I was freezing waiting for the Red Line at the Addison stop on a recent morning, but I warmed up a bit when I saw my train arrive. You see, a lot of CTA trains have advertising on them now, and today mine was the “Make Someday Today” train that commemorates the Nike ad campaign from the Cubs World Series win. As I stepped into the car it reminded me that I’ve wanted to take a look back at some of the advertising campaigns of that win for a while now.
A couple of notes, there is no scientific methodology here. These are my top five. No ratings. No math. Just the five campaigns that most resonated with me as the Cubs finally won it all. A few even managed to bring tears to my eyes. I’m sure there are others I’ve missed, I hope you’ll share them in the comments. Let’s distract ourselves from the arctic Chicago air with the warmth of curse breaking.
And so, without further ado...
5. I admit this isn’t a recent ad, but MLB 12: The Show deserves props for this:
I also admit that I hated this ad when it came out. I didn’t like its the tone. I didn’t like the idea that for a Cubs fan to celebrate the ultimate victory they had to play a video game. I didn’t like that half a dozen “friends” of mine sent it to me when it came out, with commentary that ranged from caring to caustic. I didn’t like that it came out as the Cubs were about to lose 101 games for the first time since 1966.
I. Was. Not. Amused.
In retrospect, this ad did a shockingly good job of capturing what it felt like to be in Wrigleyville that day. Yes, the specifics are a little different. The Cubs didn’t win at home (saving that for 2017, right, Theo?) but the celebration scenes and the city shots came back to me in the days after we finally won and all of the old animosity I felt towards this ad melted away and was replaced with appreciation.
4. MLB Network, for this:
My commentary here is a lot shorter than some of the others, but frankly that is because there is elegance in simplicity. The MLB Congratulations Video to the Cubs was 100 percent on point. It opens with a black and white W flag that morphs from the word “Wishing” to “Waiting” and finally to “World Champions.” It covers classic Cubs imagery that encapsulates the best and the worst of the last 108 years. It covers everything from Banks to black cats and Sianis to the Sandberg game.
It is an absolutely elegant ad that captures the spirit of this win in 30 seconds. I can’t even describe how I feel about the win right now, two months later, in 30 minutes, so I consider this a feat.
3. Budweiser: This Bud’s for You.
I came of age as a Cubs fan in the 1980s in Utah. Like so many other Cubs fans all over the country the Cubs became my home team because there wasn’t a team remotely close to me and WGN meant I could watch the Cubs everyday. I loved baseball and would record games on my parents’ old VHS so I wouldn’t miss any of the action between the time school ended and the time I got home. While I’m pretty sure I would have been a Cubs fan without Harry Caray, his iconic presence during that time period made it a lock. By the time I finally got to Wrigley Field when I was 21, I already felt like I knew what it should feel like and sound like from his coverage over the years, and I wasn’t disappointed.
While I confess that I ordered an Old Style that day, rather than a Bud, I was not disappointed by the Wrigley experience Harry conveyed. It was exactly what I was led to believe it would be, and I was thrilled that this piece of my childhood exceeded my expectations.
So when this ad came up after the Cubs win, it seemed perfect that Harry had a small piece of that night, doing what he did, in the place he loved.
2. Make Someday Today.
Nike has had some great advertising campaigns. Prior to the above campaign, I really believed they’d never top Chicks Dig The Longball. But they did.
The above ad was spectacular on its own. A Chicago youngster plays a sandlot game of baseball, by himself, in Chicago, with the cityscape as his backdrop. It’s beautiful even before you drop in the Willy Nelson twang singing “Hey, hello there, it’s been a long, long time...” It would rank number two for me if that was all they had done, and the ad started and stopped with the above 30 seconds.
But it didn’t.
That campaign built in Chicago through the entire playoffs. Across the street from Murphy’s Bleachers there was a building sign that morphed throughout the playoffs. It started with a picture of a goat with a reference to “Yesterday” and as the post-season progressed to a Cubs World Series it morphed into this:
And then finally, that campaign turned into the “Someday is Today” campaign that is all over the city, including the Red Line train I took to work today. It was a campaign that started strong and evolved to an almost perfect form. It would have been my top advertising campaign, but....
1. Budweiser outdoes everything.
Boy, if you’ve got a weak heart....
Harry Caray died in 1998 just before Spring Training began. I was in the middle of my first year of college and I was heartbroken as only a young, ideological, person can be. I didn’t understand what the Cubs could possibly look like without Harry. I didn’t know what a game would sound like. I was unsure what the next year would look like, or if I would like watching the Cubs as much. Obviously, like all people as they grow up, I survived. My love of baseball survived, and grew stronger, but whenever the Cubs got good, like really good, I had a tinge of sadness. I’d think: “Man, Harry would have loved this team.”
At many points during 2016 as these Cubs did amazing things I wondered what Harry would have said. On Opening Night at Wrigley as I sat freezing in the grandstand watching Addison Russell belt a three-run homer to bust the game wide open I wondered what Harry would have said. As Jake Arrieta pitched his second no-hitter, on a day in Cincinnati where it seemed like every ball was dropping the Cubs’ way, I thought about how excited Harry would have been at that game. When Kris Bryant had the first full house in MLB history, three home runs and two doubles, I imagined Harry calling it. A hundred other times as the Cubs won improbable games (the Jon Lester walk-off bunt, the Cubs’ comeback against the Giants we called the Jason Heyward game, the Mother’s Day Javy Baez walk-off, and more) I couldn’t help but be a little sad that we didn’t get to hear those moments called by Harry.
And then, improbably, when I was least expecting it, I got to hear Harry call the biggest win in the history of the Cubs.
It was perfect.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few gems in this post, so feel free to share others in the comments. It will make the 45 days to spring training go faster.