As the Cubs and their families, along with a smattering of celebrity hangers-on, milled around Wrigley field in their new shirts and hats, I felt like I needed to light a cigarette. Or, in keeping with John Cusack’s presence, I could have pulled an e-cig from my breast pocket and vaped to my heart’s content.
Absent any nicotine products, I cracked a beer and enjoyed the revelry unfolding before me in all its high-definition technicolor glory. The Cubs had cliched a playoff series. At Wrigley. Against the Cardinals. Was this real? Despite some Cards fans’ efforts to transfer title authority to the regular season, their team was indeed going home, and not to play Game 5.
I’m still processing all of it right now as I fly over the Nevada desert. The Cubs won and they did it in in historic fashion. Home run balls rained down. Champagne rained down. The Cardinals reign downed. And in the middle of it all was a group of youngsters, some of whom were either unexpected or just plain written off. Kyle Schwarber wasn’t supposed to be here, might not have been had Javy Baez not broken a finger back in June.
Yet there they were, each launching an impressive home run to right field to send the Cubs to the next round. The #JavyBomb was a feat of speed and strength as he took an outside fastball from John Lackey and absolutely roped it to the opposite field. This was no wind-aided bloop. It had more stank on it than the rats Lackey evicted from his hovel earlier that morning.
The homer gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead and restored the confidence that had been piddled away after Jason Hammel gave up 2 runs on 4 pitches to open the game. But things were tight again when Khal Schwarber came to the plate in the 7th and deja vu-ed a world-mounting moonshot onto the right field video board. Word is coming down that the Cubs have indeed verified the ball on top of the board as Schwarber’s and they’ve said they’re going to leave it up there. I don’t care how much class and playing-the-game-the-right-way-ness, seeing something like that happen to your team has got to be deflating.
Patrick Flippin’ Hughes, y’all.
But as the crowd’s collective jaw dropped into an O-face, the stocky slugger simply flipped his bat down and entered his trot. It was almost as though he was annoyed by being made to run the bases, like he was a beer-league softball slugger who hits one out every at-bat. That’s not far from the truth in this postseason either, as his 3 #Schwarbombs already represent a Cubs rookie record.
At virtually no point have I been nervous or anxious about this team, and much of that stems from the confidence and talent these young guys exude. It feels as though we’re watching a Little League team out there and you can’t help but smile as you see these guys enjoying the moment. This is less a victory march than a parade, with the Cubs throwing candy from their float to those of us lining the curb. I can only imagine the scene should an actual parade ensue.
As the final strike was called and the Cubs rushed the field Tuesday night, I scooped my son — Ryne — into my arms as we screamed. He asked if he could hold up the W flag and I happily agreed, allowing the thin rectangle of fabric to span a generation. This was what I’ve been waiting for. And then I sat and watched the proceedings with my family, enjoying the various highlights and soundbites for the next 90 minutes.
My friend (I think he’d be okay with me calling him that) Matt Spiegel had a fantastic firsthand account of his day and night at Wrigley as he witnessed the events of the first-ever playoff-series-clinching victory at Clark and Addison. I know Matt’s had some interesting interactions with fans, not all of which have reinforced his faith in humanity, so I have to think Tuesday provided quite a bit of salve for the soul.
But it’s not just the local guys who have recognized how special this little run has been and could be. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post had quotes galore in his piece on the win and how it may well mark the start of something much bigger. And then Yahoo’s Jeff Passan wrote that the Cubs could be the team to reclaim October in the name of baseball. Not the Blue Jays, not the Dodgers, not the Mets. The Cubs. Better go ahead and put new whitewalls on the bandwagon. Top off the fluids while you’re at it, cause this thing ain’t slowing down anytime soon. All gas, no breaks at this point.
Now, I said earlier that I was yelling at home. I wasn’t the only one making noise though, as we can see in this Facebook video from Wrigleyville resident Will Cohen. Wow. A mile away. As I finish this I’m now sitting near my gate in the San Francisco airport and I’m ready for vacation. I can’t think of a more fitting way to head into a few much-needed days off than a Cubs win like what I just witnessed, as even the 9 hours of flying dealing with 34 rows of people deplaning in front of me has left me unfazed. I’m still basking in the afterglow and loving it. I think this is something I can get used to.