Smiles Galore

by: David A.F. Sweet

A lifelong Chicago Cubs fan bathes in “unfettered happiness” as the Cubs “somehow” capture their first World Series title in 108 years…


Consider these levels of crazy:

I paid a $20 cover charge for the right to watch Game 4 of the 2016 World Series on television at a Wrigleyville bar – through a window while standing outside. And that was easily the best deal around.

The grandnephew of the man who laid the Billy Goat Curse on the franchise – created because it would not let a live goat into Wrigley Field – announced that the long-ago malediction was not lifted because the Cubs reached the World Series; the squad would have to win it for the family to abrogate the curse. Yes, this was a topic of conversation in Chicago.

Ronald Reagan, our oldest-ever U.S. President, was not even born the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 1908. And he served as President back in the 1980s.

And then, Game 7 happened….

In the first inning of that final game nerves overtook my body, a feeling that can’t be fought without overwhelming willpower, something I had lost at some point during the World Series. The last time I had experienced such nervousness occurred in 2003, when Mark Prior mowed down the Florida Marlins inning after inning and I began to envision that the Cubs would be going to the World Series (spoiler alert: they didn’t).

My kids said it was bad luck for me not to watch Game 7 at home, since I had been out during each Cubs’ defeat (including inside historic Wrigley Field for Game 3, as the old park crackled with unparalleled excitement). So watch at home I did. My two boys offered dancing and singing entertainment between innings, lending their voices to memorable lines such as “Dad has bedhead a lot.” Their mother wasn’t allowed to sit down, because somehow the Cubs would have lost if she had, which led to much baking of treats such as blueberry muffins and many push-ups as the Progressive Field tom-tom beat on incessantly in the background.

As a Cubs fan, you spend every big game waiting for the ultimate horror that drives them to defeat – a bouncer through the legs of a first baseman in an NLCS clincher, a catchable foul ball that drops to the ground, prompting another collapse. But thanks to the numerous cans of Old Style Lager I’d drank and a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning, I was sure my Cubs would win the World Series.

And then….texts from out-of-town lifelong Cub fans began to assault my phone after Jon Lester’s wild pitch allowed two runs to score to slice Chicago’s lead to 5-3 and even more so when the Indians tied the game in the eighth inning with a home run off the Cubs’ best reliever, spurring me to yell “No!!!!” louder than I ever had before. Manager Joe Maddon’s pitching moves in Games 6 and 7 were, in fact, so stupefying that friends compared him to the lamest Cubs’ skippers of lore (where are you, Jim Essian?).

But somehow the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. They fought and fought, and it was the other team collapsed this time. The Cubs even overcame the absurd rule that says the league that wins the All-Star Game nabs home-field advantage in the World Series, by capturing the title on the road.

After celebrating briefly into the wee hours of the morning after the game’s final pitch, and then catching a short sleep, I find myself overcome with a calm, exhausted satisfaction. I hold so many great memories of the Playoffs that preceded this amazing seven game series, from Javier Baez’s defensive gems (never before had I considered any player’s tagging abilities to be important) to seeing Larry King chomping on nachos (or whatever he was fancying during each pitch at Dodger Stadium) to the absolutely insane World Series finale. This win for the Chicago Cubs is more than a single burst of unfettered happiness, it’s a victory that will bring smiles galore as it ages.

Follow David Sweet on Twitter @davidafsweet

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