Cubs Break Out the Bubbly After Clinching Playoff Berth

If you can’t find it at Binny’s, it’s probably not worth drinking…or spraying all over your teammates, coaches, team executives, national and local reporters, and the fans who stuck around to watch the party. Good thing the Cubs have an official champagne provider now, huh?

Be honest though, you thought it was presumptuous for the Cubs to encourage/allow Binny’s Beverage Depot to label themselves as such. And they even went so far as to have Joe Maddon pimp the liquor store chain in a series of ads, one of which featured him popping a cork and spraying that sweet sign of victory all over the set. I thought it was borderline ballsy, but I also dug the confidence it illustrated.

From the moment he arrived on the scene, Maddon brought with him the personality and attitude that his Cubs team has displayed this season. That’s not really fair though. It’s not so much that the players have aped their manager as it has been the manager allowing the players to be themselves. Maddon established parameters and allowed the young men in his charge free rein to take advantage, which resulted in esoteric gestures, phrases, and crazy outfits for themed road trips.

It also resulted in the team’s first trip to the postseason in seven years. Admittedly, I felt a little conflicted when I first saw the Cubs celebrating after a Giants’ loss 15 or so hours earlier had punched their ticket despite three straight losses of their own. That was purely my personal belief though, and not one directed at the players’ enjoyment of their accomplishments. But as I saw the photos and videos of the unfettered joy — and perhaps a fair bit of relief for some of the parties — on display in the clubhouse and on the field, I came around.

Many, however, were a bit less permissive of this young team’s ability to celebrate after backing into a spot. Some were downright critical, if not derogatory. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Mark Lazerus. I know, weird that a Sun-Times writer would want the Cubs to get off his lawn. Still, I can’t help but laugh at the irony of a man with that name saying what he did about a franchise that has resurrected itself. To add to the juxtaposition of my narrative, I’m actually drinking a beer called Permanent Funeral as I write this.

If you’re feeling particularly froggy, you can hop online and see what the fans in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco are saying about the Cubs having fun in the wake of his afternoon’s loss. Heck, I woke up to a Twitter timeline filled with Giants fans after retweeting some (purportedly sarcastic) stuff from one of their beat guys. I just hope there are enough bottles of booze left over to douse all the flames from the hot takes being fired off right now. But you know what’s great? The Cubs don’t care.

You know what else? That pisses people off. I was not aware until very recently that Joe Maddon is not a universally beloved guy. Even before he made the move to Chicago, I had always liked and respected him as both a manager and a personality. I guess opposing AL East fans didn’t feel the same way. And now that the Cubs are getting better and the bespectacled skipper is speaking openly and defying the unwritten rules of the game, NL Central fans are starting to get a bit irritated as well. Good. I love it.

You know what else I love? Seeing Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the architects of this turnaround, out there on the field soaked in suds and smiling like they’d already consumed a bit of it. And even if they had, I’m the last person on Earth who would blame them. It’s easy as a fan or an outside observer to see the path the Cubs have taken and to assume that the brass has been completely objective about it, but that’s simply not the case. These are competitive men who hate to lose but have been forced to do so in pursuit of something greater. Theirs was the relief I wrote of earlier.

I’m pretty sure the beat writers were pretty happy too, and not only because they finally got the free drinks they’d been promised months ago when Maddon took over. Drunk on the intoxicating mix of pageviews, clicks, and favorites, various scribes circled the festivities to provide real-time accounts of the party. In all seriousness, it was pretty great to have live pictures and videos from a variety of sources. If only Jesse Rogers understood that you need to keep your phone vertical when using Vine.

It doesn’t matter that a Giants loss got them in. It doesn’t matter that the Pirates and Cardinals have more wins. It doesn’t matter that the Cubs last won a World Series 107 years ago. There have been plenty of people will to die on those hills, but I don’t think George Custer is reading this so I’ll let it go. I’m not happy about not clinching with a win, but I’m really proud of what I’ve seen from the men who ply their trade at 1060 W. Addison Street this season. I’m proud because they weren’t supposed to be this good this soon. I’m proud because they’ve made many of us remember why we were fans in the first place.

It’s not just about this year, either. The celebration on Saturday as much about an arrival on the scene, a long passage through what can best be described as baseball hell. The Cubs were Andy Dufresne after finally reaching the end of that Shawshank sewage drain, free but with a great deal of life ahead of them. The future is bright, but that’s no reason to look past the present. Enjoy it, folks. You’ve earned it.

I’m biased (or buyest, depending on your grasp of the English language), but I just can’t help but smile when seeing this stuff. Even Rogers’ sideways shot of Castro and Rizzo embracing in the midst of anarchy is beautiful. Good stuff, bring on the Wild Card.

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