INNING BY INNING:  A Cubs Fan’s Tortured Account of Victory

INNING BY INNING: A Cubs Fan’s Tortured Account of Victory

 

After over a century of bad luck and heart break, the Chicago Cubs have finally won another World Series title. Eastbay’s Cleated Marketing Manager, Taylor Wroblewski, returns to break down what each moment was like for millions of Cubs fans throughout the world.

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So the Cubs won the World Series. At least, I think that was a real event and not something my mind made up to protect my psyche.

Earlier this week, when I sat down to describe the desperate want that generations of Cubs fans have for a Series win, that was tough to describe. When the Eastbay Blog team asked me this morning to now describe the feeling of victory, I stared at this blank page for 20 minutes. As a lifelong Cubs sufferer, I can hardly figure out how this happened. So let’s walk through the play-by-play of a desperate fan together.

PREGAME          

I’m in front of the TV. I’m having a Chicago dog for dinner, because I’m not taking any chances. My game-watch partner has purchased champagne “just in case”, which makes me uncomfortable that we’ve already jinxed the entire thing.

1ST INNING

Dexter Fowler hits a leadoff homer. I come screaming through the kitchen and my pug is very alarmed.

2ND INNING

I realize what my dad has told me all along: you’re never comfortable as a Cubs fan. The elation of the early lead is soon gone and I’m watching Cleveland players take bases. After a pickoff and a double play, I prepare for a long night. At this point, the group text message I share with my family has gone silent and it’s because we’re panicking.

3RD INNING

We’re playing decent defense and we’ve got a lead, but it doesn’t stop me from losing my mind over the Javier Baez error. Errors. It seems like there were 100 if there was one. Kyle Hendricks, you are my hero.

4TH INNING

KRIS BRYANT, WHAT A SLIDE! Willson Contreras defies my lack of faith in his batting average and brings in another. Oh my God, this is happening!

5TH INNING

Baez goes yard and I revive the family group text with the only thing that makes any sense right now: “REDEMPTION!!!” My dad answers for the first time all evening. I know he’s a mess back in Illinois, but he finally allows himself to think the impossible. The text reads “Is this really happening?!” We’re about 90 minutes into this game and I believe, for maybe the first time in my life, that I am finally going to see my team win the Series.

Corey Kluber walks off the mound and I throw him deuces. I could not be happier to see that guy leave. What a gamer. But then Joe Maddon pulls Hendricks out too. After a bad ump call, Hendricks hands the ball over to Maddon and Lester is dropped right into the dirty inning that Maddon promised me wouldn’t happen.

Hendricks hasn’t shown any obvious signs of weakness yet. My watch partner immediately hates the decision and calls it over-managing, but I’m feeling so great right now as Jon Lester comes in. “It’s fine. He got us here. He obviously knows something we don’t know.” After 28 years, I’ve developed instant trust in the last 28 minutes. I should know better…

6TH INNING

A David Ross homer is extra sweet. What a classy guy, in the last game of his career. When you hear him talk, you really get the feel that he understands what this means to Chicago. And one more to give us a three-run cushion is lulling me into a very false sense of security. Nine more outs.

7TH INNING

Lester handles everything, despite the base-running threat that the media can’t stop discussing. He got thrown into what could have been catastrophic and frankly, was a stud for the rest of his time on the mound. I want to hear no more about his faults because we only need six more outs and we’ve got this!

8TH INNING

Aroldis Chapman replaces Lester. Again, we’re not sure about the call but I’m confident in Chapman, who’s been great this fall. But it doesn’t take long to see that he doesn’t have it tonight. He’s exhausted after three straight games, and who could blame him?

Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez is on second. Brandon Guyer brings him home. And then Rajai Davis hits that two-run homer. It seems to barely make it over the boundary but the game is tied. Time has stopped, the room  I’m in is silent, I can’t stop staring at the 6-6 box score, and I realize I’m in tears. Because when you have lived and died with this Cubs team, there is, in fact, crying in baseball.

I rethink everything, and all of a sudden, the Hendricks/Lester decision might go down as the worst call in the history of baseball. The momentum now seems insurmountable and I have the same feeling I now have had so many times in my life. The Cubs just can’t do this. My watch partner is now furious with the previous removal of an ERA master. My mom just reminds me, “They wouldn’t be the Cubs if they didn’t break your heart.”

9TH INNING

I have no idea what happens in this inning. I think there were some Chicago base runners, that we might have been close. I’m just staring into space at the obvious demise of this postseason. And then it’s the 10th.

I check in on the group message, as my dad has once again gone silent. My mom tells me he’s pacing.

TOP OF THE 10TH INNING

The rain delay is the most torturous seventeen minutes of my life, while I try to figure out what went wrong. How could Maddon have made those seemingly-awful pitching changes? How could Baez have barehanded that ball so poorly? Why can’t Jason Heyward ever make decent contact? And why can’t my dad and my grandpa just have this, one time? Then some kind of super-fast, slow-motion things start to happen.

Schwarber singles. Do not get your hopes up.

His pinch runner, Albert Almora Jr. takes second on a pop-up.

Rizzo walks.

Zobrist doubles.

We’ve scored. WE’VE SCORED IN THE 10TH.

I can’t see straight. I’m going to throw up.

Russell walks.

Montero singles and Rizzo scores! ANOTHER ONE!

Bases loaded.

Heyward strikes out.

Two outs for Baez.

He’s been cold. I can’t watch as he flies out.

I can’t handle this because, as a Cubs fan, I’m absolutely certain that two runs is not enough.

BOTTOM OF THE 10TH INNING

Napoli goes down swinging against our Carl Edwards, Jr. who is just 25 years old and looks like he could actually be crushed under the pressure of this moment. COME ON CARL! Ramirez grounds out. We are one out away when Brandon Guyer walks and the announcers insist on telling me that the go-ahead run is at the plate. And it’s Rajai Davis, again.

I know it’s going to happen, and it does. He puts the bat on the ball, brings one in. I have a death grip on the W towel I picked up with my Dad during Game 1 of the NLDS. I’m channeling all of the Wrigley Field mojo. Please Chicago. Please.

Mike Montgomery comes in to pitch and I have no idea if he can handle the hugeness of this moment. Most people haven’t even really heard of him. But he walks up and throws an 0-1 strike. Then on the second pitch, Michael Martinez swings and I hear the crack. My heart crumbles as I realize with that hit, Cleveland is going to win. But then I’m seeing Kris Bryant moving around on my television screen. I’m not sure I completely understand why until I look up and I force my brain to accept that Rizzo just caught Bryant’s throw to first. And they’re jumping into each other’s arms because Chicago has won the World Series. My Cubs. My dad’s Cubs. My grandparent’s Cubs. They won the World Series.

POSTGAME

We popped the not-so-jinxed champagne with the team. My dad actually did open his limited edition bottle of rum. And my grandpa saw the Cubs win, from his favorite chair, offering me only an “Amazing.” text message. It’s not often he’s speechless about sports, but this is no ordinary night. We’re now into the early hours of November 3 and I’m in absolute bliss.

THIS MORNING

I’m exhausted. Sure, I got no sleep. But I also exerted 28 years of energy on that game. I’ve been a varsity athlete and a sports fan all my life, but THAT was the win I really wanted. It’s not real yet, though.

Because after all those years, goats, cats, and Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113… the Cubs actually won the Series.

So I’m back at Eastbay this morning, still handling the marketing campaigns for baseball. The W towel hangs behind my desk, but it feels weird that the office here is still normal. Weird that the Earth is apparently still spinning, just like always. But my sports-loving soul knows that because of last night, it’s no longer the same.

Here’s to us, Cubs fans. We hung in there like champs, even when we weren’t. #FlytheW

Confessions of a Diehard Cubs Fan

Confessions of a Diehard Cubs Fan

At Eastbay, we are surrounded by sports 24/7. Following the best athletes and checking out the latest scores aren’t just something we do during breaks—they are crucial parts of our job. So it goes without saying that our employees love sports and are big-time fans of their favorite teams. Nowhere is this more evident than with Taylor Wroblewski, our Cleated Marketing Manager, who is a diehard Chicago Cubs fan. So, with her beloved Cubbies possibly days away from breaking their 108-year title drought, she chronicled what this moment means to her, her family, and millions of Cubs fans throughout the world.

I am a 28-year-old woman, the Marketing Manager for baseball here at Eastbay, and a Cubs fan in the family line of my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. And of course, never in my lifetime or theirs, have we seen the Cubs win the Series. There is no person in my life who can even describe to me what that moment would be like. So here I sit, in front of my television for a World Series game at Wrigley Field. It’s a feeling that I can only describe as hope beyond reason, nausea, and a paralyzing fear of my lovable team losing, right at the end. Because as my dad has reminded me so many times (most recently during the NLCS hitting slump), “You’re prepared for the worst, I hope. This isn’t going to end well.”

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The 1940s

I called my grandfather this week. The man has had bypass surgery, a stroke, and both knees replaced but he’s still kicking—I assume waiting around for a winning end to the season. When I tell him I want to talk about the Cubs, I get a general, “Well…I’m not sure what to tell you.” He’s cautious, a little unsure of how to feel at this point, and you can imagine why. But when he talks about growing up with the Cubs, and how his own father introduced him to the team, I smile at his nostalgia. And then I think of what it would do to my sports-loving soul if my 85-year-old grandfather doesn’t ever see the Cubs raise the Commissioner’s Trophy.

The 1960s

While for my grandpa it seems like a pipe dream almost realized, my dad still can’t get past the love/hate dynamic after the consistent disappointment the Northsiders have given him. He had big hopes for Rick Sutcliffe, Nomar Garciaparra, and Alfonso Soriano over the years, but none of them ever quite got our Cubbies there. This, I guess, is why he’s still trying to prepare me for the worst at this point. “It’s never easy being a Cubs fan.”

The worst moment of his Cubs fandom, he can describe explicitly. It was 1969, which makes my dad 13. “We had those guys like Ron Santo and Ernie Banks, and we were the best team. There were no playoffs back then so if you won the NL, you went to the World Series. The Cubs were way ahead and kind of like this year’s team with domination. Then all of a sudden, the Mets got really hot. Their record in October was just unbelievable. And I can tell you the exact moment, and where I was standing when my dad and I heard that the Mets caught us and we weren’t in first place anymore. Duffy Dyer. Practically no one has ever heard of him, but he hit a home run against us, and the Mets won the game. That’s when they passed the Cubs in the standings. I still remember it. We were going to the World Series. And then we weren’t. For any Cubs fan who lived through that, it’s by far the biggest disappointment.”

The best moment? He sighs because, that’s harder to come up with. He eventually settles on, “My best moment probably was getting to go to my first game at Wrigley. I went with my dad’s dad. Back then, you took sack lunches in a brown paper bag. I was only 7 or 8, but you could watch BP from right behind the dugout, no problem. There was a popup that landed right behind me. It was just sitting under the chairs, but some other kid ran down and grabbed the ball before I could get to it.” That’s my dad. Even his best moment with the Cubs always comes with a tinge of disappointment.

But if they won the Series, what would he do? “Um… I don’t know. I may not survive it. I have a limited edition bottle of rum from years ago. You can’t get it anymore. And I’m only opening it if the Cubs win the World Series. But I don’t know… it’s never happened. I think that’s part of what I’ve seen from watching TV. We’ve never been here. We don’t know what to do or how to act. It was weird when they won the Pennant. People went crazy, and then you looked at them in the stands and they were like, ‘Well, what do we do now?’”

This is the guy who taught me how to keep my eye on the ball in our backyard. Who was intolerant of seeing his daughter not run all the way through first during softball. Who squatted down on the sidewalk a kazillion times to catch each pitch I threw in junior high. And who took me for ice cream after every home run. He taught my brother and I to love baseball in a way that’s uncommon for our generation, and he taught us to be winners. I cannot watch him on the losing side of the league for another year.

The 1990s

When the men who made me a diehard fan describe their relationship with this team, I think back to my own childhood and what that meant. I think of playing youth softball, the only girl with a boy’s glove. But because it was embossed with Ryne Sandberg’s signature, I loved it. And then I think of how we’d play street baseball, me yelling “I’m Sammy Sosa!” only to hear back from my neighborhood best bud, “I’m Mark McGwire!” We clipped out the newspaper headlines every time our player hit another homer and had so much fun keeping tally that yea.

I didn’t yet realize the struggle I was in for. That I’d say aloud, more than once, sentences like, “I think we might be able to squeak out 60 wins this year.” And that as I got older, I’d fall more and more in love with a team that always let me down.

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October 2016

At this point in my life, on the brink of historic greatness, I also happen to be close with a couple Cleveland fans. And they like to talk about how great this win would be for the city of Cleveland, how they’ve waited so long.  They don’t get it.

My mother has watched these playoffs with hope for her family’s happiness but describes my dad as “so negative, I want to gouge his eyes out.” (They have a special bond.) She grew up a St. Louis fan though, so she doesn’t really get it.

And I am only 28, which means I’ve only suffered through about a quarter of this ‘curse.’ And that means I can’t really get it, either.

But they’re so great this year! The starting rotation is awe-inspiring. The relievers have really come into their own. The offense works… on most days. And I am absolutely chugging the Bryzzo Kool-Aid. Watching this pinstriped group has been so exhilarating that I sometimes can’t see straight. And if it feels like that for me, I can’t imagine how full the hearts are of Cubs loyalists all over the country.

Tonight

For generations, we have held strong along with so many other families.  Depending on our generation, we’re exhausted, pessimistic, or cautiously hopeful. But either way, we all just freaking love this team. We want it so bad. No Boston fan, Cleveland fan, or anyone else has ever wanted anything the way Cubs fans want this Series.

I’ve had my dog in Cubs gear. I’m wearing blue and red underwear, in addition to my lucky playoff shoes. I’m convinced this curse might actually be real, unless I wear/say/do the same things I have done this entire playoff run.

I will watch every last pitch of this series in hope that all of my ancestors before me finally see one of the greatest moments in sports history.

So share your stories of sports pain with me below. Fly the W. And please cross your fingers for my grandpa.

 

Keys To The ALCS & NLCS Matchups

Keys To The ALCS & NLCS Matchups

After an exciting ALDS and NLDS, we look forward to the Championship Series. With two great matchups, you baseball lovers are in for a serious treat. Last night we saw Game 1 of the ALCS go to Kansas City after an incredible defensive performance by the Royals. By Oct. 25, at the latest, we’ll know who’s going to be facing off in the World Series. Here’s what each team has to do to make it there:

ALCS: Toronto Blue Jays v. Kansas City Royals

What The Blue Jays Have To Do To Win

Well, they’re already trailing one game after a great all-around performance by the Royals. The good news? David Price is on the mound next. He didn’t have a great ALDS performance, but the best players show up in the biggest moments, so look for Price to bounce back. On offense, it’s all up to the veterans: José Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, and the hopefully-available duo of Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. There’s a lot of experience and power there.

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What The Royals Have To Do To Win

Easy, keep playing the way they want to — small ball, inside pitching, and big-time hits. The big key for Kansas City will be the performance of the bullpen. The Royals have arguably the best defense of the remaining four teams, and if their deep bench of relief pitchers throw the way they did in the Game 1 shutout, KC will be looking at a second straight World Series appearance.

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NLCS: Chicago Cubs v. New York Mets

What The Cubs Have To Do To Win

This recipe doesn’t change. Two things must continue to dominate: the power hitting, and the pieced-together bullpen. Chicago’s lineup is littered with potential home runs, so Kris Bryant and company will have to continue terrorizing pitchers, but that may not be so easy against the Mets’ rotation. On the flip side, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and the endless combination of relief pitchers have to come up big in clutch situations. The Cubs are 7-0 against the Mets this season, but it’s a clean slate now.

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What The Mets Have To Do To Win

It all starts with Matt Harvey. He’ll set the tone for the whole series in Game 1. Will the Mets place any restrictions on him? Will we see him again if the series is extended? Who knows. For New York, this comes down to whether or not the likes of Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom can tame the young Chicago sluggers. There’s one big difference between this Mets team and the one that lost to Chicago seven times this season. Yoenis Cespedes. A monsterous bat like his could make all the difference, so he’ll have to be locked in.

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