We feel you, Cubs fans. We’ve been there. A dozen years ago, those of us who grew up rooting for the Red Sox found our own euphoric fulfillment after 86 seasons of perennial disappointment.
Some disappointments along the way were more soul-crushing than others — man, we really went through some parallel stuff together in 2003, didn’t we? — but as you found out in the early morning hours of November 3, it absolutely is all worth it in the end.
What a time to be alive, huh?
All these happily hazy days later, you’ve watched the parade, shaken the initial hangover and perhaps celebrated your way through another one or two, witnessed David Ross become America’s favorite uncle, and replayed the whole thing on the DVR in your head a few dozen times, just to remind yourself that indeed it is real.
Yeah, we’ve been there. Been through the wild aftermath, too. And while that is mostly delightful, you should know it will require some patience and deft navigation at times.
So from one fan base that knows the joy of witnessing the end of decades-long championship drought to another, a gift as you embark on your new baseball existence: consider this a handy user’s guide to a satisfying post-curse life. Hey, it’s not like White Sox fans were going to help you out.
Don’t let the cynics tell you something was lost when the Cubs won. Maybe it’s more of a Boston thing, that urge to rain on even the most joyous parade. I hope it is. We were kindred spirits once, but you were always the freer spirits, enduring your down times with a raised glass while we were banging our heads against the bar. I hope that collective Midwestern sensibility prevents you from having to deal with garbage about an identity being lost in victory. Do not let them do this to you.
Sure, it’s going to be different. You won. Of course, it changes. You’ll start expecting the pivotal plot twists in the late innings to go your way; fate is no longer a more feared enemy than the opposition’s best relief pitcher. You’ve heard the last reference to that stupid billy goat. Anything and everything will seem possible now, and everything that came before November 2016 will seem like a worthwhile prologue.
Still, someone — probably a someone who found your misery rather lucrative — might try to tell you that you’ve lost something. It’s shameful and shameless, and utterly untrue in the way it’s intended.
Yeah, you did lose something all right — something you’d spent generations trying to lose. Lamenting the end of being the lovable loser is the lament of a loser. You wished for this, you got it. It’s wonderful, and you deserve it.
And if you do need something to complain about, well, the Cubs will probably lose 55 or so games next year. Good lord is your team loaded. Can Boston have Theo Epstein back now? Or Jon Lester? Hell, we’d settle for John Lackey.
There will be a hangover. Not just for you. For the players, too. It will be the best hangover any of you have ever had, but it will have an effect on next season, even if you’re aware of it. (OK, so they might lose 60 games rather than 55.)
The players are going to have opportunities beyond their belief, and if you’re skeptical of that, here are two examples, one from our experience 12 years ago, and one from yours already.
Anthony Rizzo, twerking on Saturday Night Live:
Johnny Damon, among others, appearing on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in the spring of 2005:
It’s an entirely new level of celebrity for the players, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Again, they deserve the accolades and opportunities; but it could have some impact on the new season. The offseason was already abbreviated by a long run into November, and the book deals and talk show appearances may make it seem even shorter. And be wary of the Disease of More setting in. There is plenty of credit to go around, but it may not be distributed quite the way every player might hope.
Of course, the players deserve to enjoy the spoils, so don’t hold it against them if some aftershocks intrude on the 2017 season. I promise, even when next year is underway, you’ll catch yourself daydreaming of this one again. So will they. It’s human nature after an achievement so grand.
And I recommend buying every reminder of the 2016 Cubs that appeals to you, especially the championship DVDs (and the inevitable 30 for 30 about Jason Heyward’s legendary speech during the Game 7 rain delay.)
You may not believe it now, but you will forget some of this, and not just the small moments. You’ll cherish the reminders and the jostled memories of how it all played out, especially once the years begin to pass and the anniversaries approach. Make sure you have whatever documentation and trinkets you need to spur the memories.
Remember those who came before. Savoring those personal connections forged through baseball is an organic and sentimental part of this experience, as if you need the reminder. There’s wistfulness in remembering those loved ones who adored this team, but didn’t live to see this. If the Cubs’ victory also serves as a portal to remembering long-ago good times and eternal bonds, here’s to those precious things as well.
But I’m not just talking about your family and friends here. Remember the players you rooted for in all of those personal moments. This is their victory too, their fulfillment. When the Red Sox won, it was so rewarding to see what it meant to Johnny Pesky and Jim Rice, to Yaz and El Tiante and Dewey and right on down the historical roster.
We realized then that you may stop playing for the Red Sox, but you never become an ex-Red Sox player. The team is always with you, always stitched to your identity like the name on the back of a road jersey.
It’s the same with the Cubs. This may be dedicated to the memories of Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, may they rest in peace, but it belongs also to Mark Prior and Leon Durham and the Reuschel Brothers and … well, everyone, not just everyone who cared, like Harry Caray and Steve Goodman, but every Cubbie, every ballplayer who longed to be a champion at Wrigley but could not find the way. Celebrate them again as you celebrate this.
Please stop saying Steve Bartman ought to do this or that. We heard the suggestion that Bartman, that horribly unfortunate fan who had the life-altering split-second reaction to touch a baseball half a dozen of his seatmates lunged for during a playoff game once, should throw out the first pitch a lot during the World Series.
I’m sure we’ll hear it again come Opening Day and the ring ceremony. (Which, by the way, is almost as much fun as winning the thing in the first place. Almost.) I understand why this is a popular idea. When ghosts are exorcised, we want to be able to say goodbye in person, to see them off. We also desire a clear conscience, to let scapegoats know that it’s all good now.
There’s a national perception that Bill Buckner was forgiven by Red Sox fans after the 2007 World Series title, when he returned for the ring ceremony. (He passed on the opportunity post-’04, the scars of 1986 not fully healed.)
It’s utter nonsense. Buckner returned to the Red Sox as a player in 1990 and received a huge ovation on Opening Day, one the Globe’s David Nyhan described at the time as “the most heartfelt cheer of the day, perhaps of the season, ripped from the hurting hearts of New England…”
Due in large part to Fox Sports’ tiresome emphasis on the Red Sox’ unfortunate history each October in which they were participating, the stupid narrative survived decades longer than any ill will toward Buckner. And even then, Buckner was a player, an actual participant, a public figure.
Bartman was a fan, one cruelly, conveniently scapegoated by Moises Alou, Dusty Baker, and actual Cubs who collapsed in the moment.
Leave the guy alone, OK? Sorry to go dark there. But leave him alone. He’ll come around again if he wants to. In the meantime, the only thing he should be asked for is forgiveness.
If ever Theo Epstein finds himself in organizational power struggle … take Theo’s side, no matter what. If you’re going to trust Red Sox fans on anything, my Chicago friends, trust ‘em on this.