Why *These* Cubs?

Why these Cubs? Why were they different? Because, at the end of it all, it was just another World Series.

by Kolby SolinskyWhite Cover Magazine

I know, I know… 108 years. But here’s the thing – pretty much everyone we saw last night, from the players and managers who rushed the field to the fans inside Cleveland’s Progressive Stadium who made the very short trip from Chicago to Ohio, to the thousands flooding the bars and streets around Wrigley Field, pretty much all those people we saw only had to live through a very short part of that drought. There were as many Indians fans who suffered just as long – the Tribe haven’t won a championship since 1948, meaning any fan who’s 68 has had a longer baseball loving life than a millennial in Chicago. Hell, we in Vancouver haven’t won a Stanley Cup once in our 46-year history, and the Maple Leafs haven’t won Toronto a Cup for 49 years.

Trust me, when you’ve never won one or when you can’t remember winning one, a drought is a drought. Doesn’t matter if it’s 108 years or 68 years or 46. And when you’re watching the most impossible thing in the world come true, it’s always going to be disappointing. And if it’s not, the euphoria will for sure be short-lived. The moon landing is easy now – it’s Mars we’re interested in. When The Truman Show ended, everyone watching Jim Carrey leave their TV sets had one question: “What else is on?”

Now, this may sound like I’m rolling my eyes at any Cubs fans who can now die in peace – and, if they’re anywhere from 90 to 100 years old, have probably been waiting to die in peace. But I’m not. I know those people are out there. And I’m thrilled for them. And I’m hoping their entire bodies were filled with joy and they shed a single, symbolic tear in a discoloured quilted chairs last night.

But we never saw them. Not that that’s on FOX, but it was hard to feel the real impact of the final out’s exorcism when we saw snapshots of a celebration in North Chicago that looked exactly like every other celebration we see every time any city wins any major sports title. The win wasn’t in the Windy City, although Cubs pitcher Jon Lester noted that it felt like a home game with all the fans who made the commute, and the celebration was carried out by a bunch of players who have little real connection to Chicago – other than that they work there.

And I think this is why this Cubs team won, why these Cubs were different.

Because to them, it was just a World Series. And maybe the World Series means more than anything in the world to them, which would make sense, because they’re baseball players. But that makes them no different than the Indians across the field from them, no different than the other eight teams who made the playoffs and couldn’t climb the mountain, no different than the 107 championship rosters between these Cubs and the last Cubs.

Previous Cubs teams we’ve watched wilt under that October suffocation, I always felt like they were carrying way more on their shoulders than they needed to. (Ditto for any other franchise that confuses commitment to excellence with an obsession for exorcism.) The Bartman play never should have forced an entire roster of professional baseball players to collapse like they did, but it did – because the fans panicked and lost their minds, and that soulless negativity carried onto the field and infected Mark Pryor and Dusty Baker, like a swarm of Dementors sucking the light from your lips, and so the players became nothing more than rabid observers themselves, and they let the cold and ruthless Florida Marlins crush them without consideration. But this team – led by probable NL MVP Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, David Ross, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and an unreal pitching staff – seemed to relate to their city and connect with Chicago without letting the weight of 108 years of bullshit corrupt them. These guys just wanted to win a World Series. They certainly wanted to win it, in part, for their adopted city – because all players have to say that, anyway, and because who in the hell doesn’t love Chicago? It’s a fantastic fucking city. The players certainly wanted to be a part of history, I’m sure. But most of all, of premier importance they wanted to win it for themselves, for each other, and for Joe Maddon. Selfishness is silly – but a collective selfishness is a winning formula.

These Cubs, they were lethal and cunning and selectively emotional and calm and driven. And the best thing that could have happened to them was what happened in the summer, when the National League lost home field advantage in the All-Star Game. Because you know the Cubs never would have been able to close this thing out at Wrigley. Too much pressure, too much crowd… that wild pitch in the fifth would have sent nervous shockwaves from the bleachers to the base paths. Rajai Davis’s game-tying home run, if it happened in Illinois, would have sealed Cleveland’s inevitable victory with ink as thick and red as their mascot’s face.

But, these Cubs? In Ohio? You got the sense they felt and flirted with the destiny that had been forced upon them, but they weren’t held hostage by it. I just know Kris Bryant was sitting there all year, going, “Oh, it’s been 108 years, right? That’s the drought? Well, I just got here in 2015, so…”

These Cubs were just young enough, just fresh enough to know they weren’t supposed to win.

And when the Indians roared back with a three-run eighth inning to tie last night’s Game 7 and six-all, too many watching probably thought there was no way Aroldis Chapman and his club could have put the lid over the mushroom cloud like they did, calmly reasserting their excellence and knowing without a doubt that baseball is a game of back-and-forth by its very nature – they get a chance to score, then we get a chance to score, and now it’s our turn. Or – so we’re down three-games-to-one. They still have win one more. We just have to win one more, too. We only have to do it three times.

In the past, with the Cubs and their fans – with the Canucks and our fans, with the Leafs and their fans, with the Red Sox and theirs before 2004, and with the Indians and Clevelanders still – the parasite became the host. Progression became depression. The team chameleon’d with the worst, saddest attitudes of its city. During the drought, human errors needed excuses or curses, because it was too hard to just admit they weren’t good enough to win – and they didn’t play their best in the most crucial moments.

To be fair to the Indians, they came to play. They showed up and they surged to extras with the same “we may never be back here again” desperation we had been scripting for the Cubs since that Back to the Future II meme started floating around over a year ago. And at the end of it, at least neither team couldn’t say they didn’t lay it all on the line – wild pitches, bobbled balls and all.

*The photo at the top of this post is in the United States Public Domain. Author: George R Lawrence.