Chicago is filled with those who have endured the lovable losers tag their whole lives, and they were jumping on the field with the Cubs on Wednesday
When it was finally over and the Chicago Cubs were World Series champions, and the Cubs fans in the crowd sang Go Cubs Go I thought of a young boy who would have just been so happy. He used to sneak a transistor radio into school and hide it in his desk so when it was head-down time to take a nap, he could click on the Cubs games and listen quietly.
He would spend every day thinking about the Cubs, dreaming about how they would win in the 7th game of the World Series. Being a lifelong Cubs fan is a deeply personal thing. Everyone does it differently, with the only constant being disappointment. So over the past few days, I remembered exactly how that disappointment used to feel. I wanted to go back to my five-, eight-, 11-, 14-, 17-year old Cubs-obsessed self and let him know that everything was going to be OK, celebrate with him, tell him We did it!
The Cubs are the World Series champions after beating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings Wednesday night, and I realize that I already said that, but too bad. The Cubs are World Series champions.
The Cubs are World Series champions.
And Kris Bryant had a six-year olds smile on his face when he picked up the ball and threw it to Anthony Rizzo for the final out. And they both cried. And the players jumped on the field, higher and higher in celebration and they hugged each other and fell down. And Javy Baez grabbed his head with both hands and looked to the sky.
These historical, and sometimes hysterical, losers were now the champions of the world, and they had become a bunch of children on the field. Thats who this is for: the kids. The young kids who loved the Cubs and dreamed about them being in this moment until they lost. Then those kids grew into young adults and still dreamed until they lost. They endured the nickname of lovable losers, grew older, heard tales of ghosts and cursed goats. And more reality.
Chicago is filled with those kids at all ages, from all generations, and they were jumping on the field with the Cubs on Wednesday night. You know about the legend of Babe Ruth pointing into the bleachers against the Cubs in the World Series, calling his shot? It was just piling on to create a (fictional) moment he never pointed to build on the legend of Babe Ruth and the games all-time winners, the New York Yankees at the expense of the Cubs.
Well, the Cubs were pointing right back at the Babe Wednesday night.
Hundreds of thousands of lifelong Cubs fans, maybe millions, felt this way. Congrats to them. For people who dont understand the Cubs, Im just one of them. This isnt about me, but about them. Us.
How did The Moment feel to you? Where were you, Cubs fans? I happened to find myself in a weird spot when the game ended, watching the game on giant movie-sized screens in a plaza right outside the stadium in Cleveland with thousands of Indians fans. When the Cubs got the last out, all the fans just sort of left quietly. Indians fans have their own pain.
My legs had gone numb and my feet forgot how to move, so I stood there while people brushed past. The phone rang, and it was my 17-year old son, laughing. Well? he said. I called my Dad, my wife. And we all were little kids on the phone, talking about the game, the joy, years of games, the pain.
We all have our stories. At the Bartman game, when the Cubs were so close to reaching the World Series in 2003 before falling apart when fan Steve Bartman tried to catch a foul ball, I ran down to try to talk to him, but had to dodge beer bottles, peanut bags and some awfully foul language directed at him. When Brant Brown famously dropped an easy fly ball, I went outside and, shaken, accidentally dropped my car keys down a sewer. I once watched Pete Rose hit a line drive off Lee Smiths head and the ball bounced over to Larry Bowa who threw it to first for the out. Thats going on memory, anyway.
So why put yourself through it? Thats sort of inexplicable. Im not sure I ever had a choice. My dad took me to my first game, against the Pirates in the rain, when I was five. I learned math by studying the batting averages in the paper. And baseball, because they play every day, becomes a lot more of your life than, say, football does. They dont play in weekly events but in the day-to-day drive, and even routine, of your life.
Its a drumbeat to your life.
And with the Cubs, there were great moments Ryne Sandbergs two home runs off Bruce Sutter in a family-picnic of a park, Wrigley Field. And it sort of becomes a badge of honor, that youre going to suffer this out and see it through. And really, how bad is the wait from 1908 until Wednesday?
Ugh. Until this week, we had won the same number of world wars as World Series.
As Chicago comedian Bob Newhart put it on Twitter this week: One thing Ive learned in 80 years of being a Cub fan … you never count the Cubbies out!
Of course, the Cubs mean different things to everyone in Chicago. If youre, say, 30, you know them as a team that kept coming close but couldnt win. If youre 45, you remember them not even getting to the postseason. If youre a generation older … wow.
The only thing that was too bad on Wednesday was that the Cubs didnt win it at Wrigley Field. That old fashioned park with the players wearing red, white and blue uniforms takes you back in time. And yes, its too much of a cliche to talk about simpler times, but these Cubs are going to carry an additional meaning to their city, which is now becoming known for shootings and violence.
And then here come these kids, seemingly wholly likeable players, winning a championship, maybe the most exciting and grueling World Series ever.
It happened. It happened, Rizzo said. Chicago, we gave you a world championship. Were in the books.
Could Chicago have ever dreamt that this would really ever happen? Oh yeah, pretty much every day.