SEVEN GAMES REMAIN
A Delirious Cubs Fan Worries How Winning Will Change the Lovable Losers
The one thing every fan has waited for since 1945—the National League pennant—has come and gone, and with it one less thing to savor.
WRIGLEYVILLE — I write for a living and I don’t know what to say.
How can you possibly put into words the emotions that come when you see something that you have never seen before, that your father has never seen before, that millions of your fellow man have not seen before? You can’t. All you can really do is cry.
As the final grounder of the game was scooped up by Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell on Saturday, my breath gave way. With his toss to Javier Baez at second, the first tear came. By the time the ball landed in Anthony Rizzo’s glove at first, they were streaming down my face.
A lead-pipe cinch double play to send the Cubs to the World Series for the first time since 1945. A loving hand wiped a lifetime’s worth of tortured fandom from my cheeks. The bar went up for grabs, as they did across the city, sending beer and booze into the air in an uncontrollable moment of raw emotion—the product of an indescribable joy that is amplified because of the history of this team.
And now, all of that changes.
In April and May while it was still too cold to fill Wrigley Field, I got in regularly on the cheap to watch a young team that reportedly wouldn’t let things like curses or decades of failure affect what they do on the field. By June and July as the ivy on the outfield walls turned from brown to green and the sun soaked the bleachers, the prices went up. Wrigley is full during these months no matter how bad the Cubs are, but this beautiful summer they just happened to be playing the best baseball in the National League.
As the summer waned, the usual ritual of dropping temperatures and ticket prices—as the Cubs play increasingly meaningless games, falling further out of playoff contention was reversed—the team didn’t falter, and the fans kept filling the stadium.
The last month has brought all the drama promised by playoff baseball. There have been late-inning comebacks and blown saves, much-needed doubles and even a pinch-hit grand slam from an aging catcher who has been benched in favor of a young, hot-hitting protégé with speed. Concentrating on something as minute as hundreds of single pitches has the odd effect of blurring entire nights and days—the last three weeks have been the longest of my life.
As detrimental to your physical and mental health as it may be, you don’t want it to stop.
My tears last night weren’t borne only of joy and relief—the complexity of emotions that comes along with being a Cubs fan means that seeing your team win the pennant for the first time in your life brings many questions.
“What is this feeling?” you think after such a historic win.
“Who are we now?” you ask after seeing a double play existentially change what your team has always been.
“What happens if we win it all?” you dare not to say aloud.
If that turns out to be the case, the most important question of all becomes, “Who are we then?”
Three-time World Series champions, obviously. (Remember 1907 and 1908?) The biggest sports story of the year, to be sure, and likely even the decade. Finally, revelers in the biggest celebration in Chicago since the White Sox broke their own 88-year World Series drought in 2005.
But when we wake up as fans of champions we do so as a people who truly understand that the rarity of winning is what makes a championship so special. Now, one special thing we have all been waiting for—the National League Pennant—has come and gone, and with it one less thing to savor. If a World Series championship comes to Chicago’s Northside, it will bring with it the demolition of the Cubs legacy of losing. Whatever you think of that history, it’s a part of every Cub fan. Hell, the whole point of being a Cub fan is that you love them no matter what, and for the last 108 years we have.
Does that begin to change once success becomes our new legacy?
Most of those questions will have to wait—we still have to crush the hopes of Cleveland Indians fans, who will note that they are second only to the Cubs in championship droughts. As for how I feel following the historic win, I don’t want it to end. I want to see the Cubs win it all. Only then can I grapple with the complex emotions that only Cub fans deal with, feelings that will likely be laughed at and derided once these words are made available for all to see.
As for whether or not it’s alright for a grown man to cry in public over something as seemingly unimportant to world events as a baseball team: My dad came through with the answer to that one.
“Nothing wrong with crying on this night,” he said.