Friday, November 4, 2016

Cubs Win 2016 World Series

Wednesday night, November 2nd, the Chicago Cubs broke their 108 year streak and won Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.  At this point, you have no doubt heard about this win and cannot have missed the jokes and media bits surrounding the long drought for the Cubbies over the past, oh, fifty years or so.

The Cubs' 2016 season was one for the record books, with individual players earning honors and a win record that's going to be discussed for a generation or more.  At some point, books and movies will memorialize this team and this season, and those adaptations will end in what will seem to be hokey, melodramatic fashion as the series stretches to seven games, then feature a Game 7 that ties up with an outstanding hit by Davis of the Cleveland Indians, then is delayed from going into the 10th inning by a rainstorm.  A speech will be given in a players-only meeting by Jason Heyward, a phenomenal outfielder who had a terrible batting slump, but who never, ever gave up.  And, the final play will be a showcase for the same meticulous defense we've seen all season by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

As was being joked about on social media with some friends, it could have only felt more like a Disney movie if they'd needed to sub in a charming 12 year old girl as the closer with her golden retriever behind the plate to catch.

I didn't grow up watching baseball - our family sport was basketball when it was anything.  But I've followed the Cubs since middle school, more off than on, thanks to the broadcasts of WGN out of Chicago.

But my in-laws made me a Cubs fan.

Jamie used to wind up in the hospital quite a bit, and Jamie's mom, Judy, and I would tune the TV to WGN and watch the Cubs play.  Judy quickly gathered that my baseball knowledge was mostly gleaned from watching movies and backyard games, so she was really the one who got me over the hurdle of understanding the game.

I started watching a few games or parts of games per season on my own, but it wasn't a priority.  Later, when we moved to Phoenix and could go see the Cubs play the Diamondbacks (I'd swap out my D-Backs hat for my Cubs hat for the occasion), we went to several Cubs games.  And, of course, we did finally make it to a Spring Training game in Mesa - which was a total blast.  And we were watching the Cubs when Bartman plucked that ball out of the air.  I still remember turning to Jamie and she said what I was thinking:  Did that really just happen?

But that was part of what I genuinely grew to like about being a Cubs fan.  Not the losing - I wanted them to win - and when they did win, it felt great.  But it was a team with a history.  A weird history.  This was a team that couldn't catch a break, and, yeah, I know - the team hasn't always had the best managers (except Dusty Baker is pretty good, right?  I mean, it hasn't been all bums), has had neglectful owners happy to just have people in the seats.  Throw in a personality like Harry Caray, who, literally, was why I was watching circa 1987-88, and you had something unique, even in baseball.  I mean, the Cubs winning the World Series was a punchline in Back to the Future 2 (which was off by a year, but, you know) and a half-dozen other places.

But what I liked about it wasn't necessarily the underdog spirit alone.  I was happy to cheer for an underdog, but I loved that it was the team that always dusted itself off and said "well, that was insane.  Who brings a black cat to a game, anyway?  Honestly." and then came back out the next year, and this could be it.  This could be the year!

I mean, whole religions are based around that sort of thinking.  It's clearly had its appeal as Chicagoans have spread to the four-corners of the Earth taking the Cubs with them.  It'd been so long, surely they were due, right?

Way back in 2005, I remember watching the University of Texas Longhorns during their run up to the National Championship at the Rose Bowl.  There was just something different not just about the level of play, but the way the team behaved, the way they talked and related to each other.  And all of that showed up on the field, game after game.  And, really, from early on in the season when Manager Joe Maddon was confident enough in their position in the standings he was putting pitchers in the outfield to shake everything up and have a goof, I knew we'd at least take the Division.

Frankly, the Indians looked so damn good in Game 1, I was mentally set to just say, once again, "well, maybe next year".

Look - I'm a tourist.  I'm not going to rattle off the names of players from the past 30 years.  I'm not going to cite stats or whatnot.  I've been a casual viewer until the past few years.  I came to the party late, and I didn't purchase the MLB package in pre-season until this year (which turned out to be a wise investment) - and in response to finally accepting that WGN is now showing original programming or something rather than Cubs games.  This is the first year where I watched an ungodly number of games and didn't miss a play-off game at any level.  Turns out, this was the year for that.

But I know what the long suffering fan looks like.  I have a pretty great father-in-law, Jamie's dad, DocDik, who has been following the Cubs since he was a wee kid growing up north of Chicago.  He took that fandom with him when he went off into the wild world of dentistry that took him away from Illinois, and clearly instilled it in Judy, Jamie's mom.  She was from Houston, but, man, she knew her Cubs.  And she certainly had her opinions when we were watching.  We all went to see the Cubs together in Phoenix and in Spring training.

Back about seven years ago Jamie and I were watching the Cubs play the Astros and for some reason the camera cut to Jamie's folks sitting with my folks in really very good seats behind the dugout.  I could see the moms were eating lemon ices, so we texted Judy and asked her "how's that lemon ice?"  Always a good way to spook out your mom.

While I'm very sad Judy didn't get to see the win, I'm so glad Dick got to see a Cubs team that could deliver on the promise.

I'm glad the curses of goats and black cats and gypsies can all disappear.  We've fought two world wars, seen the rise and fall of empires, the arrival of the internet (and indoor plumbing for a lot of America) in this time.  Women have been given the right to vote and a woman may or may not be President in a few months.  We've been to space and the moon and we're thinking about Mars.  We've mapped Antarctica.

It's been a hell of 108 years.  I'm glad I've been touristing long enough to have been there when they got it back.

And, hey, if you aren't happy for Bill Murray, you're dead inside.

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