One week ago, I landed in Chicago, 12 hours after booking the flight. For my whole life, my father and I had agreed that, whenever the Cubs had three wins in the World Series, we would go to Wrigley Field and watch the deciding game, regardless of where the game was played. Now, after over 20 years of waiting, it was time to go home.
Many people didn’t understand. How could I put my entire life on hold to leave in the middle of the week to go watch a baseball game? It’s just baseball, after all.
Except this was about so much more than a game. Chicago is my home, and the Cubs are a symbol for all that I love about where I come from. From watching games with my dad to following the statistics and logistics of the team to wearing hats and t-shirts, the Cubs have always been a huge part of who I am and what I do.
Landing in Chicago, you could feel the excitement from every direction. Every person was wearing Cubbie blue, every conversation centered around the game. It felt like an entire city was holding its collective breath.
For the game, my dad and I found a bar a block away from Wrigley. Surrounded by wall-to-wall Cubs fans, we watched the most important game of our lives unfold. We screamed ourselves hoarse with every run scored, cheered for every out. When the Indians came back in the 8th, you could feel the air sucked out of the room.
The rain delay was almost too much to bear. I had come so far, lost so much sleep, invested so much time. I couldn’t even imagine that they could possibly lose.
And then the 10th inning happened. A rally gave the Cubs the lead and they never looked back.
When Kris Bryant threw the last out to Anthony Rizzo, it felt like the entire world exploded. Champagne was sprayed everywhere, the crowd was out of their minds. The thing I remember most, though, was hugging my dad. What we had waited for, talked about, and obsessed over was finally true. We had finally won the World Series. And, just like we had planned, I was right there, outside of the stadium, with my dad.
High fives flowed freely. Hugs were given to strangers I had never met and would never know. The streets were filled with the singing of “Go Cubs Go” over and over again, my ears ringing from the singing and from the roar of the crowd over and over again. It seemed that, every few minutes, the crowd would realize all over again that the Cubs had done it, that our wait was over. The city was ready to celebrate.
The next 72 hours were absolute pandemonium. We spent hours downtown Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, celebrating with thousands of other Cubs fans overjoyed by the end of the curse. Thursday, everyone was running on the high of a victory, and the mall was filled with fans buying championship hats and t-shirts. On Friday, I joined 5 million of my closest friends at Grant Park to see the young men who had brought this kind of joy and excitement to the city I loved so much.
I started this season in Israel. I woke up almost every morning early to watch games at 3, 4, 5 o’clock in the morning. I followed every at-bat, every pitch. When I got home, I spent more days outside of Chicago than I spent in it, but my Cubs were always on the radio or on my phone. It was a constant reminder that, no matter where in the world I went, I would always have my team. For the month of October, my entire life was centered around being there to watch my team. (My fiancé was held hostage as well…)
Baseball is about far more than simply a sport to me. It is a huge part of who I am, and a connection between me and millions of other fans around the world. Like a fraternity for the city of Chicago, the Cubs are a bonding force that has been at the center of my identity for so long.
Some have asked if the Cubs will still be loved by their fans if they are no longer the Lovable Losers. Clearly, those people don’t know anything about my city. For the rest of my life, when I think about the Cubs, I’ll think about Anthony Rizzo and Wrigley Field, sure. But I’ll be thinking about memories with my dad that I’ll never forget, bonding with my city in a way that I couldn’t even fathom. I’ll remember what it was like to experience pure joy at a time when it is so hard to find. And I’ll think about a team that was there for me no matter where in the world I found myself.