"We became such great losers. Good sports. I just hope we're good winners." — Bill Murray
I’ll get back to that quote a bit later, but wanted you to mull its meaning while you read the rest of my thoughts on this most incredible of Cubs seasons.
You’ll recognize, of course, the tagline underneath the headline to this post. In recent years the sign “It’s Gonna Happen” was seen around Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville, and even then, for a few years, “it” didn’t.
But now “it,” commonly understood to mean “Winning the World Series,” has happened. For real. In our lifetimes. I didn’t go to the parade or rally Friday, still trying to catch up on sleep and content to watch our team, smiling and grinning and taking selfies, on television.
My mood’s ranged from blissful serenity to nearly bursting into tears off and on for the last two days, the bliss from the win, the tears from the magnitude of what has, in fact, happened. And that’s why Anthony Rizzo’s speech at the rally was so deeply affecting to me. We already knew he was the emotional leader of this team, its heart and soul, beyond his superlative skills on the field.
But to see him break down and start crying himself... I mean, holy cow, as someone we know well might have said. This young man, who grew up in Florida and, from what I can tell, never wanted to do anything but play baseball, fought off cancer, got traded away by Theo & Jed and then acquired again by them for the Cubs because they knew of his character, likely had no idea of what our history was when he came here.
Those tears told me he gets it. He’s one of us. His beautiful public gesture of returning the last-out ball to Tom Ricketts was deeply affecting. That closed the circle, completed the victory, bound all of us, players and owner and fans, as one.
Tom Ricketts provided the means.
Rizzo and his teammates produced the glorious triumph.
That victory is for all of us, every single one of you reading these words, all of us who have taken this journey, no matter for how long, and also those we hold in our hearts and memories forever.
For the Cubs who never were able to have a parade, Billy Williams, smiling and waving, represents them all. Billy was my favorite when I was a kid, that sweet swing producing a Hall of Fame career, and always with class and dignity. I’m thrilled for him and I know the 2016 players consider him one of them.
Sorry — tearing up again as I’m writing this. I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the case for a while yet, and I don’t have any problem with that. For me, after 53 years as a Cubs fan, those tears have been saved up for a very long time. They might as well all come out now.
I wrote the other day at the end of my Game 7 recap: “Let’s do it again next year!” That was a sentiment expressed as well by some players who spoke at the rally. Winning the championship you just saw was hard — really hard, so hard that one key hit by the other team could have meant a parade in Cleveland instead of Chicago. There’s no doubt this Cubs team is built for multiple postseason appearances with its combination of youth and veteran leadership, with its smart manager and outstanding front-office leadership.
But no team has repeated as World Series champion since 1999-2000, when the Yankees did it. It’s definitely not easy. The Phillies made two straight (2008-09), winning one, losing one. The Texas Rangers made two in a row, 2010-11, but lost both. The Kansas City Royals were in the two previous to this one, but fell short in Game 7 in 2014, so they won just once in two appearances.
You have to be really good, as well as a bit lucky, to do that. Can this Cubs team do it? Sure, they’re as well-positioned as anyone to have a long run. They could certainly take over the “even-year” thing from the Giants, perhaps win three titles in five years, or do what the Chicago Blackhawks did, three in six. That would establish the current Cubs core as the best for the franchise in a century.
Even if they don’t, though, we’ve got this championship, the one we’ve yearned for as long as we have been Cubs fans, the one that at times seemed like it would never arrive. That will sustain me for a very long time, I think, the fact that in my lifetime I can now say I followed, watched and cheered for a Cubs World Series champion.
And that brings me back to Bill Murray’s quote from the top of this article. Murray’s a comedian by trade, and a good one, and at times he’s downright silly, as he was in his “Daffy Duck” seventh-inning stretch in Game 3.
But the quote above is thoughtful, contemplative and absolutely correct. The “lovable loser” thing is gone forever, and through all that we as Cubs fans had to take that good-naturedly, and as Murray stated, we did.
I know I’m going to try my best to be a good winner. To understand just how hard it is to win, and to not have an attitude about it, instead being magnanimous and cheerful to our opponents, even while wanting to beat them every time we play them. Let’s show the world how appreciating the good in a positive way can follow a seismic event such as the one we’ve just seen.
If this seems a bit rambling, it is. I’m still trying to process what we saw Wednesday night, put it into perspective, think about the entire season’s journey from the day I saw Dexter Fowler walk onto Field 6 in Mesa not 20 feet away from me, till the time I watched, on TV, Kris Bryant’s throw nestle into Rizzo’s glove, that ball signifying the end of a 108-year wait. All day Friday there were cars driving all over the city with “W” flags flying, folks wearing Cubs gear everywhere, the entire town seemingly painted blue.
Savor this season, this championship, savor it forever, even if the Cubs do win more titles in the next few years. We will never again walk precisely this path, never again (hopefully!) have a drought to bust, never again have to overcome all this history.
The dragons have all been slain, every last one of them. We are the champions. It did, in fact, at last, happen.