Baseball is NOT just a game.
I am an Idaho boy, who grew up a die hard Cubs fan. When I was 9 years old, my little sister needed medical care from a team of specialists in Chicago. So, our family of six (at the time) packed up and moved to a one-bedroom apartment on the 21st floor of a Chicago high rise. This is when I fell in love with the Chicago Cubs. We would go to games as a family, I would keep up with all the stats, and I would collect the baseball cards of my team’s heroes. We eventually moved back to Idaho, but I never surrendered my love for the Chicago baseball club. When I realized that our National Park trip was taking us near Chicago for October baseball, I knew we’d be making a pit stop.
When we were still miles away from Chicago, I hate to admit, I figured our season would end like years past – we’d play hard all year long, make it to the playoffs, and then The Curse would manifest itself in some form or another. Maybe a crazed fan would ruin a clutch play? Possibly a corked bat scandal involving a key player? Perhaps some freak weather causing our bats to freeze up? Maybe there would be a city-wide infestation of rats, causing our manager to become infected with hantavirus? Anything could happen. That being said, even amidst all of this superstitious speculation, I had hope. I believed it could be our year
We got closer to the Windy City, and the Cubs kept winning. Madison and I left the RV in the suburbs and trained into that same 21st floor apartment that I lived in 15 years ago.
The city was full of SO MUCH HOPE for their team! The excitement in the air was palpable! Everyone just knew that the Cubs were going to pull through for us this year. And then it happened. The Curse. Cleveland was running away with the series – they had now beaten us twice in our ivy-covered home. Madison and I rode out to Wrigley the night of Game 4 when we lost – putting the series at 3-1. Never had I seen such a sad city.
“Man, forget the Cubs.” “They sure do know how to let you down, don’t they?” “Just when you thought we could maybe pull it off.”
Chicago was depressed.
The Cubs made a dramatic come back as they won two games in a row to force Game 7 in Cleveland. The anticipation before the game was so thick, I could barely handle it.
We scored early and it looked like we were going to win the “easy way”. In fact, near the stadium, Cubs fans began to celebrate as early as the 6th inning! But nothing is ever that easy with this team. The Indians fought hard and tied the game in the 8th inning. The tens of thousands of fans near the stadium were dead silent. Everyone was waiting.
After numerous pitching changes, a rain delay, and many heart-stopping hits, the game ended on a routine ground ball to end the 10th inning. Cubs, 8 – Indians, 7.
This city in the heartland of an America that is so divided politically, financially, racially, and religiously erupted in pure joy. That night, it didn’t matter who you were voting for; it didn’t matter what you looked like; it didn’t matter who you prayed to. The Cubs just won the World Series!
We celebrated with complete strangers at Wrigley Field. We laughed in disbelief with fellow fans on the train home. And when we got back to Michigan Avenue we found that the party had continued all the way downtown! People in brand new Ferraris celebrated next to people in their mini vans. Taxi drivers honked the whole way down the Magnificent Mile as they let their passengers give drive-by high fives to pedestrians. A homeless man shared a dance with a business man on the street corner.
The city was electric – the city was united.
That is what gave me the most joy through this whole experience. Yeah, it’s really cool to see my team FINALLY win it all. But what made me even more happy, is that a city of 10 million people could come together and support something so beautifully.
I didn’t sleep that night. I watched a few (okay way more than a “few”) highlights of one of the greatest games ever played, I wrote down some of my feelings as I tried to process everything, but mostly I just laid in my bed looking at the ceiling with a smile on my face, as I remembered the people on the street of Chicago that night.
Baseball is NOT just a game.