The Cubs and what the World Series means
My mother was born a Cubs fan. Her father, my grandfather, held true to the Cubs blue despite growing up deep in White Sox territory on the Southside of Chicago. In 1970, she got her first real taste of the Friendly Confines, sitting several rows back on the third base line in Wrigley Field. She grew up watching Ron Santos and Ernie Banks. She remembers the anticipatory agony and anguishing defeat of 1984 and 2003. She’s only been alive for exactly half of the Cubs’ now-vanquished 108-year title drought, but even she still experienced more sporting heartbreak than nearly every other fan of any other team.
And that’s what makes the Cubs’ World Series victory that much more remarkable. It’s hard to measure or elaborate on exactly what a championship means to fans, let alone players. Yes, almost every fan understands that this any sport just a game, a man-made competition highly subject to luck and happenstance. Most of us realize that, win or lose, life goes on just as it did before. Bills are still on the table, your boss will still expect you at work, and the lawn still won’t mow itself. But despite almost every fan acknowledging that it’s somewhat foolish to tie your own hopes, dreams, and emotions to the simple bouncing of a ball and despite acknowledging that it’s just a game, we adamantly propose that it’s more than that. It’s an escape. A reprieve. It’s a connection. In a world that so often bombards us with sadness and anger, sports are the one thing that can always supply the contrary.
That’s what Cubs fans have been robbed of for 108 years. That’s what my mom was waiting nearly 54 years for. That’s what thousands of Cubs fans died still waiting for and what thousands of people Wednesday night wished their loved ones were still alive to feel. The simple, euphoric joy of watching your team win does not depend on social status or popularity. It does not depend on your bank account or your Facebook account. It simply depends on you placing your hopes, dreams, and emotions in that team knowing full well you’re more likely to end up dejected than jubilant. But that mere opportunity for jubilance is enough to keep doing so and the actual realization of it is more so.
My mom is pretty definitive about what her biggest regret with my siblings and me is. Regardless of what I tell her about selling her Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, she’s most upset with herself for not taking us to a Cubs game in 2008 while on vacation instead of the countless museums Chicago has to offer. Museums are great, and Chicago boasts some of the world’s best, but she doesn’t think often about her childhood and visiting the Adler Planetarium. She remembers quite more fondly, and easily more vividly, sitting several rows back on the third base line, watching Ernie Banks and Ron Santos play within the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.
This past May, I had some opportunity to fix that. With my parents currently living in Alabama, there’s ample opportunity for frequent travel back and forth across the country, which means in the past year, I’ve either flown or driven across the country eight times. And while Chicago might not be exactly on the route between Utah and Alabama, cheap flights certainly are. And since I’ve always struggled with presents, tickets to a Cubs game was an option I couldn’t pass up. Granted, the game ended up being at ‘Wrigley Field north’, more commonly known as Miller Park in Milwaukee, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. And granted, the Cubs lost. But seeing the Cubs in person for the first time in over thirty years was enough for her. And in all fairness, cheering on the team she grew up with, even in a loss, epitomized what it’s meant to be a Chicago Cubs fan.
That’s part of the reason the Cubs fanbase has been one of my favorites in all of sports. Being a fan of the Ravens, Red Sox, and Celtics, I’ve been quite spoiled with championships. I’ve come to expect them often. But without the euphoria of a championship, or often even the hope of competing for one, Cubs fans have had to survive off of simply watching the team play, whether that be at Wrigley Field in person or on TV with several loved persons. Even with a team referred to as the ‘Lovable Losers’, Wrigley Field was always filled with thousands who loved less the championship and more the team and baseball, in general. In that aspect, the curses and the goats will be missed.
But 108 years is long enough to have to survive without the euphoria of a championship. And that euphoria is now rampant in the Northside and will be for the foreseeable future. It was rampant on Wednesday night as I watched the last few outs in a random sports bar in downtown Salt Lake City. And it was rampant in an apartment 1,700 miles away in Huntsville, Alabama. And in the magic of sports, and the breaking of a curse, 1,700 miles felt like zero.