My Journey as a Cubs Fan
I became a Chicago Cubs fan in early 1977. I had never played organized baseball or had even seen a baseball game before. Deciding that I should select a team to root for but having no experience with the sport, I did what any red-blooded American boy would do. I opened the sporting section of the newspaper and picked a team.
That year Chicago had come back from years of mediocrity and were actually leading their division. My 13-year-old brain thought, “These guys must be good, they are leading their division.” And with that, I became a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. (Don’t laugh, I know one guy who became a die hard Buffalo Bills fan just from getting a free team plastic cup in a convenience store.). During that year I followed my new team with the fervor only a young boy learning sports can have. I checked the box scores every day in the newspaper, watched them contend for the playoffs behind the pitching of young Rick Reuschel, only to fall short in a late season swoon. “That’s OK”, I thought, “There’s always next year!”.
Well, I soon learned about the history of the Lovable Losers that are the Chicago Cubs. Year after year I followed my team; losing season after losing season. Oh, there were some bright spots, the wonderful summer of 1984 when they made the playoffs; 1989 they made it again; but those were aberrations in their lifelong litany of losing. I wouldn’t go to a major league ballpark until I went to Wrigley Field first, which I did in 1991. Of course they lost the game.
Marriage in Arizona
In 2001 I eloped with my wife to Arizona, during the Cubbies spring training. We attended a game on Saturday, got married on Sunday, and then went to another game on Monday. My new wife, indoctrinated into Cubs nation, became a lifelong fan by marriage to me. (yes people, she IS a saint!)
Over the years we have traveled to many games, watching our team play in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Denver and New York. We watched them beat the snot out of the Braves at Turner Field in 2003, losing to the (now) hated Florida Marlins on the infamous “Bartman” play. There were some good years, more bad years, and then finally: 2016.
2016 – The Magical Year
After coming so close in 2015 (losing in the NL Championship Series to the NY Mets), hopes were high in 2016. And for one beautiful, soul fulfilling, magical season, the Chicago Cubs played like real winners, winning 103 games to take their division by 17 1/2 games. In the postseason, Chicago beat the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series and then took out the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the World Series.
The World Series
After 40 years of personal frustration, my Cubs had finally made the World Series, playing the Cleveland Indians. My wife and I immediately decided that we should fly to Chicago during their home games to soak up the atmosphere of the first Cubs World Series in 71 years. Arrangements were simple but flights were filling up fast. Obviously we weren’t the only ones ready for the wait to be over. A buddy of mine could score us World Series tickets but they were expensive. My wife said she didn’t want to pay a ton of money to be cold (late October in Chicago), but she felt strongly that I should go (I told you, she’s a saint!). It was a bucket list item I might never see again. I had to go. Ticket on the first base side for Game 4.
When we arrived in Chicago, the place was “Cubs crazy”. They had split in two games in Cleveland and next 3 games were in Chicago. First game at Wrigley was a tight affair, but the Indians crushed the hopes of Cubs Nation by beating the Cubs 1-0 at Wrigley Field. So, down 2 games to 1 in the World Series, I attended Game 4 in high hopes that the Cubs could even things up. However, my luck with Cubs games at Wrigley Field held true, and the Cubs got shellacked, 7-2.
Now on the brink of elimination, my defeatist Cubs mentality took over. I watched game 5 in our hotel room. Nail-biter the whole game, but Cubs eeked out a win, 3 to 2. We flew back home as the Series moved back to Cleveland for the final 2 games. I still had little hope, but was tentatively bolstered by the “never say die” mentality of the Chicago faithful. They were right, and I was wrong (and never overlook the hard-luck nature of the Cleveland Indians!). The Cubs took the last two games of the Series, including an epic Game 7 that went through two blown leads, extra innings and a long rain delay. Cubs Win! Cubs Win!
A New Reality
I woke up the next morning. The sun rose in the east. People woke up, went to work; kids went to school. Birds sang, babies cried, politicians lied. The world went about its day as it had the day before. For for me, and millions of Cubs fans like me, the world had changed. There was a new reality. Things were different, and would never be the same again. Forty years after I made an uninformed choice reading my local newspaper; my team, the Chicago Cubs, were world champions. In hindsight; that choice was TOTALLY worth it.