I don’t care about sports. I never have. Up until four days ago, I was saying things like “What’s that one pitcher’s name again? Arrabiata?”
It’s not that I ever actively disliked the Cubs. I just didn’t care enough about baseball, or sports in general, to be actively engaged. I’m a relatively newer Chicagoan (having moved here about two years ago) and the most I felt after a game win was Yay, I’m happy that my friends are happy.
But little by little, the fans in this city have won me over. Because of their pure joy. And their love for this team that they’ve followed since childhood. And their complete confidence and appreciation for every player, during the good seasons and during the bad ones. Their stories of how happy their Grandpa would be to know they made it to the World Series, or how they just know their Grandma is cracking a beer open in heaven right now, toasting to her favorite team.
I started paying attention. I couldn’t help it. Going to watch playoff games (is ‘playoff’ the right word here?) at the Wrigleyville bars with my friends. Learning the players’ names. Googling the score to the latest game if I was unable to watch it. There was no pressure to ‘fit in,’ or to pretend to suddenly be a Cubs fan just so people wouldn’t punch you in the face. But the spirit that has emerged in this city in the last few weeks – the one that’s always been there but that suddenly became so much more noticeable to a clueless Cubs neophyte like me – is just too great not to appreciate. The excitement, the joy, the breath of relief after 108 years – it’s infectious, irresistible, ten times as heartening as you think it would be.
And the best part? No one made me feel weird or silly or fair-weather for hopping on the bandwagon. They were just happy to see you get excited about something that they’ve loved so dearly for so long. No one stops you on the street while you’re wearing a Cubs hat to ask how long you’ve been a fan, or if you can name five players on the team. They’re just smiling at you, unable to stop grinning, once in a while taking a moment to pull out their headphones and meet your eyes and yell “Go Cubbies!” like one woman did to me at 11 o’clock in the morning yesterday as we passed each other on the sidewalk.
Today I watched the victory parade with a friend, borrowing my roommate’s Cubs hat and throwing on a generic blue shirt. And instead of feeling like an out-of-place transplant, I felt like I could just relax, breathe it all in, and enjoy it from the literal and metaphorical sidelines. There were dogs with Cubs handkerchiefs excitedly sniffing around all the people, a newborn snuggling to his mother’s chest with no idea he was seeing history, and people who were happily striking up conversations left and right with strangers while we waited for Chicago’s favorite players to drive by in a double-decker bus. A cop was running up and down the street, rallying the people waiting behind the gates, getting them to cheer and shout and do the wave.
And eventually, they came. There was
Arrabiata Arrieta and Rizzo, and Baez and Bryant, smiling and waving at the people around me who were cheering and crying and oozing with pure happiness. I had instant chills, I’m sure everyone did. And even though I witnessed this entire thing from the bandwagon, I don’t care. I got to watch this city experience something its been waiting for for 108 years, and the joy is absolutely contagious, no matter where you’re standing.