Like anyone born and raised in Chicago, I went to my fair share of Cubs games as a kid. Most of the time the Cubs lost. That’s just how it was growing up. There might be faint glimmers of hope, of games won, but most of the time, they lost. It was part of my identity as a Chicagoan, as it was everyone else’s. Now of course, that might all change. If the Cubs win the World Series, who will I as a Chicago Cubs fan be? A winner? That would be odd. Being a winner is not part of Chicago’s identity as a baseball city.
Cubs Game Memories
I’ve been to fun Cubs games on sunny days and dismal Cubs games when it’s rained. Either way, they usually lost. But you don’t go to the game to win, you go because Wrigley Field is a beautiful old timey park with an outfield wall covered in green ivy. Most people know that there are buildings across the street from the park where people used to throw barbecue parties and watch the game. When I was young the women wore tube tops and then men were shirtless. At the 7th inning stretch, everyone swayed together, shirtless or not, and sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” as the live organist played and Harry Caray sang. He was notorious for drinking while broadcasting and his slurry, drunk voice is a part of the wallpaper of my life memories.
Every once in a while, the Cubs won and that was fun. It’s always awe-inspiring to see a home run fly toward that manual scoreboard or a player hit a line drive over the short stop’s head when the bases are loaded. Still, if Chicago took home a win that day, the fans didn’t get their hopes up. The reality we all Chicagoans knew was that though they may have won that day, they probably wouldn’t win the next. We went about our lives with the “Lovable Losers” mentality. A World Series was for others, not us. That’s just the way life was — for decades and decades.
Fly the W
Now, it’s all changed. I mean ALL. It didn’t happen overnight. It has taken decades, but the Cubs have inched along into modern baseball times, which for them, is a time of winning and not losing. People now fly a giant white flag with a giant W on it when the Cubs win. They show their excitement and support. It’s brought the city together.
The changes began little by little. First, the Wrigley Field owneres installed lights for night games. Everyone freaked out for months. Residents were upset with the implications of bright fluorescents beaming through their windows at night. But it happened and people got over it. The informal parties on the rooftops turned corporate with full-on bleachers and tickets. A video board was installed, which was acceptable as long as we kept the ole timey green manual scoreboard in place, which the owners of course did, lest there be a riot between the baseball traditionalists and forward thinkers. But the biggest change of all was that the Cubs were bought by owners who actually wanted a winning team.
Under New Management
Theo Epstein of course turned around the Boston Red Sox and led them to the World Series before coming to Chicago to turn around the Cubs. Now, we have a young, hot team full of talent and perseverance with a Pete-Carroll-type of sunshine and rainbows, happy-talk manager. Whatever. It works. The Cubs have won 103 regular season games this year and are playing in the World Series for the first time since 1945. Chicago baseball fans are having a collective orgasm because of it.
Beyond the joy of this change, because let’s face it, even if the Cubs lose the World Series, they’ve already won. The team will have established themselves as strong for seasons to come. And so, the legend of Chicago baseball has already changed. We are no longer those dolts with the beautiful, ivy-covered park that can’t get it together. We’re no longer insignificant. We will no longer be ignored. We are here. People are paying attention to us. We are winners. Fly the W.
A good or bad sign?
I can only interpret it as an eerie sign. What great catastrophe will occur because of this change? Life in Chicago was stable before. Now it’s not. Now any F-ing thing could happen. The Willis, tower could fall down. Mayor Daley’s grave could glow. The flat farmlands of Illinois could rise into hills. Most of all, the people who’ve waited all of their lives to see this, could now die in peace. And seeing how I have those relatives, that’s what worries me.
During these next few nights, I watch these games with both anticipation and immense satisfaction. Because even if the Cubs lose the World Series, they will still have made it. They will have still broken the curse of the goat, however nonsensical that may be. It won’t be a joke to say, “Maybe next year,” because it very well could be. They will have already turned the corner. Like a change of seasons. The leaves are falling now and I have questions. How will the universe make sense of this “winning” era and how will Cubs fans ever live our new strange lives in it?