There is a small sense somewhere deep inside the cynical mind that this Cubs team was built as a juggernaut, unlike many past Cubs teams built on a hope and a prayer and devoid of real talent at so many positions-including manager.
Joe Maddon is from Pennsylvania and earned things the very hard way, 30-years plus in the Angels organization as a coach. Theo Epstein is a Boston native, and a Yale graduate. Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts is an Omaha, Nebraska native but attended college at the University of Chicago.
There’s an outside nature to the men who brought and steered the Cubs to the World Series victory Wednesday night in Cleveland, but none the less, the Cubs classic blue and red identity is still the same, the immortal Wrigley field still looks basically the same after over 100 years of existence. The Cubs needed outside help when the Tribune Company put the team up for sale and a savior with deep pockets came along and saw a cash cow, not a billy goat.
And so the Cubs of the lovable losers days are gone. The ‘hay day’ in the 1980’s with teams just good enough or simply really bad, where you could have a beer and a hotdog and lose the game and still have a great day, are gone. Gone is Harry Carry shirtless in the bleachers drinking a Budweiser. Gone is Ron Santo. Gone is Ernie Banks. Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson are guests of the team. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, the list goes on and on, heroes of the World Series. A roster chocked so full of talent you can’t really say one is a bigger star than the other. Now you have a beer and a hotdog, pay a lot for a ticket and the Cubs very likely will win. And win for the foreseeable future.
But the fans haven’t changed. The Cubs fans are still there. Some may have taken a backseat here or there in their devotion but we all stumble many times and show a lack of faith. When the door to the promised land opened, millions of Cubs faithful lined up.
Bill Murray, who notably has been a Cubs fan for way back, 30 years or more, and he said it best, “I hope we can be as lovable winning as we were losing” as he drank champagne still in shock that it had actually happened. Dreams do come true he said.
Was it the greatest baseball game ever played? Probably not. There have been so many baseball games played and the definition of greatness varies depending on the emotional investment of the participants and on-lookers.
The measure of a sporting event, more often than not involves the broad appeal to the general public. Whether it be a cinderella, the most famous athletes, a spectacle, we judge my mass appeal. The greatest game could happen in a little league game somewhere in Idaho, but it doesn’t mean anything beyond those onlookers and participants in Idaho.
Was Game 7 and the Cubs win the best game and the most exciting with the most at stake in the modern sport? Yes. I’ll leave the pre-1960’s teams out of it-the comparison isn’t fair and there aren’t enough still alive to be able to compare the two in amicable fashion. The only real comparison might be the late 90’s early turn of the century Yankees teams. When Boston started winning again it was big. The Mets in 1986. The only real comparison might be the late 90’s early turn of the century Yankees teams. When Boston started winning again it was big. The Mets in 1986 was big. The Big Red Machine of the 70s was big. But within the scope of the 21st century, a different time, with may more distractions and heartaches, and an influx of huge money into the game, it’s hard to argue that Wednesday night’s game wasn’t the biggest of the modern baseball era. Fox Sports reports that over 40 million people tuned in. That sort of stuff doesn’t happen anymore for a baseball game. America doesn’t just gather around the TV set in unison, for something unless it’s really big anymore, there are way too many entertainment options, but they did Wednesday night.
And so the Cubs get to enjoy this, they really get to enjoy this for five months. Bask in the limelight and the fun starts all over again, fresh with new hopes and new dreams and high expectations next April on the north side of Chicago.
The Cubs are a critical, commercial and emotional success. The Cubs are the kings of the sports world, at least for now.