In 2003, my father became friends with Jerry Cressie, a scraggly, jagged-toothed, chain-smoking ticket broker who was also the dad of a kid at my school. Luckily, Jerry needed a little work done on his yard, and my father, who owns a landscaping business, realized that he could trade landscaping for Chicago Cubs tickets. For me, it was a business partnership made in baseball heaven, and Cressie-Asimow quickly became the Hewlett-Packard of Chicago’s North Side.
My dad and I probably went to 30 Cubs games in the summer between third and fourth grade. Jerry would come pick his daughter up from school — which was close enough to Wrigley Field that the celebratory home run cheer from the bleachers meant a pause in class — and give my dad tickets he didn’t sell. By some miracle, the Cubs had their best season since World War II in 2003, and as an impressionable eight-year-old, I quickly fell in love with the most lamentable franchise in the history of sports.
Unfortunately, a hand from the fan who shall not be named, some pitiful defense and a couple Mark Prior hangers prevented that brilliant team from breaking the century-old World Series curse. Thanks to Jerry, I was there the next night when the Cubs lost Game 7 of the National League Championship Series; I was there when they were swept out of the postseason in 2007; And I was there when they were swept out of the postseason in 2008, all for the price of a patio and a couple floral boxes. If it had been up to me, Jerry would have had an in-ground pool, too.
Those baseball memories make me cringe. They make me want to curl up in a ball and cry until I have no more tears to shed. But they are part of my childhood — neither I nor anyone else has ever loved the Cubs because they were good.
I love the Cubs because I get to ride my bike through crowds of day-drinking superfans before every game. I love the Cubs because watching games at Wrigley made me an Ivy Leaguer long before I came to Yale. And most importantly, I love the Cubs because I can urinate in a trough in any bathroom on the stadium’s main concourse.
But no one has ever gotten to urinate in a trough at the Friendly Confines during a Game 5 of the World Series. That changed on Sunday, and I was there for it.
Legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray’s famous line, “Sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs will be in the World Series,” rang out over the loudspeaker before the game began. As the reality set in that Caray’s prophecy was fulfilled this weekend, my dad and I couldn’t help but shed a tear in honor of those who never thought such a day would come.
Wayne Messmer almost lost a lung belting out the national anthem. Eddie Vedder sounded like he used that same lung to sing the seventh inning stretch. The Indians’ Jose Ramirez hit a home run to open the scoring, and a fan threw it so far back onto the field that the White Sox allegedly invited him to an open tryout. It was as though every Cubs’ tradition that was supposed to occur happened on the grandest of stages. Except for one.
They didn’t lose.
Cubs third baseman and National League Most Valuable Player frontrunner Kris Bryant emerged from his World Series slump to deliver an earthshaking home run, fireballer Aroldis Chapman pitched nearly three times his normal workload and the Cubs gutted out a victory in a must-win game to force the Series back to Cleveland.
I went to the game knowing full well I might have to watch Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred present Cleveland, which held a 3–1 series lead, with the World Series trophy. But the Cubs, in utter defiance of history and tradition, defended their home turf. As the Wrigley faithful serenaded their blue-pinstriped heroes with “Go Cubs Go,” I knew the lovable losers of my childhood were no more. And deep down, I felt that my own childhood was no more as well.
I’m 21 years old and a senior in college. The prospect of a life after Yale no longer looms large in some hazy distant future, but has set in as a harrowing reality of the present. It is scary to think that I am going to graduate college next year, and for the Cubs, it is equally scary to think that this very well could be “next year.”
Jerry was the guy who got my dad and me tickets to Sunday’s game. When we went to pick them up on Saturday, he looked exhausted. Decades of lousy Cubs seasons and thousands of even lousier Marlboro heavies had weighed on the man. My father reminded him that he gave us our tickets to see Game 7 of the NLCS in 2003.
“Dang, we are old,” he replied.
Although that game may have been 13 years ago, going to Game 5 of the World Series made me feel like I was eight again. I felt like the same neighborhood kid I was in 2003, biking over to Wrigley with my dad to watch the game and evading drunken Cubs fans along the way. The only difference was that I no longer had to stand on my tippy-toes to reach the trough.
I don’t know how I will feel if the Cubs win the World Series. It is a prospect I have always wished for but never imagined could come true. The uncertainty is what makes watching them so exciting and so nerve-wracking at the same time. It is the same uncertainty I have toward the looming challenges of adulthood.
But just as I am no longer a kid, the Cubs are no longer losers. And I think both of us are ready, if not a wee bit scared, to face what the future holds.
Noah Asimow is a senior in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .