I admit to being a lifelong Cubs fan. As a native North Sider how could I not be a Cubs fan. Like so many, I grew up going to the Friendly Confines back when Ernie Banks, Mr Cub himself coined that phrase.
My mother would take my brother and I on the Addison bus, packing a jug of Kool-aid and a basket of sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly of course and snacks, usually cool, crisp green grapes. She would get in free on Ladies Day, and we would get in free because we were small. We also rode the bus for free, so the entire day cost the price of her bus fare. And, the program which she and my brother diligently scored as the game went on, sitting in the right field bleachers on hot summer days.
In the years since, I’ve been to countless games, but I admit I did not follow the games if I was not there. Most years, I couldn’t name more than one player. Many years, I couldn’t name even one. For me, my love of the game was tarnished by the scandals and strikes and prima donnas who took America’s game and made it into something it never should have been.
But still, I was a Cubs fan. I was happy when they won. Sad, but not surprised when they lost. Happily went to games any chance I had, but not sufficiently invested to watch games on TV, except every once in a while. When anyone asked, my immediate response, often defensively was “I am a Cubs fan”. It is the team of my home, my childhood, my family, my city. Being a fan was more about my childhood memories than the reality of any given year since.
Because I am, at my core, a Chicagoan, a North Sider and a Cubs fan, I admit to being susceptible to superstitions.
I don’t think I watched a cumulative hour of a game during this year’s regular season. I knew the Cubs were predicted to go all the way. I knew there was real hope this year, not just our standard hope based on Cubs fans own version of belief in miracles. I watched highlights of the games, particularly through the pennant race, but not the games themselves.
Then it happened. My Cubbies were going to the World Series! The Word Series! No, they weren’t the champions yet, but the last time they gotten this far was 1945. This was big. This was really, really big.
Game 1 and Game 2 I was unable to watch, even though I intended to. The Cubs lost one badly, and won the next barely. I felt it, in my childhood heart and my adult soul. This is special.
So, I watched Game 3. Cubs lost. I watched Game 4. Cub lost. Game 5, I didn’t watch and the Cubs won.
Game 6, I turned the TV off, just in case and the Cubs won.
The chances of winning 3 in a row are statistically slim, and by now I’d decided it’s in everyone’s best interest for me not to watch. So, by 10:300pm on November 2nd, I was in bed reading. I hadn’t checked and didn’t know this game was the most intense, most exciting in World Series memory.
Then, I heard some noise outside, and after a few seconds realized it was fireworks. Then the car sirens and horns started, which in my quiet neighborhood is very strange. Normally at that time of night on a Wednesday, or really any day, it is so quiet you can hear the freight train and the bells at the crossing nearly a mile away, so fireworks, car horns and sirens?
At first, I was confused and got out of bed to see if I could tell what was going on. And then I saw more fireworks lighting the night sky and my heart soared at the realization. Running to turn on the TV I saw my hometown fifty miles away celebrating like I’d never before seen. They did it. The Cubs won.
I sat there, stupefied, smiling, nearly ready to weep with the joy of seeing a miracle come true.
108 years. 10 innings. Cubs scored 8 home runs. Game 7. Indians scored 7 home runs. I couldn’t believe the symmetry, the rightness of it all couldn’t be more complete.
I was sorry I didn’t watch, but that superstition only Cubs fans can truly comprehend said, if I had, the result would have been different. Ridiculous. Silly. Ludicrous, I know, but that’s Cubs fan superstition.
I watched for a while, actually for more than a while. I got on social media and revelled in the posts and celebrations and loved how my newsfeed was filled with joyous unity for the first time in many moons. Everyone was happy, if not for themselves as Cubs fans at least for their friends who were.
I finally went to sleep and with a smile and a lightness in my heart that only comes from having seen a dream realized, even if from a distance. I was and remain grateful to the Cubs, and the lifelong, diehard fans that never lost hope, who believed no matter what there could be a next year.
It was then I realized how something that really doesn’t matter, doesn’t change the current strain on our society does in fact matter after all.
It is a respite, a moment out of time, out of our ordinary day to day lives that impacts us all in positive ways. It doesn’t matter if you are a Cubs fan or even a fan of baseball at all, it is a remarkable thing to witness, this celebration 108 years in the making.
Last night in Chicago, there were no Democrats, no Republicans, no Left or Right. There was simply celebration and laughter and tears of joy and smiles that would not, could not be stopped. Witnessing this, even from a distance and on a TV screen, that feeling is infectious. And makes the world a better place, even if for just a little while.
This morning, I woke with a smile. I actually turned on the TV, flipping between local news and cable news, something I haven’t done of late because I can no longer stand the constant negativity that is this election season.
I got on social media and found the definition of “the crowd went wild”, the moment outside Wrigley Field when the Cubs took the Championship – (skip the ad, it runs the moment)
Then, the next item in my newsfeed brought it all crashing down. Not even a miracle 108 years in the making can make this any better, any less painful.
Thank you Chicago, thank you Cubbie Bears, thank you lifelong, diehard fans for at least one night. But now it is morning and real reality, what really matters is back. But you gave us all that one night. I hope and pray the families of the two fallen and the four wounded were Cubs fans.
I hope that in the days, weeks and years to come they will be able to remember that feeling we all had last night.