It’s been almost a month since the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, and it’s still surreal for me to type out those words. I’m not exactly a long-suffering Cubs fan as I’m still relatively young, but I’ve endured some heartbreak and faced plenty of ridicule from fans of opposing teams. I’m also close with some relatives that are more qualified for that “Long-suffering” title. Having that all wash away in an instant was an absolutely amazing experience. It will also forever change the way I watch sports and feel about them in general.
I was always a superstitious sports fan, and it was the worst for me with the Cubs. Any year that the Cubs made the playoffs, I never wanted to make a proclamation along the lines of “This is a great team, they can really go deep in the playoffs this year!” That’s not even really a bold statement like predicting the team will win the World Series, but I still thought that getting too cocky would somehow curse the team. I didn’t necessarily believe in the Curse of the Billy Goat, but I can definitely understand why people did believe it up until about a month ago. Even this season, with the Cubs fielding one of their most talented teams ever, I never wanted to be confident about their ability to win it all. The team consistently proved me wrong.
The 2016 Cubs often chanted “We never quit!” after winning big games and reaching milestones throughout the season. It fit perfectly with what happened to this team in the playoffs. In the NLDS, the team started out well, but was facing the momentum shifting over to the San Francisco Giants down 5-2 in the top of the 9th inning in game 4. If the Cubs had lost that game, they would’ve faced a winner-take-all game 5 in Chicago against arguably the best playoff pitcher ever, Madison Bumgarner. Instead, the team decided to end the series then and there, scoring four runs in the top of the inning and going on to win the game 6-5.
The Cubs then went on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. The team was shutout in two straight games and down 2-1 in the series before their bats came alive and they rallied to win three straight games. All of a sudden, the Cubs were in their first World Series since 1945. They would face The Cleveland Indians, another team with a long championship drought (69 years). The seven game series was an instant classic that featured the Cubs rallying from down 3-1, winning three straight games for a second straight series, including a thrilling game 7 that took extra innings to decide. The final game of the series will go down as one of the best baseball games to ever be played. The Cubs jumped out to an early to a 5-1 lead, but would eventually squander that lead in a fashion that seemed so typically like the Cubs. They gave up two runs on a wild pitch to make 5-3. Even after adding another run on a David Ross home run, the Cubs couldn’t hold the lead. The Indians’ Rajai Davis hit one of the most clutch World Series home runs ever in the 8th inning to tie the game 6-6, and send Cubs fans into agony. However, the Cubs were able to hit the reset button during a rain delay that featured a team-rallying speech by outfielder Jason Heyward. They scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning to make it 8-6, and went on to win the game 8-7. Just like that, the Cubs went from lovable losers to champions. It’s an odd feeling, but it’s also really great.
I always hoped I would be alive to witness a Cubs championship, but I never expected it. I bought into the whole “Perennial losers” narrative about the Cubs, and I let superstition make me think that I could never believe in the team I rooted for. But having that all go away in an instant was worth the years of heartbreak. To see a city collectively lose their minds celebrating, but also reflect on how lucky we are to see this when so many other fans didn’t make it to this moment was special. I loved the experience of watching the Cubs win, but it was also way different than I ever imagined it would be.
The Cubs were the best team in the league in 2008 when I was in college, and I thought that if they somehow made it to the World Series, I would be there in the stadium when they won it all. They got swept out of the playoffs in the first round that year anyway, but as time went on I realized I didn’t need to be in the stadium or in the heart of Wrigleyville to enjoy a Cubs World Series. I lost my younger brother to cancer in May, and it has changed my perspective on a lot of things. I wanted the Cubs to win this World Series not only so I could see it, but so that maybe it could take some attention off the pain my family is going through this year. My brother wasn’t a big Cubs fan, but I know he would’ve enjoyed seeing Chicago go crazy for the team. In the end I was happy to be watching the game on the couch with my mom, stepbrother and stepdad.
Being around my family seemed to be the only appropriate way to watch game 7 of the World Series. It was a crazy game, and I even stopped watching for about five minutes after that Davis home run, but I’m glad I came back into the living room. It was important to me to see my stepdad, a diehard Cubs fan for over 60 years, experience a Cubs World Series win in his lifetime. I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be when they won it all. I was jumping around screaming and hugging my family, and my stepdad simply stood up with tears in his eyes and said “I have to go to bed now”. It was actually pretty late since the game took over four hours, but I didn’t expect that reaction. After thinking about it for awhile, it finally makes sense to me. He had seen so much heartbreak over the years: 1969, 1984, 1989, 2003, 2008, and the list goes on. He was even at game 7 in 2003 when it seemed the Cubs were going to make it to the World Series, but fell short. I think when the team finally won it all, the moment simply overwhelmed him. I understand that, but I will never understand it to the degree he does.
Curse is gone – pic.twitter.com/X6aCH68cVF
— John Cusack (@johncusack) November 3, 2016
This was the first sporting event I truly shed tears over. It is a cathartic event for many Cubs fans. We celebrate, but we also mourn all the Cubs fans close to us who came before us and didn’t get to see this. For me, it’s my brother. Pretty much every Cubs fan has one, or more. For my stepdad, I’d imagine it’s a lot. With all we’ve been through this year, it’s bittersweet in a way. But I wouldn’t change this moment for the world. The Cubs are World Champions. Say it with pride. All my years of sports superstition, all the worrying, all the overreaction is all gone now. I feel like I can just enjoy sports as a genuine spectator now because I’ve experienced the greatest victory any team I root for can accomplish. It’s a damn good feeling.