he was the first person I thought of," Kubbe said. "I said, 'Hey, watch that home run a little closer,' and that’s all I could get out because it was so loud."
Saturday was the one day Kubbe happened to forget his glove, but that didn't stop him from putting his hands up to do what every fan wishes to do upon entering the ballpark: catch a home run ball.
The television won't tell you that Kubbe had been chatting with Cubs' fans all day and was having a good time. There as no ill will included, just a group of baseball addicts cheering on their team. You see, what gets lost in the heat of a rivalry between two sports team is decency among human beings, something Kubbe stressed was a big factor that day.
Things got interesting after the catch. After the celebrating and "a lot of beer spilling and consumption," Cubs team officials came to Kubbe with an offer. "An official came up to me and my face went slack and I said 'Oh no, you’re kicking me out aren’t you?' And at that point a lot of the fans had my back," Kubbe said. "The part on Twitter you don’t see is me refusing a good five or six times, waving my Cards jersey and saying 'I’m good, I can’t.'"
And then the official made Kubbe an offer that any true lover of baseball and family couldn't refuse. If he wore the jersey for an inning, he could keep it. Before you scream, allow Kubbe to fill in the blanks.
"So my thoughts from there went to my grandpa, the biggest Cubs fan I know and the guy who really made me fall in love with the game," Kubbe said. "So, I thought, if I take this offer, I can get him a ball and a jersey, which I’m going to have embroidered with his name and a meaningful number to him. At that point, I chose to make an exception and do something for one of the greatest men alive."
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the good stuff that the television won't tell you... the details you have to dig for a little in order to find.
Remember what connects us to the game in the first place: family. Our mothers, dads, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts take us to games with the hopes of forging a bond that lasts a lifetime. Something to grow older with as time passes on. Kubbe was thinking of his grandfather, even in the midst of a sea of blue with the decision of a lifetime hanging over his head. He wasn't foolish, greedy or unsure. Kubbe was 100% committed to family.
How can you not respect that?
Here's what many people are forgetting: The fact that Kubbe didn't throw the baseball back onto the field, which is something I absolutely despise. At the very least, hand it to a younger fan with shorter arms. Do something good, paying it forward. Kubbe did one better. He thought about someone who wasn't there that day.
When asked about the aftermath and all the 'attention' he's received, Kubbe was levelheaded about it all.
"I haven’t taken the Facebook comments or death threats too seriously... those aren’t true baseball fans. Cards, Cubs, Marlins, whatever colors you wear, if you love the game, then you appreciate really cool situations like this," Kubbe said. "That’s part of why I’ve always loved St. Louis, their fans are truly the best in the world. It’s always a full house and they cheer for good baseball, friend or foe. Busch is heaven on earth."
Tons of family, friends and old faces from Kubbe's past have reached out with congrats over the past 36 hours.
"Having hundreds of friends, everything from my best friends to my baseball coach to old high school teachers reach out and say 'Congrats, I was watching live, that was awesome,' has been one of the best things that ever happened to me," Kubbe noted.
He made some friends that day and plans to keep in touch. He also plans to finish college, cheer on the Cardinals, keep jerseys with small bears on them at a distance and continue to love and appreciate baseball. While he may have put his Redbird soul on layaway for a few moments in order to pay tribute to the man who introduced him to the game, Kubbe never stopped being a St. Louis fan. A jersey doesn't define that kind of loyalty.
Sometimes, things get lost in translation amid the chaos of a heated rivalry. You see something the television network wants you to see, buy into it and go off. It's part of being human. We all suffer from a gut reaction to something like what Kubbe experienced.
Forgiveness is also part of being human. Ladies and gentlemen of the Cardinal Nation jury, it's time to forgive Ian Kubbe.
Do it for the love of the game.