It’s been a little less than a day since the last out was recorded. I’m still not sure if the Chicago Cubs truly won the World Series and I was there to see it, or if it was all some fever dream and, at some moment, I’ll wake up and it will all disappear.
The last two weeks have been one of the more surreal experiences of my life, a blur of tons of baseball, little sleep, and more emotional swingings than I would ever care to have for a lifetime.
But I wouldn’t give any of it up. Not one second of doubt. Not a single moment of agony, surrounded by cheering Cleveland fans from our nosebleed seats at Games 1, 6, and 7.
Because it all led to this.
My wife is a Cleveland native and she comes from a family full of Cleveland sports fans fans I’m now surrounded by as we moved to Cleveland at the beginning of October with no idea of what was to come. There was no way to know then that I’d be in the stands for the first Chicago Cubs World Series game in 71 years and that I’d be there to see the most famous championship drought in athletics come to a dramatic conclusion.
I was luck enough to go Games 1, 6, and 7 in Cleveland and for the others, I stimulated sure to surround myself, either in Cleveland or Chicago, with fellow Cubs friends, people who knew what this mean, people who I could celebrate or commiserate with.
Progressive Field is squeezed into a corner of downtown Cleveland, separated from the Quicken Loan Arena( where the Cleveland Cavaliers play) by a plaza. That plaza was filled every night with raucous Cleveland sports fans, as rabid a fanbase as you’ll find.
It didn’t matter that so many of them didn’t have tickets; they packed into the plaza to watch the game on huge screens.Two World Series games even collided with Cavs games, creating a hysterium of Cleveland athletics, a swirling mass of fans of a beleaguered sports city ready to celebrate a previously unfathomable second major sports championship in six months.
Over the course of those games, as the series unfolded in unexpected ways, the Cleveland fan base’s mood shifted notably. Before the Cubs suffered a deflating loss in Game 1, there were friendly, good-natured barb hurled at Cubs fans, jokes that recognise both teams’ long droughts without a championship( Cleveland hasn’t won since 1948 ).
But by Game 6, that tone had changed. Cleveland still resulted the series, but after failing to clinch the series in Game 5, there was a new energy in Cubs fans at Game 6 and the Cleveland faithful were visibly tense. Warm gags was transformed into swearing and threats, there were less “excuse me’s” with concession line jostling, and those bumps had a bit more power behind them.
As the Cubs unleashed an onslaught during Game 6, surrounded by Indians fans, including my aforementioned wife, I kept my galas to a minimum: a quiet fist pump, a nod, and, occasionally, a loud holler I couldn’t contain. There was little chance to celebrate or commiserate with other Cubs fans during the games, though their presence was felt, clumps of royal blue fans letting out yells with each successive run.
Even if you don’t believe in curses, it was hard not to feel the weight of history.
On paper, this series should have been an easy Cubs win. But a talented, depleted Cleveland pitching staff baffled Chicago batters and fans. I drove to Chicago to watch Games 3 and 4 with friends, and the amped crowd at the packed bars we haunted became deflated as video games wore on and the drinks stacked up.
Things felt dire. Deep down, we knew this team was perfectly capable of coming back. But, even if you don’t believe in curses, it was difficult to not to feel the weight of history. That includes the infamous 2003 breakdown. Watching Game 5, I was as nervous for a sporting event as I had ever been and that only increased as the Cubs won and forced a Game 6. And then won again, forcing a Game 7.
I’ve never expended an entire day impression like I’m going to vomiting without actually being sick, but that was my day before Game 7. I paced, I fidgeted, I did anything I could to distract myself from what could happen. A loss would bring unimaginable heartache but a win would bring levels of joy I couldn’t even comprehend.
And then the most epic Game 7 of all time unfolded, a torturous, virtually five-hour slog of constant stress, emotional peaks and valleys, and unbelievable moments. A game so close, so excruciatingly tight that nine innings wasn’t enough.
What felt like certain victory suddenly turned to what seemed to be another meltdown. When Rajai Davis homered in the eighth inning to cap a comeback and affiliation the game, a rejuvenated Cleveland faithful unleashed a deafening roaring that drowned out the stunned Cubs fans who had traveled and packed the stadium, building up maybe a one-third of the crowd.
Somehow, though, at around 12:45 a.m. early Thursday morning, when the final out was stimulated, the team I root for, the team I put too much of my own happiness and well-being into, the Chicago Cubs, had won.
The impossible was possible, unicorns were real, and nothing induced sense in the best possible way.
And I felt the ache of Cleveland fans; I’ve been the fan slumped back in the seat, shaking my head in incredulity, as the other team celebrates on the field. I’ve felt so low I never wanted to talk to anyone or watch sports ever again.
But, ultimately, for Cubs fans, it was our turn to rejoice. My colleague Josh Dickey says this victory is the worst thing to happen for Cubs fans because now we lose our identity as the “lovable losers.” With all due respect to Josh, I am more than happy to give away that identity in exchange for this, this joy and happiness that no living Cubs fan has ever known.
As the celebration continued on-field, my spouse and I made our way to center field to meet some friends, Cubs fans like me, and I hugged and high-fived every Cubs fan I find, grinning like an idiot.
At some point, while standing on top of the center field wall, watching the post-game revelries and soaking in the cheers and chants of the thousands of Cubs fans, it began to rain again, but even harder. It never relented.
As fans around us scattered and my spouse and friends stimulated for shelter, I merely stood there, looking at the celebration on the field, looking at the stadium, and trying to figure out if it was all a dream, if this had really happened to this squad and I was there to witness it.
Game 7 of the 2016 World Series should go down as one of the greatest games of all time and the emotional roller coaster for fans of both sides is unequal to anything I’ve ever seen: the momentum swingings, the despair followed by hope followed by unimaginable tension in the form of a rainfall delay.
It’s hard not to wonder, “Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we set ourselves through this for a game? ” But looking at all of the Cubs fans who traveled from far away and paid gobs of money just to be in the stadium where it all happened, to see this moment … those doubts faded.
I simply stood there, soaked by the sheets of rain and not giving a damn at all. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was how good it felt to see the Cubs win, how good it felt to be there, how good it felt for that rainfall to wash away 108 years of disappointment, failing, and annoyance, and to feel like things are starting anew.
Even if this means another 108 years before the next championship, so be it. It was all worth it for this one night.