Forest’s Fast Take
Issue   |   Thu, 11/10/2016 - 23:48

Ever felt like you’re so close yet so far away? Sort of like the Val line on buff chick wrap day. You know there’s that glorious breaded chicken rolled into a cozy tortilla snuggie waiting only for your consumption. Patiently you wait — sometimes all by yourself with no conversation to distract you from the long wait. Finally, you round the bend. The wraps are in your line of sight, but hordes of people still stand in your way. Then, at long last, you stand at the front of the line. But, to your horror, and everyone that cares about you, Val dropped the ball and ran out of buffalo chicken strips. Gutted, you wish this feeling on nobody else, not even your worst enemy. However, there’s a whole nation of people who have watched the chicken slip out of reach for the last 108 years.

For 108 painstakingly long years, generations of Cubs’ fans watched their team wait through 162 game seasons just to get their foot in the door to the playoffs. As they rounded the corner to the final stages, the World Series was in sight, but each and every year, someone else took it from them. At the front of the line, Cubs nation stood with their heads down, their hearts broken and their hands empty.

Until Wednesday night.

For the first time in over a century, the Cubs said, “enough is enough” and muscled through to grab their rightful wrap. Yes, the Cubs brought a World Series title to North Chicago for the first time since when Teddy Roosevelt was in the Oval Office, when the Ottoman Empire was still doing its thing and when World War I wasn’t even a thought yet.
For a long time in America, baseball was the only sport that mattered. The AFL merged with the NFL in the late 70’s, the NBA wasn’t even formed until halfway through the 1900s and hockey has always struggled to get the ratings of the other big four sports. This makes it tough for us, all 90’s kids and millenials, to fully understand what this victory really means to Cubbies worldwide.

Before I dive into what a World Series truly means to Cubs fans, it’s important to note how amazing the World Series itself was. Through four games, the Cubs were down three to one. Things looked pretty bleak. Memories of ’84, ’03 and many more, where the Cubs looked like they had what it took to win it all but inevitably fell short, permeated Cubs nation. They managed to take game five, but faced a tall order in winning two consecutive games in Cleveland. The bats were hot and the pitching cool in game six, comfortably forcing a decisive game seven the next night. All of America would be watching. The fans knew this; the players knew it, too.

All the same, the sun came up the next morning and faded behind the Cleveland skyline until all that lit Progressive Field were the towering stadium lights and the energy of a nation. If there were any nerves in the building, Dexter Fowler wasn’t going to let anyone know about it. As the leadoff hitter, he took the fourth pitch of the game over the fence for a homerun. Chills of destiny ran up the spines of all baseball-followers, regardless of affiliation.

However, the Indians were also dealing with a World Series drought, one of 68 years, and weren’t simply going to put the championship rings on Cubs’ fingers. They evened the score in the third. Game on. Runs traded back and forth over the next few innings, but the Cubs found themselves on top 6-3 in the eighth inning. I’d bet the stadium’s celebration crew was already beginning to ready the visitors’ locker room for postgame festivities, but the unthinkable happened. 108 years of treading on the edge of winning it all likely led everyone to have lingering suspicions that they would fall off the precipice towards defeat. “Six outs. That’s it.”

Easier said than done. Hard-throwing Aroldis Chapman took over for the invincible Jon Lester, who had walked the leadoff man to first base. Manager Joe Maddon made a couple of questionable changes, and this would prove to be the most significant: Chapman immediately allowed for a seeing eye double to bring the Indians to only two runs away from the lead. Cubs fans were apprehensive, but they still only needed one hand’s fingers-worth of outs before they could cast the curse aside.
Then the Indians were rocked. Rajai Davis stepped to the plate, a sturdy man with forearms as big as most legs. However, his bat speed had no chance at keeping up with Chapman’s three-digit speed pitching, so he choked up on his bat, much like a nervous fourth grader playing against the “big kids.” To the delight of the home faithful and the utter horror of traveling Cubbies, Davis stuck out a strong forearmed swing and sent the mach-five fastball out of the park at an even higher speed and incredible distance. It’s a tie game.

Past nightmares began to flash in front of Cub faithful’s eyes, blocking out all of the other senses. The same chills that tickled the spines of Cubbies anticipating victory returned with a cruel unforgiving notion of a familiar fate. However, the tension in the building was relieved by a divine storm that swept in and forced the tarps out and the players in. Nerves were settled, heart rates came back to resting and the game continued. To extras we go.

No later than the 10th inning, just as the rain subsided, the floodgates opened for Chicago. Cubs bats brought the consistent contact that won so many games this season. Ben Zobrist, the series MVP, and Miguel Montero drove in a pair of runs to put the Cubs up eight to six. Three outs. That’s it.

The Indians, however, have been a nuisance for teams in October, always finding runs when they need them most. Sure enough, they drove in a run with two outs still in the bank. This wasn’t enough. The long years of wait, the near bids at glory, both came to a swelling head as the last out was recorded. The Chicago Cubs won one of the best Game Sevens in MLB history.