We have talked before. I’m a Cubs fan. I’m a die hard Cubs fan. I’m obsessive. You think my obsession for UNI was bad, you have no idea.
I fell in love with the Cubs when I went to Wrigley Field and saw Andre Dawson hit homers in BP. It was the first “hero” athlete I had. I even met Harry Carry in an elevator that night with my family. I was young and didn’t realize who I was talking to. In fact, my folks didn’t realize it until after we got back to the room. But that began a lifelong of passion for the Cubs.
Passion might not even be a big enough word. The Cubs were more than that. It’s a way of life for Cubs fans. You always have hope but also fear. You hope THIS IS THE YEAR. But the voice in the back of your head reminds you that it’s been over 100 years and something bad will happen. Something bad will ALWAYS happen. It’s how it goes. It’s a way of life. And it can be so gut wrenching and heartbreaking that it may take years off your life. Would it be healthier to NOT be a Cubs fan? Probably. But I know that going without Cubs baseball would be like going a day with out Coca-Cola, air, or sleep. Besides, I’m a guy with 30 Cubs jerseys (that’s a truly accurate number). I have a Cedeno jersey, after all. Like Led Zeppelin said, “I can’t quit you baby.”
Granted. In the middle of the rebuilding process, I just about had enough. 100 loss teams with guys like Darwin Barney, great guy, tremendous glove, but not going to get you to the promised land. I loved Micah Hoffpauir as well. Great power at 1B for the Iowa Cubs but he had no chance with Anthony Rizzo coming up. To be fair, I didn’t like Rizzo at first because I loved Andrew Cashner. But, I was wrong. Sorry, the bad taste of the Felix Pie’s of the Cubs world had all but ruined my optimism.
Anthony Rizzo won me over when he started yelling at Aroldis Chapman of the Reds at the time. A 100+ mph fastball nearly hit a Cubs batter. Anthony and other players chirped at him from the bench. After the inning when Rizzo was throwing the ball to the other infielders, Anthony started saying something to the Reds dugout. Someone chirped back. Rizzo walked towards the dugout and was ready to take on EVERYONE. Like Gary Oldman in “The Professional.” EEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVVERYONNNNNNNEEEEE. That is also, the day the Cubs began to change. They now had their leader. Could have happened before, but now Cubs fans could see it. They finally had A GUY that wasn’t going to be gone in a few years. And he was a perfect fit.
Flash forward to a couple of years ago. I’m driving in my car to go vote. Seriously. How timely. And a guy on KXnO announces that he has a guy he knows someone who is looking to split up season tickets for the Cubs. Anyone interested, get a hold of him. I sent him a Tweet as soon as I parked. Then I remembered I had his cell phone, so I fired him a text. I was in. No matter what the cost. I go to Wrigley every year and most importantly, this would probably be the ONLY way I could ever get a World Series ticket. I had lived and died with the team. Happenstance would have me at a World Series. In Wrigley. I felt if I waited at all, a bunch of Cubs fans would hop in front of me and take advantage of the opportunity. Ends up being, the first year there are 8 of us. We split up the tickets. For the post season we met half way through the year and drew names out of a hat. First name gets the first game whether it be Wild Card or in the Division Series. And it goes on. I end up drawing for what could have been 2 World Series games. But…the Mets happened.
This year. There are 9 of us. There could have been a possible 10 post season games at Wrigley. 3 in the Division Series, 4 in the Championship Series, and 3 in the World Series if every series went the full distance because an All-Star Game decides home field advantage because baseball can be stupid like that. I ended up being the 8th name out of the hat. They had to lose, for me to win. This was not a fun predicament but it was the hand I was dealt.
In 2015, the Cubs were supposed to be a fringe playoff team. But they stormed to the 3rd best record in the NL Central, only a couple games behind the Pirates and Cardinals, and they kept Kris Bryant down for a few games to control his contract one more year because it’s a business and Kris Bryant is a damn God.
In 2016, the Cubs were the best team in baseball. They roared off to a historically impressive start. They stubbed their toe before the All Star Game and then didn’t lose 3 games in a row in the 2nd Half of the season. They ran away with the Central Division. And the Cardinals didn’t even make the playoffs. Bonus.
Feverishly, I checked my MLB app and websites to find out when the World Series would be in a National League park, hopefully Wrigley. Hopefully me, Goose IPA in hand, in Aisle 434. It would be Halloween weekend. Oh yeah, the holiday I loved as a horny young man wanting to get drunk, but now forget until I see every girl dressed as a stripper and realize it’s Halloween, and I’m old. Priceline has never done me wrong. Had a sweet hotel lined up last year. I like being near the Michigan Mile because it’s easy to get to and out of when you are getting into and out of Chicago and it’s near bars, restaurants, and mass transit to get you to the game cheap. End up in the Double Tree for $164 per night. A steal…that I can cancel again, if I need to. The reviews weren’t great but people who leave bad reviews on hotels are the same ones that don’t hold the door open for strangers, can’t park in the lines, pee on the damn seat and then don’t wash their hands, and probably like whole milk.
The Cubs play games with our hearts, like they always do. But it gets to the NLCS and the Cubs are one game away from going back to the World Series. And….I have to work. I try 12 people to cover me. No dice. It’s ok I think, every game has gone at least 4 hours. I’m good. Welp, I buy an app on my phone to try to listen to the game. It dies every 30 seconds. I bring a small radio, too much going on in the building to get a clear signal. I just happen to be next to the TV when Rizzo and company go OFF on Kershaw. And it’s the fastest game of the post season and I just barely get to the TV in time to see the final couple outs. Them winning means that I have tickets to game 5. My god, they could clinch. And I could be there.
I literally did not know what to do. The Cubs were in the World Series. I was going. I got no kids, I have no wife. This is my life’s dream realized. A little bit of me fears for my safety if I’m at the game where they clinch. I get back to my buddies place and we just go nuts. Like kids on Christmas morning. I got hotel, we got the plan, and I go to get the tickets. The tickets were gigantic. Too big to fit in a wallet or even a pocket. Crap….how do I protect THAT in Chicago. Not the safest city on the planet.
We get to Chicago and the town is going nuts. We think about going to Wrigleyville but figure it will be so insane that we might not make it anywhere. We watch from the Rock Bottom and the place goes nuts until Javy Baez reverts to his evil old ways and swings at ball way out of the zone.
We get up the next day and go straight to Wrigleyville. We make a day of it. We get there before 10, shop around, and want to be in line somewhere before 11. My friends work with some girl and she’s in line at Sluggers. So, we end up at Sluggers. I had tried another place first, which was awesome, but they wanted to go there. Thought it was $40, ended up being $40 standing room only downstairs but $100 to go upstairs, but there are tables. And batting cages. And bubble hockey. We go there. We find a table that happens to be by an outlet. This is key since we have to make it 12 hours and this is 2016 and we’re all on our cell phones. We hope to leave and walk around a bit and come back to our table. Nope, one in, one out. It’s 2 PM. We paid $100. We HAVE A TABLE with our stuff on it. And we can’t come and go as we please. This, does not please me but oh well. I got a batting cage and more importantly, I got bubble hockey. The game sucks, we have beers, we go home.
The next day, the plan was to take it easy. We didn’t want to miss a single play of the game because we drank too much. (This plan failed when I missed the Bryant home run because I was peeing in a damn trough. D- in hand, cursing my small bladder). But anyway. We grab one beer on our way to Wrigley just so we can use a CLEAN bathroom. We try to meet up with friends but the lines are too long. We just go to the game. We now have lanyards for our tickets that say “World Series” on it and have a pin that says “I Was There” with a MLB World Series insignia on it. The crowd around the park is packed. People are on edge. The Cubs have lost 2 in a row. It’s an elimination game….for the Cubs. This can’t happen. Not like this.
“Welcome to the World Series at Wrigley Field,” says the usher as he scans my ticket with giant grin on his face. I don’t even remember what I said whether it was “thank you” or “hell yeah” or something. Inside, reality just hit me. I’m at Wrigley Field. The place I’ve seen dozens of games but not post-season games. I had seen the Contreras homer earlier that year on my way back from a wedding in Grand Rapids. I had seen Zambrano vs Clemens, I had seen Maddux, Dawson, Grace, Sandberg, Prior, and Kerry Wood there. All these names flashed in my mind. As did Ron Santo. The biggest Cubs fan of all time. NONE of them, despite all their talent and hard work, made it to the World Series as a Cub. And here it was. The Cubs hadn’t won a playoff game there since 1945. But here I was. Getting the W Towel and soaking it all in. We grab a beer. I get two, one for me, one for my buddy only to find out he has one already. This extra beer leads to me being in the bathroom too early.
The bleachers are empty almost until the game starts. The place goes nuts after every awesome video they have. Then the Cubs can’t hit. But Lester is on point…until he gives up a home run. The Cubs still can’t do anything. I decide to “bring them good luck.” It worked for my mom with the I Cubs. She’d go smoke, they’d have a huge inning. I go to the bathroom, Bryant homers. Then Wrigley finally FINALLY can exhale. The Cubs are starting to hit the Indians pitchers. FINALLY a long ball for the Cubs. This team can win 3 in a row. No doubt.
My section acts like hockey fans taunting the opposing goalie. Chanting his name. BAAAAUUU-ERRR BAAAAAAUUUU-EEERRR. It takes almost a full at bat before everyone is unison. But the place is loud. Wrigley is alive and the Cubs can win a World Series game at home. The Cubs open up with a few more runs, even one by Grandpa Rossy, my fav guy on the team and the jersey I had been rocking for most of the season. And I’m rocking it as Wrigley is literally rocking at times. The cheers are not only for joy but from desperation from relief. It comes from 108 years of being kicked in the nuts. From having your heart ripped out. To be fair, the rest of the game was nerve-wracking. Painfully so at times. But awesome.
Chapman coming in for almost 3 innings was insane. Not seeing the bullpen get up when CHAPMAN IS GETTING READY TO COME TO THE ON DECK CIRCLE. Had me baffled. Seeing him with a bat in his hand. At the plate. In a 1 run do or die game. Had me wondering if Joe Maddon was outcoaching himself. This is how the Cubs do it. Great managers go all gaga and forget who they are, go against their instincts, overthink it, and lose the game. But…the 9th was perfect for Chapman and the Cubs win. We sang “Go Cubs Go” at the top of our lungs. So loud, it could be heard for over a mile away. Some said a couple miles away according to their YouTube videos shot on their phone. The guys next to us ask us what we are doing after the game, we say we have no idea. They know a quiet bar not to far away and can get us in. “It’s a dive bar” they warn. My buddy and I laugh, it’s just our place. When you frequent Carl’s Place, this is in your wheelhouse. We end up making it there, through the dump trucks blocking off the streets to funnel everyone through to the cops. But a few blocks later, we’re having beers not knowing what to do with ourselves.
The Cops were awesome around Wrigleyville. They were EVERYWHERE. Literally should to shoulder for miles around the park. They were cheerful, they were friendly. They even took pictures with people. We asked when a street was going to be shut down and a cop laughed and said “I expected it an hour and half ago so I have no idea.” Chicago actually had a disaster plan drawn up years ago in case the Cubs won the World Series. I was there when the Bulls Threepeated and the riots started. That was a freaking basketball team that was good. The Cubs winning the World Series is a damn sign of the end of times. But the cops were tremendous. The waitstaff and bartenders were patient and kind. They absolutely killed it. Chicago did it right. And that made it even more satisfying.
My annual pilgrimage to Wrigley FINALLY found the Promised Land. It wasn’t the sheer insanity of joy and pandemonium that I had dreamed of. But it was appropriate for this Cubs team. The team that was more reslient than any other Cubs team before. The most talented team to win in both the National League and American League. The best Cubs team ever. The best team in baseball. And they had to win at home to force a possible game 7. In a weird poetic way, it made sense.
“Welcome to the World Series at Wrigley Field.” The usher loved saying that, and would say it thousands of times. He had waited his whole life to say it. I had waited my whole life to hear it. And man, the wait was worth it.