The Chicago Cubs playing in the 7th game of the World Series - it's like your first Christmas morning on steroids. Winning was surreal vs Cleveland. It was exhausting and jubilant.
So, what's the big deal? Chicagoans understand but my out of state friends just wonder why? Let me try to explain.
My parents were White Sox fans because they grew up on the Southside. They moved and thus I grew up on the Northside so from the get go I would be a problem child. It would take another long story to explain the differences between the two factions. Let's just say there is a line drawn and we don't support each other like Republicans and Democrats.
I fell in love with the Cubs in the mid '50's when my father took my brother Ed and I to Wrigley Field to see a Pirate game. I was 7 or 8. We were in a neighborhood and then suddenly the beautiful stadium appeared like a mirage at Clark and Addison.
We entered the main gate under the icon red marquee and I heard the sounds of program sellers and ticket turn-styles.
We veered to our left and walked up approximately 10 stairs and then I saw the beautiful ivy walls, green scoreboard and manicured field framed by a blue sky. Wow, stealing from Field of Dreams, "was this heaven?" It is my fav place to be in the world.
We found our seats down the left side in the terrace area. And in those days, the park was never full nor did Wrigley have lights. Prior to the start the voice of public address announcer Pat Piper said, "ladies and gentlemen get your scorecards and pencils ready"...and then he gave us the lineups with exciting anticipation. Eventually the game began and then you would hear organ music, hot dog and drink vendors and then the crack of the bat. Americana memories.
Since then I would guess I have seen a 900 -1,000 Cub games in Chicago and out of town with friends and family including my wife Michaelle and eventually with son Zack for the first time at the same age I started. I have been a Season ticket holder for 32 years...which makes me either very smart or should be under doctor's care.
On TV listening to Jack Brickhouse, Harry Carey, Bob Brenly and now Len and JD probably 4,000 more. Easily in hours and days an investment in time and money many would consider wasted. Hell, I have to wonder at times.
The beauty of this unique 100-year-old stadium evolved, going to the first night game, bigger digital signage, and now it's packed all the time. And neighborhood grew from tough to be vibrant with bars, restaurants and with rooftop viewers. All singing "take me out to the ballgame" in the 7th and hopefully at the end "Go Cubs Go" and raising now the famous W flag.
What I do know is we have not won that many games. I have seen so many thrilling and bad moments. The "Sean-O-Meter, bleacher bums to Wood's 20k's, Sutcliffe, Jose, King Kong and the Sarge. Montero's grand slam the other day was my best miracle moment. Low moments range from Lou Brock's departure, our idiot right fielder throwing the 2nd out into the stands thinking was the third (while the Twins ran around the bases), Lee Elia's tirade, Durham's error and to the Bartman game. Ronny Whoo Whoo was our mascot. Head shakers all. Sadly, one year’s highlight was just our catcher punching the Sox obnoxious player AJ in the face. So why keep doing it?
Seen some greats like Banks, Santo, 26, Sandburg, Lee, Z, Gracie, Sammy, Dawson and Jenkins but they won zip. Now a new crop of stars led by Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Addy, Benny, Lester and a unique manager Joe Maddon with a personality that attracts all baseball lovers. Ownership that grew up in the bleachers. They have added energy, boldly said we would win, added Theo and takes risk. Our hopes finally have Hope!
Again, why? Overall our efforts have been futile not only in my lifetime, but since 1908. Wait till next year for over a century? It is painful and frustrating to be a fan, but those days of wins, fun and very rare first place efforts overshadow the defeats and disappointments. Our heart and passion are worn on our sleeves. It's even worse when the Southside Sox or Cardinals do better. We are the lovable losers. We know the jokes. But our legion of fans still proudly wear Cubbie blue. I was at the 3 games in Chicago we saw a hand full of Tribe fans. The game 6 and 7 in Cleveland were like home games for the Cubs. I feel bad for their fans...and dumb founded that the Tribe fans would sell their tickets to anyone except Charlie Sheen.
Again, Why? I can't explain it. It's love. Tradition. Why do we all love people, places or things? It's another reason as to what makes Chicago special.
I have lost a few family and friends who wanted to see them win. So, when we won though delirious we all had to think of those who missed the epic event. My wife cried thinking of her Dad.
At my age...It was my number one bucket list item. Now what do I do with my time, angst, suffering, frustration and joy? Celebrate, drink, eat Chicago hot dogs, beefs, pizza and ribs...repeat...spring training starts in February. Thank you, God.
(Editor's note: Al could not be too off base, 5 million supporters came to the parade and millions watched.)