I was one of those weary sports fans that stayed up last night to see what was once believed to be the impossible. The Cubs win the World Series.
This game seven and the series in general featured every kind of drama you could throw at the Cubs, their hardcore fanbase and the casual Cubs fanbase that I’m a member of.
To begin with the series found the now winners down three games to one being shut out twice. Things looked bad for longtime fans as another snake bit club looked to end a curse of their own. Then somehow (actually because their bats came to life) we saw a game seven.
Early the Cubs started to show dominance. And then as if karma was biting them on the rear the Cleveland Indians charged back keeping the game close and then tying it twice. The second time was the Indians score three times off of Cub’s ace closer Aroldis Chapman who despite blowing the lead ended up being named the winner. It was as if the spirit of Steve Bartman was alive and well or Chapman had summoned the legs of Bill Buckner from the Red Sox former ghost yard.
And then extra innings. What else could add to the drama for the Cubs? Rain delay. Yes, you read it here – probably not first. The game went through a short rain delay before extra innings could begin. Oh, the agony. As a part-time Cubs fan I found the irony in all this and started to feel sorry for the hardcore fan as I was expecting to read stories for weeks to come on how the Cubs were still snake-bit and “why, oh why”?
The something happened.
The skies cleared and the Cubs scored twice. Miguel Montero’ single to left center drove in what was the deciding run. But it wasn’t over yet. These are the Cubs.
Entering the bottom of the ninth the Cubs sent Carl Edwards Jr. to the mound. The righty got the first two out and then the curse began to show its ugly head again. A walk and then a long single to center scored Brandon Guyer. Oh no, were the Cubs going to blow it again? The Indians have their own curse. They haven’t won a World Series in almost 70 years themselves (not as futile as the Cubs’ 108 years of futility), and they blew a lead in games six and seven of the 1997 World Series against the Marlins (I’m not sure who to blame for their jinx).
Mike Montgomery came in and got the final out for the Cubs to end maybe pro sports’ most infamous runs of bad – or no luck.
And no, the sky did not open up and swallow the earth whole.
The Cubs now face losing the nickname the lovable losers and that kind of concerns me. The team has one of the biggest fanbase in all of sports – both hardcore and casual. They have been lovable losers for almost everyone’s (literally) entire life. To give you some perspective, the last time the Cubs won the World Series in 1908, motion pictures were still a novelty, the average wage was 22¢ an hour. That Hershey’s bar you bought at Walmart for 78¢ cost only 2¢ in 1908. A gallon of gas cost 11¢, there was no NFL or NHL for you sports nuts.
For some magical reason a nation embraced the Cubs as their redheaded stepchild. Usually it is our team or bust, but with the Cubs if they weren’t your team of choice you cheered for them as your secondary team. They were like that stray kitten or puppy we’ve all run across and wanted to take home but knew we couldn’t because we already had a pet at home and couldn’t take care of it properly. The only time we didn’t cheer for them was when they played our team. Even then, if the Cubs won, we didn’t take it personally if they beat us. After all they were the lovable losers.
Anyone who has ever been to a Cubs game knows how self-effacing their fans have been. It has been as if they were conditioned for the worst. Unlike over-intense hardcore fans of other sports teams they were fun to be around and often invited outsider guests into their fold. Nothing comforts losing more than beer, cheer and being good-natured.
Chicago being one of the largest cities in the United States have gone longer than any city of its size. New York or Los Angeles would never tolerate it. They take their titles too seriously. Part of the charm of the Cubs is that the organization still treated baseball as a sport and not the multi-billion dollar and business it has become (as have all professional sports). Yes, they’ve wanted a title more than anyone but they understood tradition and the fond childhood memories that made baseball so near and dear to our hearts.
And it’s not like the Cubs have been talent barren. The list is too long the name all the Hall of Famers that have donned a Cub uniform. Of course Ernie Banks comes to mind, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace and the list could go on. Add to that a rabid celebrity fanbase – guys like Bill Murray, John Cusak, Eddie Vedder, Bob Newhart and Jim Belushi to once again name a very few.
And thanks to cable TV that revolutionized our TV habits in the ‘80s both the Cubs as did the Atlanta Braves added to their mystique because all of their games were broadcast on WSB (cable channel 2 while growing up – and TBS for the Braves until about a decade ago on channel 7). We got to witness what we read about and were told to us by family members and general folklore. I got to witness firsthand (on TV) Murray commandeer the mic and lead “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, do play-by-play as only Murray could do and that added to the growing reasons to love the Cubs if not as your team, at least your second team of choice. And let us not forget Harry Carey.
Harry Carey – sorry Vin Scully, is probably the greatest baseball announcer. Carey was a fan first and that showed in his diatribes on radio and then TV. He was fun loving and it was as if we were all invited to his personal cocktail party. Carey was like us because it was obvious during a number of broadcasts he was imbibing. He’s slur his speech slightly but never lost any of his enthusiasm or vigor for the game. And he knew a lot about baseball, he wasn’t a talking head with facts only – he had personality.
Carey’s over-the-top personality was parodied by everyone from SNL on down. And it was all done in loving tribute. Carey and the Cubs represented what was great about the sport of baseball. Sure we want to win, but we should never forget it is a game and something that should be enjoyed and shared.
And that is what concerns me now that the “curse” has been lifted. Is the mystique gone for the Cubs? How will the championship affect the casual fan who cheered because for the most part they were seen a pretty harmless? Are the Cubs going to become more of a business than a sports team? And is it time to move on from them like the country did after the Red Sox broke the Bambino’s jinx back in 2004?
I do like to think that the win Wednesday night wasn’t a fluke but I’m not sure I can tolerate a cocky Chicago Cubs team or fanbase. Who should I turn my attention to next in baseball should I lose that loving feeling for the Cubs? Is it the Indians who haven’t won it all since 1948, or the Rangers who have never won since they joined the league 56 years ago?
I don’t know, I’m just going to enjoy the moment with my favorite redheaded stepchildren – the Cubs. To quote the late great Harry Carey, “Holy Cow! Hello again, everybody. It’s a bee-yooo-tiful day for baseball.”
– Dave Weinthal
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