I’m purposefully writing this tonight. Before Game Six, before we go back to Cleveland. Before it’s all over in a few days. Because win or lose, it is all going to be over in a few days. And I want to soak up every last second of this. I want to remember, no, to preserve, this feeling that I and so many others have right now. This excitement, this joy, this happiness that seems to be surrounding the city of Chicago right now.
Our buildings are lit up with Go Cubs in blue. Our office buildings have Fly the W spelled out in high rise windows and W flags flying in our lobbies. Our fountains are dyed Cubbie Blue and you can’t walk more than five feet without seeing someone in a Cubs jersey or hat. Our iconic ferris wheel is decked out with a W and shining red white and blue. Clark Street Sports must have popped up about a hundred stores and people are clamoring for their World Series gear. Because we’re finally here. The Chicago Cubs. In the World Series. Last night, I watched, from my couch, drink gripped in hand, standing up for nearly three hours, a World Series win at Wrigley Field. And while I’m not saying anything new here, I feel the need to point out that there are people who, quite literally, waited their entire lives to see this happen, and plenty more who never got to.
For the most part, all I’ve heard is excitement and positivity. Whether this is because most of the people I”m talking to are Cubs fans or because I’m so violently optimistic and happy that they’re afraid to disagree with me, I’m not sure. But people are HAPPY. And you know what? This city, and this country, needs some damn happy. (This is where you assume I’m going to go on a Trump rant, but I promise I won’t here.) But I think people just need something to hold onto. Some hope for a change. Articles that make us smile when we share them on social media, “Hey, did you see Bill Murray start crying when they won? Did you see that interview with Ross? How about that catch?” instead of the constant back and forth I’m right-you’re wrong-let-me-tell-you-why-in-all-caps-and-illustrate-my-point-with-a-meme posts that 2016 has been rife with. (Not excluding myself from this faction.)
Some people say it’s a good distraction, that it’s like sticking our heads in the sand for a couple of weeks; ignoring the real issues to focus on a game. And maybe that’s true. But you know what? Right now, I need to stick my head in the sand. Because this year? Has sucked. A lot. It took Bowie, and Glenn Frey, and Snape, and Prince. It’s taken a lot of our hope in our government and political process, it’s divided friends and families. We’ve lost a lot of good people, both famous and not, and most importantly, it’s robbed even the strongest optimists of their hope. This team? Has given us hope. This team? Has given us happiness. Above all, this team has given us something to rally around, together. And we need that. Desperately.
We headed down to Wrigley Field last Saturday to stand outside the stadium in the hopes of just hearing the crowd and our team clinch the National League. We couldn’t afford tickets, hell, we couldn’t even afford to get into a bar in Wrigleyville. So we stood outside barricades on Addison and tried to catch glimpses of the game on the bar screens. We talked to people that had flown in from Washington DC just for this privilege. To people that had driven in from the burbs, by themselves, just to be near their team. When the police eventually pushed us so far back that we couldn’t see the TV screens anymore, we stood in an alley and when we heard the crowd cheer frantically checked our phones or asked the people that had pulled their TV outside what happened. When the police pulled up the barrricades in the ninth inning we all ran, cheering and yelling, toward the marquee to hear that last out. And when Chapman threw that final batter out, we cheered and yelled and sang Go Cubs Go and, I’m not ashamed to admit, a lot of us cried.
And there were over 300 THOUSAND of us. Those are the Cubs fans I know. The fans who cried real tears when we lost in 2003. The ones who saved up all year to buy tickets for nosebleed tickets just for the regular season. The fans who have listened to the games on the radio when they couldn’t watch on TV. The ones who went to see the hearse carry Ron Santo around the field for the last time. Who cried when Schwarber went down. Who sat outside and watched on an app on a blurry screen when the playoffs weren’t on cable. Who can say exactly where they were when poor Bartman grabbed at that ball. Who traveled to Milwaukee to see them because it was easier and cheaper than getting tickets to Wrigley. The little girl who loved Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandburg. That same little girl who can clearly remember crying in 1984 in her aunt’s basement. Who waited 45 minutes on a stinky El platform just to go soak up the energy and take a picture in front of a marquee that said “Chicago Cubs World Series Game 4.” That reluctantly left after carefully selecting a ten dollar souvenir pin instead of a hundred dollar sweatshirt or three hundred dollar bar package or a two thousand dollar ticket to go watch at home. The ones who said “It isn’t over,” in the ninth against the Giants. Who rejoiced at Zambrano’s no-hitter and Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeouts. The ones that weren’t surprised by the Montero grand slam. That still well up when they see Harry Caray on the big screen singing the seventh inning stretch. The ones like me.
So forgive me if I get a little crazy when I hear that Cubs fans are bandwagonners, or just want to be there for the party. Of course we want to be there for the party. We’ve waited patiently for this party. Year after year and season after season, we’ve wanted this party.
A quick note here – this is in no way to take away from those fans that have paid thousands in season tickets year after year, or the ones that were able to pay the astounding ticket prices for the series. Because – to borrow a quote – sure as God made green apples, if I had the option, I would do the same thing. And they sure as hell deserve it as much as everyone.
I hope we win it all. And I truly believe we will. I really do. Because this team? Is magic. It’s brought a city together. It’s brought fans hugging and taking selfies with the cops trying to keep order. It’s brought unbelievable catches and unlikely heroes and renewed our love of the game because it’s also the most likeable team I can ever recall watching. It’s brought strangers smiling and talking to each other on the street. I just hope they have enough magic left in them to go all the way.
But if – just if – they don’t? It’s okay. Because we’ll be back next year, no matter what happens.