I’ve been trying to write another chapter these past few weeks but I just can’t do it. I’m obsessed with the Chicago Cubs’ run to the baseball World Series. My Chicago Cubs. And so I’ve realized that the only way I’ll get a chapter done right now, is just to write about the Cubs.
The thing is though, that the story of the Chicago Cubs and the 2016 World Series is as yet unwritten. Tonight, Tuesday October 25, 2016, is Game 1 of possibly 7 games. It’s either going to be another story of heartbreak and misery, or a story of redemption and joy. So I’m just going to start writing this chapter now, and I’ll see where it goes.
Tuesday October 25 – Game 1
I’ve written before about how I started following the Cubs in 1996, (see Chapter 22), and about the last time the Cubs got this close in 2003, (see Chapter 35), so I’m not going to get into all that again. I will add this though: I am very, very excited.
There is something admittedly weird about cheering on a team for so long that never wins. A lot of people wouldn’t want to associate themselves with a team that has lost so consistently for more than a hundred years. It’s also statistically improbable for a team to go that long without winning, so that prolonged lack of success is something that most sports fans don’t experience. I suppose that supporters of the Scotland soccer team also have this feeling. Maybe that is what attracted me to the Cubbies.
I mean I wasn’t born in Chicago and I didn’t play or really follow baseball until I first came to the States in 1995. If it had ever been shown on TV in the UK then I probably would’ve loved it, but unlike American Football, no one ever thought to export it across the pond until the late 90s.
Then I went to Wrigley Field twice that summer and I was hooked. Since then I’ve been tuning into the Cubs radio broadcasts whenever I get the chance. For years I would listen to Ron Santo and Pat Hughes describe the afternoon action at the Friendly Confines at my desk in whatever office I was in.
When I lived in Austin, I would always try and route flights back to the UK through Chicago on the day of a game so I could go to Wrigley and watch the Cubs. I’ve been to two weddings in Chicago and I made sure to see a game when I was there. I’ve been to law conferences and taken vacations in Chicago just so I could try and go to one game a year.
The weird thing is that I went to almost all of those games by myself. I listened to all those radio broadcasts alone. None of my friends in Scotland were into baseball. None of my friends in Austin or New York were Cubs fans. It’s been a personal odyssey for me, but it hasn’t been a lonely one. There are Cubs fans everywhere like me. And whenever I’ve met other Cubs fans they always seen to be good people.
I think it says something about your character that you will admit to supporting a team that has never won anything. It says that no matter what life throws at you, you always believe that good things will eventually happen. It’s like always seeing the good in someone. Not everyone can do that. It’s hard. It has been years of derision, heartbreak, failure, disbelief, frustration, maybes, should’ve beens. It’s only been 20 years for me. For many it has been much longer.
If the Cubs win the World Series this week, it will be like finally being proved right. That I was right to stick by them. That I was right to believe. That things will eventually come good.
Of course, they might not win. And that’s fine. I’m used to the failures and it wont stop me being a Cubs fan. But it would be nice to win.
When they clinched the pennant on Saturday and made it to their first World Series since 1945, I decided I had to be there. I booked flights, sorted a hotel, and found some tickets. Either way I’ll be in Wrigleyville on Saturday night for Game 4 and on Sunday night for Game 5. Maybe I’ll be there to see them win it all. Maybe I’ll be there to see them throw it all away. Either way I’ll be there. And my old friend Craigy will be there too. More about that later.
Right now there is hope. There is always hope. It’s Game 1.
Result: Cleveland 6, Cubs 0 (Indians lead series 1-0).
Wednesday October 26 – Game 2
Ok so last night did not go well. It wasn’t a total disaster and the final score flatters Cleveland somewhat, but it was not enjoyable to watch. There is a long way to go etc.
But right now the nightmare scenario for both me and the Cubs is still in play. Although so is the daydream scenario. I’m going to be in Chicago on Saturday night and Sunday night for Games 4 and 5. Now if Cleveland win tonight and again on Friday, then it’s possible I go all the way to Chicago to see the Cubs lose Game 4 and lose the World Series. And there is no Game 5. Seeing that happen in person would be bad enough, but it would be compounded by the fact that I had spent a lot of money to be there to see it. That makes it 100 times worse.
My daydream however, is that the Cubs win tonight and then we win on Friday night. Which is not unreasonable at all. Then I fly up to Chicago on Saturday morning with the Cubs ahead 2-1. I’m guaranteed to see two games and maybe, just maybe, I see them actually win the World Series. That’s the daydream.
So if the Cubs lose tonight, I’m having nightmares. If they win, the dream is on.
Result: Cleveland 1, Cubs 5 (Series tied 1-1).
Friday October 28 – Game 3
A massive win for the Cubs on Wednesday night. I watched the end of the game in a Cubs bar on 6th Street here in Austin, with 200 other Cubs fans. They even played the Cubs’ terrible theme song ‘Go Cubs Go‘ after the last out. It was quite surreal. I met quite a few other Austin Cubbies who were planning on flying to Chicago this weekend just to be there. None of them had tickets though. They were pretty surprised when I told them that I did have tickets.
Now I don’t have tickets for a seat at Wrigley Field. Those are still selling for more than $3,000 each, standing room only. But I do have tickets for the rooftop lounges that have a clear view of Wrigley Field. I have two tickets for Saturday night and two for Sunday night.
I bought two because my old school friend and flatmate Craigy now lives in Chicago. Although he wasn’t a Cubs fan when we lived together, he’s become a Cubs fan since moving there about ten years ago. So I’ll get to see my old friend and we’ll get to watch our first Cubs game together.
Craigy and I were at Glasgow Academy together as teenagers, and then we lived together during some of my darkest hours in Edinburgh in 1997. It was me, Nelly and Craigy in a 3 bedroom flat on Clerk Street. While Nelly and I ‘studied’ law, Craigy managed a bar in Stockbridge. We spent many, many nights sitting at his bar, often when we had nowhere else to go.
Craigy helped me a lot that year. He also put up with a lot of my shit. When you live with someone, they see you at your best and your worst. There’s no hiding anything. And if you can come out of that still being friends, as we did, then that’s a pretty strong bond.
It’s been a while, too long, but I’m really looking forward to seeing him again. The fact that we’ll be watching the Cubs in the World Series just makes it even sweeter.
Tonight is Game 3. A win tonight means the Cubs can win it all in Chicago this weekend. Whatever happens I’ll be there to see it.
Result: Cleveland 1, Cubs 0 (Indians lead series 2-1).
Saturday October 29 – Game 4
Friday night, Game 3, was a close one. They went ahead in the 7th inning and then the Cubs had chances in the bottom of the 7th, 8th and 9th but couldn’t get a run. There was even a moment in the 9th inning where the Indians had a chance to end the game, but their First Baseman fumbled the ball. It seemed like finally the Cubs were going to be the beneficiaries of a terrible mistake, rather than the victims, but then Javi struck out and the Indians took a 2-1 series lead.
On Saturday morning I went to Chicago still with some hope. I knew that there would at least be a game 4 and 5, but I also knew that if the Cubs lost them both then that would be it. The possibility remained that I would be there in person to see the Cubs lose the World Series.
I’m not exaggerating to say that half of the people on that flight from Austin to Chicago were wearing Cubs gear. And when I got to Chicago, everything was about the Cubs. It reminded me of Glasgow in the days before the 2014 Independence Referendum. The city was obsessed. Craigy picked me up and we went to one of the bars he looks after for a couple of pints. Then we made our way out to Wrigley Field and found our rooftop on Waveland Avenue.
Despite paying a small fortune for admission, we didn’t even get a seat, but we were happy to stand and get a closer view from the balcony at the front of the rooftop. We still had a view of 90% of the ballpark.
I was pretty much close to tears when I first climbed up on the roof and saw the majesty of Wrigley Field that night. I was so happy to be there. To be a part of history. Seeing all those thousands of fans crammed into that old stadium, with thousands more on teh streets and rooftops, standing for almost the whole game, it looked just like the old black and white photos you see from baseball games a century ago. The noises and the smells probably haven’t changed much either. And to be there with my good friend Craigy was really special. I started think that even if we lost, I would be fine.
And, well, they did lose. They lost badly too. The Cubs were ahead 1-0 for about 5 minutes, and then they were behind for the rest of the night. It ended up 7-2. We stayed to the end and took the train back into the city for a few nightcaps. Most people seemed to think it was over. The Cubs would now need to win three in a row.
Result: Cleveland 7, Cubs 2 (Indians lead series 3-1).
Sunday October 30 – Game 5
We took it easy on Sunday morning. I stocked up on Cubs World Series gear and then we got out to the stadium early to make sure we got a prime view from a different rooftop on Sheffield Avenue. We got in the line about 4pm, and I got talking to the people around us. One old guy was telling me all about how he used to go to the games in the 60s with his family, about the packed lunches they would bring with them and his father’s words of wisdom. These were diehard Cubs fans that had suffered though much more misery than I had. But I could still relate, and it was great to hear those stories.
There were a lot of old people attending these games in Chicago. I mean really, really old people. We saw a lot of canes and wheelchairs. We passed one guy as we walked towards Wrigley, who was being slowly helped by his son along the sidewalk. The son must have been in his 70s himself, and his dad could barely make a couple of steps without needing to stop. I just had this feeling that all of these old Cubs fans were doing something they always dreamed of – to see their team in the World Series. Even if they couldn’t walk they were going to get in there somehow.
There was a different atmosphere among the fans on the Sunday too. Whereas on Saturday, there was still some expectation, on Sunday there was only hope. Trailing 3-1, we all knew that the odds were against us. One of the guys in the line said that he had been to Cleveland for Game 2. I asked him if he would be going back for games 6 and 7. Pretty much everyone turned around and gave me a look as if I was crazy. But I just had this feeling that Cleveland might relax a little with that lead.
We got on the rooftop and snagged some excellent seats. This rooftop had a pretty spectacular view of downtown to Chicago too. It was also significantly colder that night, but the complementary food and beer helped out a little.
As for the game, I’m not going to do a commentary or describe the action. There is plenty of video online for that. In short, the Cubs were losing, but then they scored 3 runs in the 4th inning. They then held on for dear life as the Indians threw everything at them. The Cubs put their closer in after only one out in the 7th inning. Every pitch was tense. As the Cubs got nearer and nearer, the noise levels increased. We were 400 feet away on rooftop, but it felt like we were right there on the field.
When the final out was recorded, the place exploded. The white ‘W’ flag was raised at Wrigley for the first time in a World Series since 1945. I’m pretty sure all of the old timers that had made it to the game felt it was worthwhile. I know I did. The Chicago Sun Times called it the greatest game ever played at Wrigley, by far. For me, it’s probably the best sporting event I’ve ever seen in person. The train ride back into town was a happy one, as our hope lived on.
Result: Cleveland 2, Cubs 3 (Indians lead series 3-2).
Tuesday November 1 – Game 6
Back in Austin and I seem to have caught a cold from that Wrigley rooftop. I threw together a Cubs related Halloween costume on Monday and got back to work on Tuesday. The Series shifts back to Cleveland now with the Cubs needing to win to stay alive. Can we take it to Game 7? I’m feeling unusually confident.
Result: Cleveland 3, Cubs 9 (Series tied 3-3).
Wednesday November 2 – Game 7
Last night was amazing. The Cubs seemed totally relaxed and they scored 3 runs in the first inning. By the time Farah had finished reading Duney a bedtime story, the Cubs were winning 7-0. It was a rout. There was virtually no doubt about it for the final two hours of the game. I was as relaxed as the Cubs were.
And that’s how this team has been all year. Someone said that, after a loss, the 2016 Cubs have won three games in a row 21 times. That’s basically once a week. I still believe this is going to happen. It will either be the greatest story in sports, or the biggest heartbreak yet. One of those outcomes is guaranteed.
Either way I’ll be in tears tonight.
Result: Cleveland 7, Cubs 8 (CUBS WIN 4-3).
Did that actually happen? It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. ESPN are calling it the ‘greatest game ever‘. Farah was working late and I tried to put my daughter to bed early so I could see it all, but she wouldn’t go to sleep and so I missed the Cub’s first run. Then a friend came over, then more friends, and my parents, and Farah came home, and before I knew it we were having a party. I just wasn’t really in the party mood.
I don’t really enjoy watching games like that. I know there is nothing I can do about the outcome, but I still get nervous to the point that it’s not fun. When the Cubs went up 5-1 I felt good to be fair. When they went back up 6-3 I felt ok. But then they lost three runs in the 8th inning and I felt terrible. At that point I knew it was either going to be the best or the worst. And with the Cubs heads were down, I was not confident.
Then it started raining. The Cubs regrouped and somehow they pulled it back. They scored 2 runs in the top of the 10th and then found a way to avoid losing it in the bottom of the 10th. When the final out was recorded, Bryant fielding and throwing to Rizzo, I didn’t know what to do. I just couldn’t believe it.
I still can’t believe it. I stayed up until about 2:30am watching the interviews and highlights. I watched the final out again and again, somehow expecting Kris Bryant to eventually make a mistake and throw the ball away. But he didn’t. He kept making the final out. Even when I woke up this morning, I wasn’t sure that it had actually happened.
Last night, all of the Cubs’ players, coaches and fans were continually being asked ‘how do you feel?’ by reporters, and none of them could explain it. ‘There are no words’ was the consistent response. I can’t describe my feelings either. I can say that there have been more than a dozen times today when I thought I was about to cry as I watched another interview or highlight. I just feel irrationally happy.
It was nice to share the experience with friends and family last night, (although there were a couple of times when I wished I was alone), but I expect that the winning feeling is different for everyone. For some it is probably more personal than others. It is for me.
I still don’t know what to do. Is there another game tonight? I feel like there should be. Right now I’m just congratulating myself on sticking by a team that were never supposed to win. Also, I’m so glad that I went to Chicago last weekend and was there in person for two of the games, not least Game 5 when the comeback started. I was right to believe in them. I was right to believe in myself. Holy cow!