"The longest drought in the history of American sports is over!!!"
-- Pat Hughes, Chicago Cubs announcer.
Okay, I was wrong. Four years ago, as the floundering Cubs were building for the future, I was telling my friends that I thought the pieces would be in place for them to make a serious run to win the World Series in 2017. I thought they would be good this year, but so young that they wouldn't quite yet be ready to make it through the pressure of the full post-season. I was wrong. I was a year off. I'm okay with that.
I'm not going to try to be poetic and philosophical here, putting the 108 years of losing and following the Cubs into historical perspective. But a few random thoughts are the order of the day.
Happily, I had the presence of mind to set my DVR and record the game -- because I knew that if the Cubs did by some off-chance win, I would be so unfocused watching the game in a somewhat ethereal, semi-disoriented way that I would miss a lot. So, now I will be able to replay the game and watch it relaxed and with joy. The gallingly heart-crushing parts now will be immensely palatable.
I really hated how the game got away from them, and how hellish the last few innings were. Cruising towards a win and then collapsing. Though it was more than "just" that. But honestly, if the Cubs were going to win…of course this is how it had to be. The series and especially this final game were Shakespearean.
Losing for 108 years without a World Series. Best record in baseball. One of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the major leagues. Playing the team with the second longest World Series losing streak. Down three games to one in a Best of Seven series. Having to go back to the opponents’ home for the final two games. Facing the pitcher who had completely shut them down twice. Leading in the game 5-1. Throwing the ball away on a simple tap, then letting two runs score on a wild pitch. Up 6-3 in the eighth inning. Two outs no one on. Blowing the lead, game tied. A rain delay. A rain delay! And then, after 108 years, victory!!
As I've mentioned here previously, my dad was a major Cubs fan. For almost 95 years. He grew up walking distance from Wrigley Field, and would stroll over to see games when he was a little kid. He followed them for nearly a century. And passed away only six months ago in May. So, it's hard not to say that there is a bitter-sweet sensibility to this championship. But it's mostly sweet. That's because happily, he got to see the Cubs at the beginning of the season and see how great they were with the best record in baseball, and he was overjoyed. So, I like to think of it as him taking the Cubs to this point, and then letting them carry things on themselves. It's the way life works.
There, that's as philosophical as I'm gong to get today. Because above all, this is just joyous. And much of the fun is not my own enjoyment, but watching and sharing the explosive pleasure of others, who've lived through this through generations and lives -- their own, and those who came before. Including the ghosts of teams past. It's a team whose futility and unrelenting hope became a part of the fabric of those lives.
As a Chicago Tribune reporter last night described the celebration and emotional release in Chicago -- "This is what a 108-year-old dream looks like when it is finally realized."
Let me put this joy in perspective.
After many teams win a championship, the cities often go crazy with rioting and violence, overturning cars in some sort of misplaced exuberance. But look at that picture above at Wrigley Field. As far as I'm aware, that's what it's like in Chicago. People aren't rioting -- they're just really, really, really incredibly happy. This is pure joy.
Not shockingly, I'm overjoyed that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, only taking 108 years. I'd never even seen them in a World Series in my life. They haven't played in won since 1945, a full 71 years ago. This is otherworldly, almost unexpected, and enthralling. But as I've noted here and even said to surprised friends for years, the Cubs winning the World Series doesn't actually alter my life, beyond of course being thrilling and jubilant (which is always a great addition to have...). It's entertainment. It's fun. The only people whose lives a championship really impacts are the team itself. But this whole season been tremendous entertainment. It was that even before the World Series. The Cubs won 103 games, which was the best record in all of baseball. And going into the playoffs, whatever happened, it had already been six months of wondrous entertainment. The playoffs and then the World Series champions was just an emotional release of a lifetime of support and hope and enthralling entertainment. And it was a joy. My life doesn't actually change. One shouldn't make more of this than it is -- which is saying a lot, because there's actually a LOT to justifiably be made of it. This is not remotely to diminish the joy and import of what people experienced. But to put it in proper perspective, which makes it more meaningful. Abundant joy is no small thing. Eternal relief is no small thing. And that, to me, is what it is, and what is celebrated. What the World Series did was take a spot that was patiently and lovingly being held for it. And it got over quite a big 108 year hurdle that you so-dearly wanted to see, and that your ancestors wanted to see, and that a city wanted to see. And that ultimately a lot of the country over the decades were so fascinated and bewildered by, and were looking forward to seeing, because it seemed to unlikely
And now we have seen. Now I have. It doesn't really change anything. But it's a relief. And it's very nice.
I've left out talking about specific players and management. They're deserving of a volume of their own. But right now, they're a part of 108 year history and all year have said that they know it. One thing is likely -- none of them may ever have to pay for a meal in Chicago again.
The Curse of the Billy Goat is no more. Hell did not freeze over.
Cubs win! Cubs win!
Fly the W.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor