I just finished re-watching the entire, 4+ hour World Series game 7 (thankfully minus the rain delay) that CSN was re-broadcasting today. Partly because my body was strongly discouraging me from any more activity after celebrating for couple days, but also because I think my mind might have been on the brink of withdrawal. Like many of you reading this, I just spent a solid month watching every single pitch, hit and run of the Cubs’ 2016 post season – often delaying much-needed sleep to do so. Today, Friday, November 4, 2016 is the end of that experience. It is officially over.
Thankfully for all of us Chicagoans and probably most of the country (minus Lebrony-flop-face & Cleveland), the ending was the best possible outcome we could have asked for. We didn’t suck. We didn’t choke. We came as close as humanly possible to continuing the freaking curse conversation… and then WE WON. OUR CUBBIES ARE THE 2016 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!
You want to know how big of a deal this is? I naturally hugged my brother in shared glee right after we won. In the last 10 years, I have done so maybe twice… at my wedding and and then at his.
When Baseball Actually Mattered (to me)
After going away to college and being thoroughly disheartened by the Cubs in 2003, baseball has kind of taken a backseat. Sure I watched a game here and there, but it was nothing like the summers when were were younger, cheering on Sandburg, Dunston, Sosa, Grace, Lee, Wood, Prior, Farnsworth, Brian McRae, [O] Henry Rodrigez, etc. and watching Harry Caray deliver the 7th inning stretch on TV most afternoons.
Even I had forgotten how much the sport mattered to us when we were growing up. Of course my brother and I played t-ball and peewee baseball. But we played the backyard “ghost man on second” whiffel/tennis baseball and softball much more often. In fact, I think I still have the bases that I cut out of carpet pieces several decades ago sitting my garage. Naitik and I would often keep ourselves entertained with just a ball and a glove by practice pitching and calling each others’ balls and strikes.
Beyond that, Naitik and I had become associated with the famous Abbot & Costello Who’s On First baseball comedy skit through my dad’s efforts. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say we have performed it 50 times (several of those in our very own Gujarati rendition).
Despite my parents’ general disinterest in American sports fandom, I am fortunate that they were encouraging and supportive in my and my brother’s desire to become a part of it. We may not have had the Starter sports team winter jackets and jerseys that everyone was sporting at school, but still I remember when my dad took me to Montgomery Wards in Randhurst Mall (Mt. Prospect represent!) to buy a Michael Jordan t-shirt after one of the Bulls championships. I still have the one Cubs t-shirt I got at age 13 sitting in my closet too (it only has one tiny hole I swear). My parents even took us to some Cubs games at Wrigley – one time sitting in the bleachers (that was fun ha!) – and I remember how Mom would ask us about all the rules and players.
Blessings from [the Baseball] God
Now that I’ve taken you through my personal reflection essay on baseball’s role in my life let’s get back to present day… Go Cubs Go, FlyTheW, etc., etc. I was living in another state this time last year. 2016 is the first year I have ever lived in downtown Chicago, and the first time my family is blessed enough to feel comfortable buying unnecessary-but-oh-so-pretty-and-cool Cubs gear AND pulling the trigger on Cubs NLCS tickets (I don’t know that I would have gone had the Cubs actually gotten this far before this year).
- Cubs car magnet set – $X
- Cubs long sleeve t-shirt – $XX
- Cubs scarf – $XX
- First Cubs baseball hat – $XX
- CTA Red Line fare to Wrigleyville – $XX
- Cubs W flag (2) – $XX
- Cubs ladies fashion jersey – $XX
- Cubs baseball tee (his & hers) – $XX
- Cubs “we came to reign” hoody – $XX
- Ginger beer and bar food in Wrigleyville – $XX
- Cubs regular season game experience for two – $XX
- Cubs NLCS game experience for two – $XXX
Being fully immersed into the Cubs again and experiencing the most historic (and best-ever) baseball post-season / game while living in Chicago and sharing in this joy with friends and family: PRICELESS.
So many things had to go right to make this possible. Of course my birth year and birthplace, my grad school schedule (I had a break from September to the end of November), my place of employment (bringing me back to Chicago), my current living situation (a few blocks from the Red Line), Schwarber, the rain in Cleveland during game 7, the perfect weather in Chicago after the game and on parade day, everything – just everything aligned to make this an indescribably incredible time that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
The Power of the Collective Cubs Fan Positivity
Of course, my experience is hardly unique or significant compared to the millions of Chicagoans who have much deeper and longer ties to the Cubs. Many of my friends and I vividly recall when our entire dorm when dead silent as the Cubs’ 2003 playoff run came to an end…a long 13 years ago. But that is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the century of struggling other Chicagoans have witnessed. Even worse, there are those who never had the opportunity to share in the Cubs elation we have been experiencing as of late Wednesday night because they are no longer with us.
We passed by a retirement home on our journey out of Wrigleyville and there were two elderly individuals standing in the window waving at everyone passing by with a smile, taking in the celebratory atmosphere at 1 in the morning. It was moving to see that. They got to see the Cubs win in their lifetimes, and naturally wanted to join the collective Cubs community to enjoy it.
Sure it’s personally satisfying to see your team win it all, but there’s something special about sharing it with someone. That’s why when we can’t make it out to a bar or a friend’s place for a game, we’re tweeting and posting about great plays and wins on Twitter and Facebook. I subscribe to the “Happiness Only Real When Shared” school of thought (quote from Into the Wild, a great movie about Christopher McCandless). And one of the greatest things about sports – both playing and watching – is that it’s a social, shared experience – that’s coming from an introvert. Whether you’re associated through your high school, university (I-L-L – I-N-I!), town, city, or country, there’s a built in group to share in your happiness and sorrow.
This Cubs World Series run provided the most opportunities to share fun times with Bhumi (and fully initiate her into the Cubs fandom), with Naitik and Rucha, with friends both in-person & social media (thank you again Shruti for getting the game 7 Wrigleyville bar reservation), and with family including many of Bhumi and my younger cousins.
I also agree with “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” No group of fans anywhere in this country (maybe world) embodied that message better than Chicago Cubs fans. They have been with the team for over a century without tasting the bliss of the ultimate destination.
Like a Hindu puja, sports provides a way to fully immerse yourself and all of your senses into something to the point of losing yourself and becoming part of a greater whole. It is at that point when you experience a joy unlike any other. That is what the 2016 Cubs gave us this past month. And for that I am very grateful.
Walking the streets of Wrigleyville after winning both the NLCS and the World Series was a once-in-a-lifetime eruption of happy celebration, twice. Walking around downtown Chicago this Friday after watching the team drive by us on Columbus earlier in the day was beautiful. Everyone was content with the world, groups of all ages and races in Cubby blue. We did it. We didn’t suck. Next year was this year.
Thank you Cubbies. Thank you. This fan out… til next year.
PS- I totally had my Cubs scarf blessed at the temple during this Diwali… so you’re welcome for that.
PPS – check out this sick shot of the Chicago skyline lit up for the Cubs by Bhavin Patel Photography
// Bhavin Patel Photography