“Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game”
How do you not get romantic about baseball? Whether you’re the casual fan or the diehard, the born and bred or the bandwagoner, it’s tough not to get engulfed by special moments.
I realize I’ve filled this space with jabs at the sport — it’s still far too long — and as I’ve gotten older, my attention has shifted to other sports. But the Cubs sucked me in over the past couple years, and the 2016 World Series did a lot for me.
But this isn’t about me, really.
This is about baseball. This is about sports. This is about camaraderie and holding something near and dear to your heart.
I encourage you to read ESPN writer Wright Thompson’s remarkable piece “In Chicago, the final wait for a Cubs win mixes joy and sorrow.” It’s a fantastic work of journalism, and it’s a wonderful, emotional story. I hope these next 600 words do stories like Thompson’s justice.
But the reaction to the Chicago Cubs breaking a 108-year World Series drought Wednesday was special.
The photos and videos of Chicago and Cubs fans around the world — there’s a lot of them — and the overall joy cast over a massive group of people is tough to put into words.
This is for that group of people.
“Our diamond, our jewel, the home of our joy and our tears”
It’s amazing what sports can do to a person. The roller coaster ride that both Cubs fans and Indians fans alike were taken on during a five-hour, rain-delayed, extra-inning game of baseball, and the gamut of emotions that came along with it, that was the pinnacle of being a sports fan.
This is for the friend calling her dad in the streets of Wrigleyville. “We did it, dad,” she mumbled through sobs.
It’s for the buddy who flew the “W” flag at his wedding, cut his honeymoon short and drove from Colorado to Chicago to witness history. And to his wife, for understanding what all that meant to her husband.
And to my old pals Zach, Ben and Scott, who I’ve watched many games with and shared memories with after Wednesday’s game. And of course, Jon Nowicki, my high school chemistry teacher who I know was belting “Go Cubs Go” all night long.
Wednesday night was for the CTA drivers honking their horns all through the night and the Chicago Tribune truck drivers dodging mobs of Cubs fans to deliver a newspaper that folks were buying directly off the trucks.
The win was for Bill Murray and Eddie Vedder, legends in their own rights so humanized by the game of baseball.
It was for a city that’s become the most violent in the country.
It was for baseball fans, sports fans, family and friends.
“Keeping traditions and wishes made new, a place where our grandfathers, fathers they grew”
My grandma was a few months short of witnessing her beloved Cubbies winning the big one. As was my editor’s grandmother and hundreds and thousands of other grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters.
A wall outside Wrigley Field became a tie-dyed mural of hand-written notes, honoring the Cubs fans who didn’t make it to Wednesday.
That’s when I realized it was bigger than baseball. It was bigger than snapping a 108-year skid.
It was about tradition, bond and the meaning of it all. So many people had ties to the Cubs that dated back to before they were born. The Cubs winning a World Series became about the joy of everyone else rather than personal happiness.
Coincidentally, the two are so tightly intertwined.
“United we stand, and united we’ll fall”
We can learn a lot about ourselves during a night like Wednesday’s, a night that lit up a city.
We aren’t that bad a group, and we aren’t that different.
While a presidential election looms and seems to divide a group of people that should be doing the opposite, sports are the escape. And, at least I think, sports are the reality. Deep down, that’s who we are. At our lowest — a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth inning — and at our highest — a throw from Kris Bryant to Anthony Rizzo.
Realizing that something as simple as a game of baseball can do so much for so many people was more gratifying to me than the Cubs actually winning the World Series.
So, to the man who drove 600 miles to sit at his father’s gravesite and listen to the World Series on the radio, to the woman who poured tears into her grandmother’s blanket, to my grandma and to every other fan who’s been lucky enough to experience some sort of joy similar to those people, thank you.
Thank you for showing me and many others why we need sports, why we need nights like Wednesday and why we even needed the previous 108 years.
Like Ernie Banks said, let’s play two.