What 2016 Meant: My Experience, and Hopefully Yours
This post is going to be light on the advanced metrics and heavy on the feelings, man. 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).
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!”
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.
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.
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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?