August 8th, 2020


Cubs give Chicago a victory it needed

John Kass

By John Kass

Published Nov. 4, 2016

Cubs give Chicago a victory it needed

Think of the six words that you've never spoken before, and how they form a thread, a royal blue thread, winding through Chicago and its suburbs and beyond:

The Cubs won the World Series.

The Cubs won the World Series.

You can see it, that thread of Cubbie blue, twisting through generations upon generations of hands, the hands of Cubs fans who died heartbroken over the century of futility, and Cubs fans smiling today, that blue thread binding all the differing, sometimes warring tribes, binding them across fields of time.

They lay their hands on it, and they pull that thread with common purpose, in one common direction:


Home to Chicago.

Until that last out, until you saw the Cubs running, open-mouthed, hands up across the field, screaming, and heard your friends and family around you, there was only this: the brutal short story of every pitch.

So there was no time to acknowledge the past or peek at future glory. There was no time to think of what it means for Chicago, and I told you after the Cubs won the pennant that if this White Sox fan got into that before it was over, you could tell me to put it all in a pipe and smoke it.

But it's over now, and it's time, because the Cubs won the World Series.

Cubs fans needed this, having suffered so long, through more than 100 years of baseball misery and failure, ridicule and curses, myths, goats. Still they remained faithful, believing that someday the Cubs would win this thing.

And guess what? The Cubs did win this thing. The Cubs won the World Series.

So this year is next year, finally. And Cubs Nation can now breathe deep and perhaps wonder what it will be like from now on, with that lovable losers crutch gone forever. World champions are not lovable losers. And the Cubs are world champions.

Chicago needed this, too, needed it desperately. And now it's here, visible. You can feel it like an autumn sun against a gray Midwestern sky, slanting pale and yellow and clean over the city.

The city has seen plenty of bad news and pain, with all the shootings and all the young people dead on the streets. And what's worse is the numbness that comes from dealing with all that pain. So Chicago welcomes, finally, some pure joy.

The Cubs winning the World Series won't stop the gangs from shooting, or the mothers from weeping. It won't cleanse the politicians in magic waters and transform the corrupt into knights of virtue.

But with the "W" flag flying over the city, it allows us to hold the other stuff at bay.

So when it happened, when that final out came, what were you thinking?

Were you thinking of how this World Series fits into the arc of the city's storyline, leading Chicago out of the darkness of bad news into something so beautiful there isn't really a name for it?

If there isn't a name for it, there certainly is a face for it.

You've seen it already, even on people you don't know. Your eyes connect, and you know. Words can't touch it, but you know the look and the smile in the eyes of a stranger.

I felt it years ago when the White Sox won the Series in 2005, and now Cubs fans know it, too, that brief moment when souls, unburdened and secure, recognize each other.

It's like the smile of brothers and sisters on Christmas morning, but with Kyle Schwarber under the tree.

It's that feeling you got as a kid on a Saturday morning, when you found your friends in the park, or that hug you gave a brother or sister or wife or friend after the last out, before the Champagne started spraying.

The Cubs won the World Series. The pain is gone, Cubs fans. It's gone now.

But before you thought any big thoughts about what it all means and the royal blue thread of common belief, I bet you focused on something else. Not on the universal, but on tiny things, snips and bits of memory.

It could be a parent or grandparent now gone, taking you to that first game, and their smile when your eyes got wide at the thrill of Wrigley in June. Or a dad screaming at the Mets.

Or perhaps you might think of a sibling who's not here, a boy who may have thrown a no-hitter when he was 12, or an uncle who taught you how to keep score, all those who led you into the Cubs tribe and didn't get to see this World Series.

Autumn baseball works that way, doesn't it? There is a truth to it, because our old myths and rituals are so interwoven with baseball, especially here in Chicago, one of the old cities, with the rattle of the "L" overhead and the chill of the lakefront and the smell of that ballpark.

The first thing that grabbed my mind were two little boys. Not my sons. Like me, my sons are Sox fans. We enjoy your joy, we're happy that you're happy. But we're Sox fans, so let's not overdo this.

The two boys I'm thinking of are on a baseball diamond in the long past.

One kid's name is Peter. He's digging in at the batter's box, his steel cleats cutting into the dust of those dirt infields behind Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn. Pete calls time, grabs a handful of dirt and washes his hands with it just like Cubs great Ron Santo. For that second, he wasn't playing at being Ron Santo. He was Ron Santo.

And another kid, his name is Nick, a lefty who plays first base. He's lanky, skinny even, but when he steps to the plate, he's got something else going: those fingers. They flutter on the handle of his bat as the pitcher begins his wind up. That's no skinny kid named Nick. That's Ernie Banks.

I'm there, too, with them, taking off my catcher's mask, spitting some dust.

And I think of those boys, Pete and Nick, my little brothers, older now, grayer, Cubs fans back then and Cubs fans still and so very happy.

Cubs fans, Chicago loves you today, and so do I.