The morning after everything changed. Barrels of ink have already been spilled. More are tipping as I type. TV sports yappers have waxed poetic. The streets have filled with fans, yahoos, and wannabes alike. Social media has gone into prolonged orgasm. Here and there in lonely nursing home rooms feeble voices have cheered, fragile hands clapped, and tears brimmed the eyes. The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series.
My beloved Cubs, I always say, as if they belonged to me. This boy from Cheyenne who grew up a Cardinals fan has been hooked on the Boys in blue pinstripes since I wandered into Kap’s, a fanatic Cubs bar on Armitage near the old Town Burlesque in 1969. My first trips to Wrigley Field were that year, the first adrenaline rush of a pennant race, the first embrace of heroes I would come to know as well as family, the first bitter heartbreak of disappointment.
I would return to the well year after year in good times and in miserable seasons—the same ones our beloved Chicago Shorty—Steve Goodman—knew so well and immortalized in both wistful and hopefully defiant song. I wore out transistor radios listening furtively to Cubs games at various jobs. Jack Brickhouse, Lou Boudreau, Milo Hamilton, and Harry Caray.
Yet my claims were shallow. A veritable Johnny come lately. The city, suburbs, and beyond are filled with generations of fans—a faith and hope passed on by miraculous baptism linking great grandfathers to babes in Cubs onesies. The stories are legion. This week the team provided chalk for those deeply connected fans to inscribe on the bricks the names of loved ones who waited for this moment. It would be a cliché if it weren’t so damn real.
As much as I have loved them, I surprised myself last night during the emotional roller coaster of what may go down in history as the greatest game 7 ever played. In the span of three and a half hours I soared to elation, was kicked in the gut by despair, and miraculously restored to faith. I was not prepared for the surge of emotions at that final tenth inning out. The celebrations in the field and in the streets were matched in a shabby Crystal Lake living room by an old man in a recliner and ratty old cap, his fair weather fan wife, and a perplexed dog.
I laughed. I wept. I could hardly sleep at all.
This morning a fog lay on the ground as I took the bus to work. By the time we got to Woodstock it had lifted and the Sun was rising in a perfect blue sky just peeking through the crowns of golden maple trees. The air electric, crisp, expectant. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.