View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Tuesday

14

March 2017

29

COMMENTS

What 2016 Meant: My Experience, and Hopefully Yours

Written by , Posted in General

This post is going to be light on the advanced metrics and heavy on the feelingsman. I share the following because I think my experience resembles that of many Cubs fans. I’d also like to read about how you experienced the 2016 season. One last look back at what we just experienced before we turn to 2017.

I’ve been grappling lately with the fact that at the tender age of 27, I’ve already experienced the zenith of my sports-fan life. Okay, maybe grappling is a strong word. But hey, it’s a thought I’ve had.

The 2016 World Series was a dream and a nightmare. Cousins, brothers, best friends, and parents flooded into Chicago for the weekend games at Wrigley as if they were participating in a religious pilgrimage, a few sleeping on my couch (or my floor).

Image may contain: 2 people, sunglasses and indoor

This Instagram post captures my brother and me really enjoying Game 4.

We watched Game 4 together at a bar in Edgewater near our childhood apartment, making our way through Wrigleyville on the way there to heckle Pete Rose and to feel the energy; despite the 2-1 deficit, we remained hopeful, excited – still in awe that it was even happening. There was joy in simply being together for this. Of course, that joy dissipated with one seventh-inning Jason Kipnis swing. On the way out of the bar, a drunken toe-headed college kid in a Fergie Jenkins jersey told us not to lose hope. I snapped an expletive at him and stormed out. Through the window, I saw my brother consoling the kid. I felt bad. I went back in, shook the kid’s hand, and apologized. He said, “Go Cubs, man!”

Mary, our old family friend, with her Cubs shrine for Game 5.

For Game 5, we congregated with old family friends at their home in Peterson Park. In spite of myself, I still had hope – Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks; Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks – I couldn’t stop myself from repeating the Cubs’ Games 5-7 probables in my head, an involuntary mantra. That game was tense. But again, that certain joy – being together for this – resurfaced as we watched the Cubs win a World Series game at Wrigley. It mattered slightly less, somehow, whether the Cubs won the Series.

Family and friends had to leave Chicago after the weekend; we would watch Games 6 and 7 spread out across the country. One brother in Boston, another in Salt Lake City, parents in Connecticut. I hardly remember Game 6. But Game 7? I remember everything. Most vividly, though, I remember two phone calls. One was with with my Boston brother during the rain delay; my ringtone shook me out of a Rajai-Davis-induced catatonic state. We screamed together about a certain manager’s handling of the pitching staff. The other phone call was with my mom, a short time after the final out. We cried together.

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor and food

My mom, crying into her W flag after the final out on neighbors’ living room floor in Connecticut. They surprised her with balloons and confetti.

That next day, I thought about why it felt like it mattered so much. Sports are just sports, right? They don’t really matter. But I thought about my now-passed-on Great Granny Gradishar watching WGN, critiquing players’ facial hair, turning away from the game only to pull some bills out of her bra strap and hand them to my dad with instructions that he return with chop suey. I thought about my parents buying two little boys fitted, official Cubs caps for the first time (when I was 10); my mom, sewing me a Sammy Sosa jersey that I could wear for Halloween because the real ones were too expensive. I thought about my aunt, who, unasked, shelled out to send me to Game 6 of the NLCS so that the family would have a delegate present for a Cubs pennant. I thought about our youngest brother, who never cared about sports, and how he sat at an Olive Garden bar in Salt Lake for the duration of Game 7 because he felt how important it was (“Olive Garden. When you’re here, your family,” he joked.). I watched as Wrigley Field’s outer walls were filled with chalk-penned messages from loved ones to loved ones.

The question is: what now?

Nothing will ever compare to that. I think it’s okay concede as much, right? It’s true, after all.

I’m not sure it’s even necessary to answer that question. I don’t know exactly what Cub fandom looks like for me or my family going forward; in some sense, the drought was inextricably linked to my Cubs fan identity (as my brother said, consoling himself after the Cubs dropped Game 4, “It’s okay. This is who I am.”) It’s possible – likely, even – that the urgency, the intensity, will never reach those heights again. But I think it will continue to bind us together. And I look forward to telling my kids someday about how that World Series felt.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Before 2017 really gets rolling, I want to invite everyone to use the comment section to share your World Series experience and what it meant to you. Got a good story? Share it. For posterity, you know?

 

  • Adam Peters

    I’ve been a Cubs fan for 40+ years, but this team meant much more to me than that would begin to convey.

    On December 16, 2014 the Cubs signed Jon Lester, signaling the shift from rebuilding mode to winning mode. That gave me hope, and I soon needed it. On December 19, 2014, the day before my 46th birthday, I was diagnosed with Large B-Cell Lymphoma of the bone in my sacrum. It was the most excruciatingly painful thing I’ve ever experienced.

    I was admitted to the hospital that night and from my hospital bed I ordered a Lester jersey. Jon Lester is a lymphoma survivor, and you can be damn sure that wasn’t lost on me.

    I purchased the MLB Extra Innings package for the first time that spring. I figured if that might be the last baseball season I would have I was going to see every Cubs game, dammit.

    Over the next 6 months I endured 9 chemotherapy treatments, and radiation on top of that. But the Cubs were there with me through it all. I got to go to 3 Cubs games that season and they won them all. And when they lost to the Mets in the NLCS I was oddly zen about it.

    But one doesn’t leave cancer behind, and for most people the year following treatment is, mentally at least, far more difficult than the time spent in treatment. And so the 2016 Cubs were especially important to me. So much so that even when Chapman gave up that tater to Rajai Davis I refused to despair. After taking 10 seconds or so to gather myself, I stood up, turned to face my family and uncharacteristically proclaimed, “We’re still going to win this game!”

    There’s a lot more to this story, of course, but suffice to say I was wearing my Lester jersey when Michael Martinez hit that grounder to Kris Bryant and my eleven year old son and I both leapt to our feet in front of the TV, and then jumped up and down together until we fell down on the floor.

    • Seymour Butts

      Can’t top it… won’t try. I hope your health is better now.

      • Adam Peters

        Thanks, Seymour. It is. Been in remission for over a year & a half.

    • Sherm

      Adam – congratulations on BOTH victories…and continued good health to you.

      This Cubs team is more than just a WS winning team. They fund raise. They help people. Long term? That’s what really makes them winners…

      • Seymour Butts

        What is raise? Some crowd-sourcing thing?

    • Doug S.

      Wow. Hope all continues great for you.
      I’ve been threatening to share my game 1 story since game 3. But it pales to yours. Thanks.

    • Brad Lyerla

      God bless, Adam.

    • JTBarrett16

      Congratulations on beating your cancer. Rizzo survived lymphoma too.

  • Sherm

    Nicely done, Ian. Awesome, heartfelt post.

  • Doc Raker

    Arrieta, Lester and Hendricks were the starters in 5, 6 and 7 respectfully. In my view each pitcher would give us a better chance to win than the previous pitcher and game 5 starter was the reigning Cy Young winner so I felt we still had a chance after going down in the series 1-3.

    The 2016 World Series was about the family connections that are made around Cubs baseball. If the Cubs win 10 more World Series in a row it won’t be as special as this first World Series win.

    I always said, if the Cubs ever win the World Series the busiest place in the city the next day will be the cemeteries. Go tell your departed loved ones “The Cubs are World Series Champions”. It never gets old.

    I can see and hear my grandfathers as I type, “These bums aggravate me to no end” as he walks to the bathroom during the Schlitz Beer tall ship commercial on WGN after George Mitterwald struck out to end the inning with the bases loaded trailing by 1.

  • Ben

    Was vacationing in Montana when game seven was going on. Im thinking about moving there and me and my friend ended up going to buffalo wild wings to watch the rest of the game. We ended up connecting with some other cubs fans there. The funny part is that they are originally from Montana. They ended up catching the cub bug for the lovable losers somehow and they didnt care what other people thought of them being cubs fans from montana. We eneded up watching the final out together and celebrated by giving each other high fives and chest bumps. Its kinda special because it just proves that cubs fans travel everywhere and they all share the comradery of being cub fans even in the outskirts of Montana lol.

    • Some of my very favorite Cubs fans live in Montana!

      • Eddie Von White

        I know at least 5.

      • cap’n realist

        Eddie Von Billings

    • WGN, Ben. It was either Braves or Cubs when we were kids, so bunch of us Cubs fans in MT.

  • Brad Lyerla

    Nice, Ian.

  • Adam Peters

    I should add that VFTB was here for me throughout my illness and treatment. Thank you all for that! I’d been here before, but that was when I really became a regular.

    • Well you’re stuck now… glad to have you around Adam.

    • Doc Raker

      Damn glad to meet you Peter, Adams. Come join us in San Diego, we need more regular people.

    • JTBarrett16

      Glad to have you on board Adam. Doc is right, come join us for SD

  • cap’n realist

    Game 7, for me, was about my grandfather. Played on what would have been his 95th birthday. He pulled hard for the Cubs for all 74 years on this planet. In the summer, he would show up at our house 70 miles southwest of Wrigley. He took my brothers and I to countless Sunday Cub games, and quite a few Sox games (hey, the Cubs weren’t home every Sunday). We learned about futility and devotion. Good lord the Cubs were bad. Sox weren’t any better until I was 13. Once or twice a year, on a Sunday, he’d take us to Cantigny in Wheaton, where he’s show us his Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross from WW2. We learned about pride, valor, and heroism. I wanted the Cubs to win it all for me and all my Cub fan friends, but more importantly for him. My grandfather, Army Air Corps Sargeant Stanley Mrozek, earned it.

  • Awesome stuff Ian. So a few years ago someone dropped through and was dismissive about line drives because of ‘the vagaries of balls batted into the field of play.’ This post is the exact opposite of whatever that was.

    • Doc Raker

      That was the Ryan Dempster stretch of bad luck according to high BABIP he was giving up in which many of us said, “It ain’t bad luck when a pitcher hangs thigh high splitters that don’t split and end up on Waveland avenue”

      In which CAPS will now reply…………wait for it………………..CAPS

  • Doc Raker

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a0bb8b4bee05e68122e48e04f0b9a54a07fa35ad767ba17d46ca6a53c37a09a9.jpg My son and I sprayed champagne all over each other on Nov 2 2016 at 9:46PM CA time.

  • JTBarrett16

    Awesome post, Ian. I drove in from Boston for the playoff run, and I enjoyed every minute of my 2 weeks in Chicago. I had to leave the day of game 3 though and return to Boston. Games 3, 4 and 5, I was traveling. I was going to Columbus for the OSU game that Saturday. Going with a friend from Ohio who I had met at an OSU bar in SD 4 years ago when I was there for my grandfather’s funeral. I got to C-Bus and watched the game with him at the local bar. Following Saturday, we did the same after the OSU game. I drove him to Cleveland on Sunday, and then drove all day to return to Boston for work on Monday. Tuesday I decided to stay in and watch game 6 at home. Wednesday, I went to a bar for game 7. I found a couple of Cubs fans at the bar with me, they were from Chicago too. We all sat together. Our hearts sank when Davis tied the game. Our hearts were pounding during the rain delay. When Bryant threw that final out to Rizzo, we hugged and cried. I don’t have any family that cares about sports, so after crying and celebrating, my first thoughts were Harry, Ernie, and Ronnie. Where in Boston does your brother live? I live in Billerica.