I was not born a Cubs fan, but entered the fan base through marriage. I don’t carry with me the same childhood memories as my husband, or the kind my boys will cherish someday, but my Chicago roots run deep. And Chicago blood is nearly as thick as those whose blood runs blue. No matter the reason, no matter how long, this has been an exceptional year to be a Chicago Cubs fan.
112 World Series have been played – of which we have now won three – with a 108 year drought between the most recent. I may not understand everything there is to know about baseball, but I do understand story, and this one of the Chicago Cubs may be the sports story of the ages.
The story arch covers generations of Chicagoans – generations of families – tying the past to the present in a way few issues of current events can. Long as they have waited, Cubs fans embody the picture of hope, of dreams deferred, and the victory of a wait that has finally ended. It is no small thing that this final chapter to a century’s tale of waiting is one that belongs to us. Grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of Chicago Cubs fans before us.
The cynic in me has often wondered why it’s had to take so long to bring home the title, but the storyteller in me now sees the marks of a grander tale. It had to be this way. Part of what has made the Cubs so beloved – and certainly what has made this season the season of the ages – are the years of faithful, devoted waiting.
Somehow, if you have missed the story for all the excitement of the win (and friend it has been an exciting win), let me take a moment to tell you.
Every great story has a villain.
For the Chicago Cubs, it’s more than an opposing team, or a longstanding rivalry. It is a single man – long dead – a pet goat, and a 71 year-old curse.
William Sianis was kicked out of Wrigley field during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series because his goat, and the odor that followed him, offended other patrons. He allegedly declared on the way out, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” and for the remaining decades of his life, and many more beyond, he was correct. The Cubs never played another World Series Game.
Until this October.
On October 22, 2016 the Cubs defeated the LA Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS – 46 years to the day of Sianis’ death – launching them into their first World Series in 71 years.
Coincidence? No. That’s just great story.
Every great story has a little intrigue.
108 years is a really long time to be the losing team, but it is not without it’s own redemption.
The Chicago Sun Times ran an article in September listing a number of baseball facts connected to the number 108, proposing that these facts must be a greater sign of an impending World Series win. Here’s one of my favorites:
There are 108 stitches in a baseball, designed by the Cubs first manager and ace pitcher A. G. Spalding, whose Chicago office was originally located at 108 W. Madison Street.
– Grant DePorter, Chicago Sun Times
DePorter’s list is not all just meaningless click-bait either – something designed to get people talking but later proving to be fabricated. Snopes.com verified many of his facts after the Cubs impossibly beat the Indians in a three-game come-back streak (something experts projected they had a 13.6% chance of accomplishing).
Now take a look at the 108 year drought by numbers:
- 1908, Second World Series Win | 1+9+0+8 = 18
- 108 year drought | 1+0+8 = 9
- 2016, Third World Series Win | 2+0+1+6 = 9
If you start with the Second World Series win, and live through the 108 year drought, it will bring you to the Third World Series win.
Intriguing? Yes. That’s also great story.
Every great story has a hero.
There are the obvious players of this season’s team – Rizzo, Bryant, Zobrist, Hendricks, Baez, Russel, (my word, the list is almost the entire roster!) – whose talent and ability made the impossible reality.
But there’s also Schwarber’s inspirational friendship with a sick 10-year-old boy from Phoenix.
Theo Epstein’s miracle working prowess to end a second World Series drought (the first being the 86 year drought of the Red Sox).
Joe Maddon’s leadership to not only marriage talent and strategy winning game after game, but creating relationship and camaraderie between teammates (just google “crazy cubs suits” to see what I mean).
This doesn’t even touch on the players, announcers, and champions of the game in Chicago who have played a part in the Cub’s long and varied history.
Every great story has a hero, and the Cubs have many.
Every great story moves the heart.
This is the people’s team. Their wins and losses have woven their way into the fabric of family history across the city, and across the nation. Their story means something – very deeply – to people.
There’s the high school student, who in 1993, predicted their World Series win in a caption along with his yearbook photo.
There’s the guy who tweeted a winning prediction of the Cubs and Indians in extra innings (all but the apocalypse) two years ago.
There’s the 97-year old WWII vet who was at Game 7 in 1945, and by the generosity of many, made it to Game 3 of this World Series.
There’s the 68-year old North Carolina man who drove 650 miles to listen to Game 7 in a cemetery next to his father’s grave.
There’s every fan who lost a friend, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling waiting for this day to finally come.
Even if you’re not one of those people who’ve been holding out hope for so long, if you’re a Chicagoan you probably know someone who has. And you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement and be moved right alongside them.
Great stories do that to you. They always do.