There are a lot of people like me.
People that got it from their grandfather. Experienced it with their dad and brother. People that know the feeling of a baseball glove and the feelings that well up when the green grass and the brown dirt meet your eyes.
We get it. We’ve been there. We’ve seen it. We’ve felt it. We’ve lived it.
There are a lot of people like me.
People whose wardrobes contain lots of blue. People with stories. Oh so many stories of rising and falling and getting back up. They know the meaning behind numbers— ’69, ’84 and ’03. They know a game can make you cry and it can make you cheer.
These people are like me — Chicago Cubs fans. Now, we’re all watching our beloved team in the World Series. Some may say that, in the end, it’s just a game. On some level, maybe they’re right. Baseball is a game. But what makes being a sports fan — and especially a Chicago Cubs fan — special is the feeling of shared experience. Though our stories aren’t exactly alike, we all have stories. Many of them probably sound a little bit like this.
I remember the first time I saw Wrigley Field. It wasn’t for a game. I was in Chicago during the offseason, and my Dad took me up to see the iconic ballpark. I brushed my hand along the old brick wall. Instantly I was smitten.
It was my grandfather that had planted the seed. His name was Roger Wrigley. He always introduced himself as Mr. Chewing Gum. It was certainly a fitting name for a Cubs fan, and he passed his love of the game on to me.
Then came my first game. I was 14 years old. My dad took my brother and me over to Chicago for a Cubs/White Sox day game. I’ll never forget walking up the stairs and seeing the field for the first time. The Cubs won on a seventh inning, go-ahead triple from Angel Pagan. There was no going back. I was hooked.
Before my brother left for college, we went to a game together. The Cubs were playing the Phillies. When Evan was in high school, we did everything together. I wasn’t sure what life would be like with him 12 hours away at college. We took the train to Chicago and watched the Cubs lose in blowout fashion. We made our way downtown to walk around the city for the while. I was dejected. It was the first Cubs loss I had seen in person.
That’s when someone noticed the jersey I was wearing and told me that they had seen my favorite player just down the street. Derrek Lee. Evan and I walked over to this fancy restaurant and stood outside while I mustered up the courage to go in. Finally, I did. There he was. The tall player I had seen crush homers on TV. I had listened to Ron Santo scream in jubilee after D-Lee got a clutch hit. He was my hero. And there he was signing my jersey. Right in front of me. I’ll always cherish the fact that I shared that day with my big brother.
There he was, right in front of me. My Dad and I had driven six hours to see him play. Kris Bryant. When I heard he had been called up to the Iowa Cubs, I just had to go see him. So Dad and I hopped in the car and drove off for Des Moines. We bought two baseballs at the gift shop and headed down towards the field before the game. We saw him on the field, along with fellow uber-prospect, Javier Baez. After a little while, they both came over. I held out a ball and a pen to both of them. They signed them with a smile and handed them back to me. They spent a long time signing autographs and interacting with fans. I couldn’t wait until they were playing at Wrigley.
A few months later, I was sitting in the bleachers next to a pretty girl named Sarah. She asked me to go grab some food. On my way back from concessions, the visiting team was taking BP. I heard the crack of the bat and saw a ball flying towards me. It landed right at my feet. Without dropping the food, I reached down and grabbed it. For all the games I had been to, I had never gotten a ball. It was batting practice, so I didn’t have to throw it back. I showed it to Sarah as I got back to my seat. An official baseball. She had a big smile on her face. It was a pretty good date.
I was having a hard time waiting. I was so nervous. I knew where I wanted to go. It was there on Sheffield Avenue that she had told me that she’d say yes if I asked her to marry me. Back then I wasn’t sure. Hearing those words had made me nervous. Now I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to get them out right. We walked down Sheffield, passing Wrigleyville apartments as we went. My mind was racing. I couldn’t remember the exact spot where she had said that to me. What if I stumble over my words? Finally, it was time. I asked Sarah to stop for a second. She smiled at me as I got down on one knee. I pulled the ring out of my coat pocket and asker her to marry me. She said yes.
Now I see my team on the biggest stage. We’ve all waited so long for this. Some may say it’s just a game. But to us it’s so much more than that. It’s not even about curses or championships. Of course we want to win it. It’s been a long time.
But it goes deeper than numbers on a scoreboard — no matter how majestic that scoreboard may look in the lakeside twilight. The power of being a fan is in shared experience. For Cubs fans, that shared experience is strikingly unique.
It’s about knowing that you‘re not the only one hanging on every pitch. That you’re not the only one whose heart races at the sight of that red marquee. That there are others with a “W” flag hanging from their apartment balcony. Other people routinely check their spot on the season ticket wait list. You’re not the only one who daydreams about the moment when it finally happens.
There are others like you. You’re not alone.
As I watch the games on TV, part of me wishes I could be there. But I have a smile on my face as I see the camera focus in on faces in the crowd. I imagine what they must be feeling. I’m happy for them. Because those people are just like me.
A Chicago Cubs fan.