Last spring, Chicago Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer came to Booth to speak about team building and strategic planning, and it was one of the coolest events I had attended all year. Who knew just a few months later, my classmates and I would be watching the North Siders make modern history?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I intended to write this post much earlier than I did. But then, life happened. Last week’s presidential election took over the national stage and every media airwave. On a personal note I was wrapped up in recruiting, school work, and presiding over a failing fantasy football team that specializes in injuries and under-performing. But nonetheless, it’s a topic we must talk about. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series and are kings of the baseball world.
Even after nearly two weeks to digest that sentence, it’s still hard to believe. As any baseball fan will tell you, the Cubs have always represented a few things; playing day games at The Friendly Confines, outfield walls covered in ivy, and being the game’s Lovable Losers.
The Cubs have experienced so much disappointment in their history that it almost made you feel bad for Chicago sports fans. Well until you realized they also got to enjoy the Jordan Bulls, the Monsters of the Midway, and the Kane/Toews Blackhawks of recent years. Nonetheless, there were a lot of people who waited a lot of years for this moment (108 years to be exact). Many never saw it come to fruition, but for those who did wait, absence really must’ve made the heart grow fonder.
When I moved to Chicago last August, the Cubs had already become one of the best teams in baseball. Led by Cy Young and Rookie of the Year winners Jake Arietta and Kris Bryant, Chicago advanced to the National League Championship Series, ultimately falling to the New York Mets. But it was clearly the start of something special.
As mentioned earlier, Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer came to Booth to speak about the team and how it was created. In conjunction with resident curse breaker Theo Epstein, the two masterminds used advanced analytic techniques (highlighted in Michael Lewis’s Moneyball) with the deep pockets of the Ricketts family (team owners) to construct a roster that was young, talented, and extremely well-coached.
Fast forward to November 2nd, the fateful day the fortunes of a tortured fan base changed for good. I was watching at a bar in Old Town with over fifty classmates. Most of our group weren’t even Cubs fans till about 12 minutes before first pitch, yet there was a palpable level of tension and excitement exuding over everyone involved.
The rest of the bar was a different story. Filled with die-hards rocking every gear of Cubs merchandise available in stores, these fans were hanging on to every pitch, every hit, and every drop of rain that caused an excruciating delay before the game was headed into extra innings.
When the game finally ended and Anthony Rizzo caught the third out of the 10th inning, pandemonium erupted. People poured beer all over one another (readily accepted as well, I might add), everyone screamed as loud as they could to renditions of ‘Go Cubs Go’ and ‘We Are The Champions.’ As I looked around I saw the tightest of hugs and smiles, and even a few who could only muster tears of joy.
After an hour of celebration, we walked out of the bar intending to call Ubers, but there was one major flaw in the plan; the roads weren’t being used for driving. People were walking down the middle of the street, with a one-way ticket to Wrigleyville. The cars that were dotting the scene, spent their time honking till the wee hours of the morning, just because they could.
Two days later, the championship parade took place and the path incidentally strolled right by my apartment (video above). Nearly five million Chicagoans descended on Grant Park to take part in the celebration. In fact, the event ranked as the 7th largest human gathering in history, which is a normal thing to say in reference with some type of religious pilgrimage and a very unprecedented thing to be related to winning an annual trophy.
But that’s what the Cubs mean to this city; the history of defeat has created a sense of longing, maybe even despair. But it was also primed for incredible fulfillment upon reversal of such fate. One of the reasons I was so excited about living in Chicago was the interest and commitment to the city’s sports teams. I loved that fans cared, I loved that it mattered, and that the results could be impactful and uplifting.
I’m not a Cubs fan at all. I own a hat that I bought in August, that’s about it. But for that day, that game, and that moment, there was no place I would have rather been than in Chicago watching with those who were about to wash away their nightmares of defeat forever.
My best friend growing up was a Cubs fan, and every day he’d wear the same hoodie and I’d make the same joke about rooting for a team that had no chance. We’ve fallen out of touch since then, but I really wanted to call him that night to let him know, I was finally ready to Fly the W.