I was fiddling with my phone about midday today and came upon a live broadcast of the parade for the world champion Cubs in downtown Chicago. It did not take long for me to become thrilled by osmosis. I texted a friend, a fellow sports nut, about the happenings in the Windy City and added,”Fantastic!”
I was amazed at the number of people that had shown up to celebrate the Cubbies winning the World Series the other night. The figure had to be in the millions.
One feed showed a huge amount of folks who had come to the house of Most Valuable Player Ben Zobrist. He was outside signing autographs.
The conquering heroes rode a bus by Wrigley Field and into Grant Park. As they arrived an interviewer began to talk with some of the current and former stars.
One of them was Albert Almora, Jr., an unlikely hero. He is a rookie who pinch ran for Kyle Schwarber after the latter singled. Schwarber himself was not supposed to be swinging at pitches in the World Series. The outfielder/catcher was injured at the beginning of the season, but returned for the playoffs and produced some clutch hits. This was another one.
With the score tied 6-6 in the 10th inning and Cubs fans in a state of shock after their team had blown a three run lead, the young Almora did something very unusual. He tagged up at first on a long fly ball and took second. This put him in scoring position. Zobrist plated him with a double.
Almora was asked what he thought of the season. NBC reporter Len Kasper asked him about his season.”It’s gonna be tough to top this one. We’ve got two more months left in the year but I don’t know how it can get any better than this-from the birth of my son to getting married, to my father beating cancer, and now to top it off, to win the World Series my first year in the Big Leagues, it’s been unbelievable.”
When told that his play would go down in Cubs lore, he replied that he just played in the moment, wanting to help his teammates and Anthony Rizzo, who was coming up to bat. The reference to Rizzo could not have been an accident.
The first baseman Rizzo had been diagnosed with cancer as he was just lighting up the minor leagues for the Boston Red Sox. Like Almora’s Dad, and Jon Lester, who has pitched several stellar innings in this game. In fact, Lester had given Rizzo a pep talk about his own recovery when they both were in the Red Sox organization.
While watching the live feeds I read some of the comments. People from all over the world were sending in their congratulations to the Cubs and to the people of Chicago. I posted my own happy thoughts as well.
I was quite moved by the whole thing. I wondered why. After all, it is only a game. But, it really isn’t.
Baseball, like a lot of sports, does more than just provide entertainment and amusement. It brings people together. The cliche’ is true: it build character. The stories of Almora, Rizzo and Lester prove that.
My entire lifetime the Cubs have been kind of the Sad Sack of baseball. Yet, they are beloved around the country and have almost a mythical aura about them.
Their history is one of legend as well. Some point to a curse by a Chicago shopkeeper during the 1945 World Series (the last one win which the Cubs appeared before 2016) as the reason why the team had not won a World Series. The man was tossed out of Wrigley Field because he brought a stinky goat into one of the Series games and remarked on the way out that the Cubs would never win a World Series. Thus was born The Curse of the Billy Goat.
Since 1908 (the last year the Cubs one a World Series) some great Cubbies have come and gone: Ernie Banks (Mr. Cub), Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg (to name a few). All these Cubs greats never even got to play in a Series.
Despite all of this, this year the Cubs forgot all that and fought like the dickens to win. They were even favored to win it all at the beginning of the season, but they didn’t let it go to their heads. Time and again they came back from deficits in these playoffs to fulfill their potential and erase over 100 years of futility.
Thinking of all of the corporate and individual misery endured by the Chicago, the Cubs organization and their players, I believe I now understand why even I, a lifetime Baltimore Orioles fan, was so emotionally affected by this celebration today, along with folks from all over the globe.
I think it’s because we’re all survivors, just like the Cubs. We have it within us to accomplish great things, just like the Cubs. We can overcome, just like the Cubs.
This is an important message to receive just as we are finishing the most brutal presidential election in America in probably forever. As a cancer survivor myself, the chutzpah of those Cubs and their family members, people who shook their fist at this horrible disease and won, is inspiring.
To me, the message from the victory jubilee in Chicago is this: be like the Cubs.