After growing up with the Chicago Cubs, the improbable would seem to prove to be nearly impossible year after year. The nonsensical reasons for the futility were dragged out each fall as other teams readied themselves to play into October… and even early November. It became expected that something would happen, or would go wrong along the way to toss a log across the tracks to halt our journey to Happy Town.
We suffered through generations of lousy teams and even a few that had come close. We endured rebuilding in hopes that, by getting that bad, we would have the chance to use high draft picks and some clever trades along the way and by some stroke of divine intervention, we may finally have a chance. As the 2016 Championship season played out, we dared not get too optimistic, because at some point, at some unexpected turn, the bottom was surely going to fall out. It always had done so in the past. An amazing 103 wins during the regular season were enough to give us hope as the Post Season arrived, but still… anything could happen… and as we know, it usually, did… and it wasn’t good.
The SF Giants came and went. The LA Dodgers were next and they too, fell. Suddenly, there we were, starring at the Cubs in the World Series. With the Cleveland Indians marching their way through the rest of the American League, we now had a name of who it was that would probably be the ones to let the air out of the big blue balloon. As Cubs fans, we prepared for the letdown by telling ourselves that at least we would have advanced one round further this year than last, (losing in 4 games in last season’s NLCS), and it’s just “getting there” that really matters. Or so we told ourselves.
As the drama played out, the Young Men of Maddon fell behind 3-1 in games and the scene was set for my favorite in-person ballgame… ever. The scene was Wrigley Field for Game 5 of the 2016 World Series, a must win for the Cubs and a possible Series clincher for the Tribe. As destiny would have it, I was honored to sing God Bless America and The Star-Spangled Banner before this historic evening on the North Side of my hometown of Chicago. The moment was electric. It was a moment that I had waited for seemingly all of my life. The Cubs won Game 5, much to the great delight of over 42-thousand delirious fans, who drifted off into the unseasonably mild night air in full confidence that, “we could still do this!”
History will show that Game 6, back on Cleveland’s home field, went to Chicago when the final runs were tallied. The nail-biting deciding Game 7 made fans of both sides anxious as it went to a 10th-inning before being decided. As the jumping, screaming and hugging ensued for Cubs fans around the globe to end a 108-year World Series Championship drought, I knew all too well exactly how they felt in Cleveland when their heartbreak happened… although for the Indians, the 48-year wait was still not even half as long as we had held our breath.
And, the World Series Celebration/Parade/Rally thrown by the City of Chicago two days later was almost too much for words. I’ll save that thrilling story and the experience of standing in front of millions to represent the Cubs with the Anthem once again for another time.