The Cubs broke the curse last night (early this morning) with their extra inning win in the winner-take-all Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. It was an epic game of back and forth with highs and lows that matched each other perfectly in complete extremes. The resiliency of both teams to fight, claw, and persevere through seven grueling games, and finally the deciding game, was evident and classic. In the end, it would be the Chicago Cubs, the Lovable Losers no more, who would take the World Series trophy for the first time in 108 years.
You may wonder why a die hard Braves fan like myself would care to write anything this morning about the Chicago Cubs. There's a few reasons.
Without a doubt, the Atlanta Braves are my team. They're my favorite team across every sport. They're the first team I ever remember rooting for. They're the first major sports team that I ever saw play live in person in a major stadium. I collected every Braves baseball card I could get my hands on. I've been wearing Braves shirts and hats since I can remember. There will never be another team quite like the Braves for me. They have always been a family affair for me having watched most games in my living room with my parents. We all huddled, danced, and jumped like it was no tomorrow when the Braves won the World Series in 1995 against . . . oops . . . the Cleveland Indians.
I treasure my memories of hearing Skip Caray call games on TBS where every game started either at 7:05 PM or 7:35 PM. The Braves would receive the moniker "America's Team" simply because being broadcast nationally on TBS allowed fans all across the country to watch the Atlanta Braves in the comfort of their living room whether they wanted to or not. No doubt about it, the Braves have and will always be my team and because of TBS, have fans across the nation.
But then there's the Chicago Cubs. As a sports fan, but specifically a major baseball fan, if I wasn't watching the Braves, I was watching the Cubs and rooting for them to win. The Chicago Cubs themselves were also broadcast nationally for a long while on WGN. I loved hearing Harry Caray call Cubs games. He was easily one of the most passionate broadcasters you would ever hear. Having his son, and now his grandson, calling Braves games just seems to require that you root for both teams if you're a Braves fan. As a kid, I was enamored with Wrigley Field and the green ivy on the brick walls in the outfield. I knew one day I would have to visit.
One of my first favorite players I ever had was Ryne Sandberg. I truthfully was drawn to him because we shared the same name as me (though his parents messed his spelling up . . .). I loved watching Andre Dawson in the outfield. That was a bad man. I remember Greg Maddux actually being a Cub long before he was a Brave. I remember Jeff Blauser as a Cub before he was a Brave. The same for Damon Berryhill. Mark Grace was fun to watch at first. Lee Smith was a closer long before the position became vogue. I loved Cubs baseball.
The one thing you could be sure of was that the Cubs would play hard and compete, but it seemed they always found a way to lose. Even when their teams were complete and solid, they'd blow leads that seemed to be all but ironclad. Nevertheless, I loved watching them. I loved the play by play. I loved the seventh inning stretch and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The only way I cheered against the Cubs was if they played the Braves. Other than that, it was "Go Cubs Go."
And so watching them win the World Series this year is special to me. It's special to a lot of people, none more so than those die hard Cubs fans who feel the way about their team that I do about my Braves. Those fans have waited forever for this. I saw the images of crying fans as many of them thought about their parents and grandparents who cheered for years for the Cubs without ever getting to see the moment.
When Theo Epstein and his front office started building this team a few years back, you could see a foundation for something that might be really special. Still, every Cubs fan in the back of their mind had to wrestle with that nagging doubt of if the curse would ever really be broken. Well it was and hats off to Epstein and his staff for resurrecting the historic franchise and putting it in a place to very possibly become a dynasty, and if nothing else, a perennial contender year in and year out.
The future is bright for the Cubs. Despite some of the most questionable managing decisions I've seen made on a World Series stage by Cubs manager Joe Maddon, the players wouldn't quit. His message of positivity and confidence resonated and when other teams would have probably sunk, the Cubs rose to the top. The call to lift Arrieta in Game 6 could have cost the series. The call to pitch Chapman so much, especially in Game 6, almost cost the series. The call to lift Hendricks in Game 7 while he was dealing almost cost the series. The call to put Lester and Ross in mid-inning with a runner aboard almost cost the series. So many decisions that probably should have cost the series, and yet young guys like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo wouldn't quit, Kyle Schwarber, having only played three games all season due to major knee surgery, resurrected in the World Series to lead the team. Grisly, utility man Ben Zobrist who won the World Series last year with Kansas City would be the World Series MVP with his clutch hits and defense. And the presence of the 39 year old David Ross playing in his final major league baseball game and launching a home run to straight away center just seemed magical. It was almost as if Maddon was supposed to make the calls he made to so accurately display the timing and sheer magic that seemed to emanate from this Cubs roster. It was almost destiny.
And while Maddon had me so flustered to the point I had to DVR the rest of the game and go lay down with my daughter for bed, my own heart wells with emotion when I watch his interview concerning his late father. Maddon told the reporter than in the 10th inning he thought about his dad. He pulled out his dad's favorite hat, an Angels hat as it were, and he put it in his pocket. After telling the reporter that, the tears welled up and Maddon just hugged the reporter and left it there. That's special. That's what it's all about.
Wrigleyville rocked last night. It probably still is. It will be for some time. They will have the parade of all parades in a few days, and they deserve it. That stadium is special. I was lucky enough to fulfill a childhood dream a few years back and get to watch a Cubs game live at Wrigley Field. As luck would allow, they played the Braves that day. It was one of the greatest baseball experiences of my life. I wore my Chipper Jones jersey to Wrigley that day. The fans would rib me some about being a Braves fan and how the Cubs were going to win the game and so forth. (And they did.) But I also had a ton of Cubs fans tell me that day that they cheered for the Braves too. Many told me the Braves were "their second team." Come to find out that while this die hard Braves fan watched the Cubs on WGN when my team wasn't playing, a lot of Cubs fan were watching my Braves on TBS when their team wasn't playing.
So from a die hard Braves fan to all the die hard Cubs fans out there, congratulations on winning the big one! Sing, "Go Cubs Go," from the rooftops and "Fly the W" from every flagpole. And maybe the next time I get up that way, IF you're not playing my Braves, I'll be more than happy to where my Cubs shirt I proudly own from long before the Cubs became the powerhouse they now resemble.
Congratulations Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series Champions of Major League Baseball!