I still have mornings where I forget it happened. I prepare for my day and expect to hear the news about the latest thing the President is doing, or not doing, and the weather. I usually turn on a POD Cast (I'm addicted, it's a thing) and go about my morning. Then I remember what happened on that November night.
The Cubs and Indians had played through an unbelievably long - Historically long? - regular season, something like 300 games including the first round of the playoffs, and then had taken the World Series all the way down to the wire. Game 7, extra innings.
The Cubs weren't supposed to win. Not historically, any way. Sure, if you asked a Cubs fan about it they'd tell you the Cubs were always going to win, no doubt about it. But, c'mon... those people watch nothing but Cubs broadcasts and only listen to Cubs radio. Of course they thought that. For so many years that's just been fake news, surely it wasn't carrying any reality now.
As a Cardinals fan the very idea of the Cubs winning hurt. I watched with a pit in my stomach as the night wore on. The Cubs jumped out to a quick lead in Game 7 and at the midway point - for the sake of this let's pretend baseball games actually have a midway point - the Cubs were up 6-3. Innings results kept coming in, and the analysts kept making calls, explaining all the scenarios left for Cleveland to win. Suddenly, as a Cards fan I began rooting for the Cleveland Indians. Not because I was in love with them, I was not at all. But, they weren't the Cubs and in that moment that was enough for me. Because, man... f*** the Cubs.
The Cubs aren't supposed to win. It upsets the natural order in Baseball. It creates unpredictable moves in the offseason. It throws the inter-league balance of power into question across Major League Baseball. Who knows how the Cubs will behave now that they have the trophy, the win, the power, the prestige. They told us almost two years ago they were going to win the World Series. When the season started everyone thought it was going to be something special to watch them try, but it was an even year so naturally the Giants had it in the bag, the Cubs might have their year but 2016 was NOT supposed to be the year the Cubs won it all.
Since that victory I've been searching for answers to questions that linger like ghosts in my mind. Why? How? And, who's to blame? Were we just that blind to the reality? Did we not think that the Cubs fans would get out to the games and cheer loudly enough? OF COURSE THEY DID.
The Cubs fans were hungry. They'd been told for years how wrong they were. Remember Steve Bartman in 2003? He was the clear sign that the Cubs, no matter how powerful they may have been in the past, were never going to get back to the place they had once enjoyed. It was a league of diverse winners now. Well, sort of, I mean, if you're a Red Sox, Cardinals, or Giants fan it's been pretty diverse. (Seriously, the Cardinals won a series with Ronnie Belliard at second base.)
Yet, there it was, 6-6 in the 10th inning. I sat on the couch. Quietly considering what it would mean if the Cubs really did win. Trying to understand how it could happen. Surely Cleveland, the heart of Ohio, would come through and deliver, even if it was close, right? Then it happened.
Ben Zoberist. A double, then a single, and there it was. Final score: 8-7. Naturally if you ask a Cubs fan it wasn't a close game, it was a blowout victory for the Cubs of historical magnitude great enough to grant the Cubs all encompassing power for at least four years. The box score suggests something, well, different, but if the Cardinals of the 1930's could be the “Gas House Gang” then the Cubs of the 20...teens? (2010's? Not sure how to write that one) can be the “Gas Lighting Gang” so that their razor thin margin of victory feels like an all-time great blowout win.
I keep saying it, over and over: “This is not normal.” It isn't. The Cubs aren't supposed to be the Champs. We had all moved on from such hurtful and divisive ideals. At least, that's what I thought. No matter how many times I say it “This is not normal!” or who I say it to, or how many social media platforms I say it on, the Cubs still exist as the World Series Champs of 2016. I'm learning to live in reality, slowly.
All I can do now is double my effort, cheer for the Cardinals so freaking hard in 2017, and hope we can convince enough Cubs players (Dexter Fowler come on down!) that winning with the Cubs was actually not such a good thing and that winning with the Cardinals would be better. I have hope, and I know that when the Cardinals open the season in 2017 and the media asks “Do you think you can beat the Cubs and win the division this year?” the manager, Mike Matheny - with his fresh contract extension - will say clearly, and for all to hear: “Yes we can.”