As we all know, the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908, becoming the latest team in the 21st Century to exorcise fictitious demons left over from the 20th Century.
Cubs fans, both the permanent ones and the temporary bandwagon jumpers, reacted to that moment like they just got their first car, first kiss, wedding day, birth of their child, etc.
Both Chicago teams have won championships after not taking any since the 19-teens. The Boston Red Sox have gone from the Curse of the Bambino to one of the early powers of the new millennium. The San Francisco Giants broke a 54-year dry spell and have joined the Red Sox with three titles.
We don’t like curses and thus, like to see them broken. Or maybe we do believe in them, but want to see them defeated.
Other than the Cleveland fans, who have endured more than a championship drought for the last half century or so, it seems like everybody has become a Cubs fan, or at least now tolerates the North Siders. That includes fans of the rival St. Louis Cardinals. I don’t know about the White Sox, but I haven’t seen any of them around lately.
I root for a National League Central rival during the season, but was pulling for the Cubbies the last month. That’ll change next April.
The Cubs are one of a handful of pro sports teams who are a national brand. Some become popular because they win all the time. The Cubs, obviously not so much. But they play in a charming ballpark which didn’t have lights until 1988 and who still play more day games than anyone else. Those day games made them the only game in town for years as they were televised nationwide on the WGN superstation. Remember how the Braves became America’s Team in the 1980s because of TBS?
I said the Cubs are a national brand. Their fans travel well. It seemed as if Game 7 was played at Wrigley Field. Cleveland should be ashamed of that given that it was the World Series.
But Cubs fans show up anywhere at anytime. And unlike the announcers who always say the fans are traveling from Chicago, I say it’s often local fans who are getting to see their team appear close to where they live. Cincinnati isn’t that far a drive from Chicago, nor is Cleveland, but I suspect there are many Cubs fans in Ohio who come out of the closet when their team comes to town.
Notice how when the Steelers come to Nashville, what is now Nissan Stadium seems to have as many Pittsburgh fans as the home team (this may be a bad analogy as it seems every visiting team can bring in as many fans as they wish to Music City). I wouldn’t be surprised to learn a lot of those people waving Terrible Towels actually live in Middle Tennessee.
Same for the Tennessee Vols when they visit Vanderbilt. Those fans aren’t necessarily coming from Knoxville as every acre within the Volunteer State is home territory for the Big Orange, even on other schools’ campuses.
Speaking of the announcers, I was listening to the Cubs Radio live stream of the game and switched to the Indians when Cleveland rallied against Aroldis Chapman. I wanted to hear the home announcer call the final play of his team breaking the championship drought.
Cubs radio voice Pat Hughes - along with Indians announcer Tom Hamilton, FOX TV’s Joe Buck, ESPN Radio’s Dan Shulman and perhaps Japanese and Spanish-speaking announcers sending the game to their countries - became the first broadcasters to proclaim a Cubs world championship. Radio technology may have been invented by 1908, but not commercially. You wouldn’t have had a radio in your house then. Baseball didn’t appear on radio until ’20 and the World Series until ’21. The Cubs didn’t go on the air until ’24.
More people listened to Buck’s call of Game 7 than any baseball game since his Hall of Fame dad, Jack, called the 1991 World Series between the Braves and Minnesota Twins on CBS. Both were seven-game series involving teams with national followings (remember the Braves were still on TBS). And both the Twins and Braves had finished last the season before.
These Cubs were the best team in baseball by at least 10 games during the regular season. But that means little in the playoffs. As a fan of the Big Red Machine, this wasn’t unlike 1975 when the Reds finally broke through and turned back a mighty upset bid by the Red Sox in a seven-game series remembered as a classic, just like this one. The Cubs were the best, but we were still waiting for them to invent a new way to lose against the Giants, and then the Dodgers, and finally Cleveland. I thought Chapman might become Chicago’s version of Jose Mesa (ask Indian fans about him).
Baseball needed this past month. Sports needed it. The American people, torn apart by a presidential election which may end on Tuesday but whose reverberations I’m afraid will be felt for years to come, needed it.
Thank you, Cubs and Indians. Hopefully, Cleveland fans will get another chance to experience this past June in October or early November real soon.