Catching Destiny: The Chicago Cubs are Finally World Series Champions


Photo: Bryon Houlgrave / AP

After more than a century of futility, the Chicago Cubs can finally call themselves champions. As the curtain falls, where were you when history happened?

I started this article somewhere in the middle of the eighth inning of last night’s decisive Game Seven of the World Series, a few pitches before Cleveland’s Rajai Davis, who spent the night hitless, slammed a heart-stopping two-run homer over the wall at Progressive Field, sending a knife into the hearts of every Chicago Cubs fan thinking that with a seemingly comfortable 6-3 lead, the end of 108 years of misery was almost over.

The game was now tied 6-6, and surely the Indians would close the deal and win the game.

As I sat, stunned and absolutely sure that the Curse was still intact, I immediately trashed what I wrote, cursing myself for even starting it before the game was indeed over.

What happened after that, well, I don’t know that any storybook, TV show or film could’ve captured the level of magic and sorrow that followed, reminding all of us not only how special baseball is, but also just how, when we get past all our squabbles and disagreements, it’s still possible for a moment like this, frozen forever in time, to capture our hearts.

Most of them, anyway. I mean there are still Cardinals and Pirates fans out there, spiteful and bitter, just as they should be, because if baseball is nothing, if sports are nothing, it’s the rivalries that make the game even more special.

So where were you last night when 39-year-old David Ross made up for his fifth inning error behind the plate by smashing a solo home run in the sixth? Where were you when the rain started to fall as the game went into extra innings? Where were you when Kyle Schwarber, a man who is still recovering from a season-ending knee injury, hit a lead off single that would represent the winning run?

Where were you when the Chicago Cubs decided that waiting until next year was unacceptable and fought back from a three games to one deficit to win 8-7?

In this day and age of the 24-hour media cycle, baseball might seem boring and outdated–and let’s be honest, with games stretching out as long as four hours, it’s certainly not the easiest sell to a generation riddled with ADD–but there is no game more poetic.

Baseball is a game for fathers and sons. Baseball is a game for daughters. Baseball is a game where friends can bitch and moan about a team over beers while sitting out in the hot sun when they should probably be at work.

Despite our ever-present need for life to move at the speed of light, baseball is perfect in its slowness. It’s perfect in its simplicity. Ball hits a bat, the sun strikes the greenest grass you’ve ever seen, and if there is a place, anywhere, that’s close to heaven, it’s almost certainly a baseball stadium.

Baseball, for all its ills, for all the stories about insane salaries, gambling and PED use, is still about a guy filling out a rumpled scorecard while listening to game broadcasts instead of watching the game play out right in front of him. Baseball is that perfect imperfection where we can love a team that barely wins, strung along by the hope that someday, as sure as God made green apples, to steal a phrase from Harry Caray, they’ll win a World Series.

Despite our ever-present need for life to move at the speed of light, baseball is perfect in its slowness. It’s perfect in its simplicity. Ball hits a bat, the sun strikes the greenest grass you’ve ever seen, and if there is a place, anywhere, that’s close to heaven, it’s almost certainly a baseball stadium.

No other game evokes the sort of memories and emotions that baseball can. As Kris Bryant tossed the final out to Anthony Rizzo, in the middle of the disbelief that the drought was over, I didn’t think of my own happiness, because to be honest, I’m a Yankees fan, and while saying that brings some sense of elite smuggery, largely due to having far more championships to celebrate, I remember the lean years as well, even if they weren’t a century in length.

I remember when the Yankees were a laughing stock. I remember the “Steinbrenner Death Watch” segments during the 80s on Saturday Night Live, and I remember that night in 1996 when all that came to an end as I finally got to celebrate being a Yankee fan, and hearing Frank Sinatra belt out “New York, New York”.

But last night I remembered something different. I remember watching the Cubs on WGN with my Grandpa Green, hearing him chuckle about fat old Don Zimmer, who he affectionately referred to as “ol’ bacca chewer.”

I remember having debates with Uncle Franklin, a man who marched at Selma and saw more horrors than a man of his age should have ever seen light up as he tried to understand why I loved the Yankees more than the Cubs.

I remember Uncle “Brother”, whose raspy cackle would reverberate every time Harry Caray would sing the seventh inning stretch.

I remember my stepfather, who I have no relationship with today, bringing me a Cubs hat and an “Awesome Dawson” t-shirt from his very first trip to Wrigley Field during a business trip. I’d later lose that hat, leaving it behind in an IHOP, and I never felt more heartbroken, at least at the time.

Except for him, they’re all gone now. Hope kept their fandom alive, the promise of next year kept them tuning in, and although none of them lived to see last night, because baseball is about memories more than anything else, there is a justice in having the ghosts of those memories released, finally, as we all share that proverbial moment in the sun.

That includes the unjustly infamous Steve Bartman, who one can only hope is able to enjoy today every bit as much as he dreaded that fateful night in 2003 where a city labeled him a pariah for being in the right place at the wrong time. If anyone deserves to exhale this morning, it’s him.

I love baseball, and should I ever be blessed with a child, they might love baseball too. They’ll come to the park, mitt in hand and we’ll bond.

So yes, the Chicago Cubs, in 2016, are World Series Champions, and while the era of the “Lovable Losers” is over for now, the memories endure, with the gift of new perspective that someday finally came, and no curse lasts forever.

Go Cubs Go.

Hashim R. Hathaway (Uncle Shimbo) is the host of the Never Daunted Radio Network, and proud father to NeverDaunted.Net. You can reach him on Twitter @NeverDauntedNet

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