Like most of you, I've spent every hour since November 2 drifting on a sea of endorphins - with only some of that coming from monstrous beer intake. The Cubs did it! They won the World Series and we all got to partake in that joy. The parade! The high fives to strangers! The buying of really expensive championship shit! We never doubted, right?
Nah, man. Of course we did. When you're carrying around a black cat, an Alex Gonzalez, and a glove-spiking Ted Lilly in your head, you're either managing a constant fluctuating level of anxiety or you're a paste-eating moron irresponsibly wielding a pair of safety scissors. That's not automatic doubt per se, but it does set the table for it pretty nicely. Because in the back of your mind, you remember bad things can happen fast:
For me, Game 4 was like a kick to the spine. My Cubs fandom is such that I don't feel the need to defend it to internet strangers, but my TV was off before Kipnis's homer off of Wood landed in the right field bleachers. I didn't know Fowler had hit a homer until the next day. Sometimes you have to sulk so you don't become an unbearable asshole to the people you love.
Anyhow, THIS version of the Cubs restored brittle hope, and two wins later, there was no turning away from emotions (or alcohol) during the biggest game of our lifetimes. Just me, fellow bartenders Rich and White Chili, a handful of friends and ladyfriends, and a Chicago bar chock-full of anxious boozers.
As the game wore on, we were on edge, then overjoyed, then nervous, then despondent, then hopeful, then nervous, then ecstatic. And just after the last of the bar-provided cheap champagne ran dry, and we'd all gone Tom Waits hoarse sing-yelling Steve Goodman and Queen songs, I realized that doubt is as natural a reaction as joy, whiskey-rage, and every baseball emotion in between.
Even my wife, who yelled at me for pulling up stakes during that awful 2008 NLDS, gave me a furtive glance as they pulled out the tarp that we both knew to mean "fuuuuudge. Uh ... home?" But we stayed at the bar, and it wasn't really ever in question. Later she said "I thought that was the end of it. I was ready to go home, because they were going to lose." Which, if anything, is less bleak a picture than the bar-turned-funeral-parlor felt immediately following 6-6.
Anyway, the point is I doubted, and I'm open about it. I doubted a little when we lost in extras against the Giants. I doubted a little more when Old Rich Hill shut out our offense with his one pitch. I tore myself into emotional ribbons for almost the entirety of the World Series, which is not the act of a confident man. For a brief dark glimmer, I thought we'd never regain the lead after Davis stuck a fork into Chapman. To have these thoughts is natural, to give in to them totally is counterproductive, and to deny them is just the weirdest thing. If you were 100 percent confident the whole time, then I imagine I had a lot more fun than you did.
You know who else had fun? Our team of degenerate bartenders. Let's hear from them on the topic.
Bartenders of Thunder Matt's Saloon - did you ever doubt during the playoffs?
Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan
Well the NLDS was rife with doubt. It was looking all too familiar. I went to bed before that loss in extra innings to the Giants ended. Then we're down 5-2 in Game 4 to them and it just looks like shit again. When they reached the bottom of the 8th I recall saying that if the Giants tacked any more runs on then I was shutting it off for the night.
But they didn't! And then the 9th happened. It was glorious and a reminder of the magic moments this team had in the 2015 playoffs. I was reminded that this wasn't the Cubs of old any more.
The NLCS was a lot more laid back. I was stressed for sure after the two shutout games but looking back at that Game 4 win I reminded myself these guys are never done until that final out is recorded.
Fast forward to the World Series and we go down 3 games to 1. The morning after I was at my friend Mark's house and we were trying to muster up some enthusiasm. Again I went back and thought, this team doesn't know how to quit. They've given no fucks from one day to the next and literally take no shit from anybody.
No fucks given, no shit taken. That was my own personal rallying cry for them the rest of the way and as dumb and crude as that sounds it helped. [Editor's Note: I thought the phrase "Give no Fucks, Take no Shits" at least 80 times during the next 3 games]
Until it was tied 6-6 in Game 7. Doubt started creeping in again.
Watching the offense in the top of the 9th I thought, "Well shit, maybe they've finally reverted back." By a miracle Chapman gets through that bottom of the 9th and the Cubs offense manages to pull it out.
Looking back I feel dumb for doubting them at times but I think being a Cubs fan over the past decade and a half has left us keeping our guard up a lot.
I don't think I ever did doubt. But I really didn't like a few of the positions we were in.
I think that actually being at Game 5 helped, because all the atmosphere of actually being at a World Series game forced me to still be positive. I didn't want to bum myself out, If we would have fallen behind in game 7, especially after that lead we had, I think I would have crumbled.
After the Cubs came back to beat the Mariners in the Brian Matusz Trade Deadline Audition From Hell game, I knew to never count this team out. And with the game tied 6-6 in the 8th inning, all I could think of "Which of these lineups do I trust to score 1 run before the other" and that was a super easy question to answer.
I doubted plenty during the playoffs. The crushing weight of history did it. I panicked during the San Francisco series until that ninth-inning rally. I panicked again after Kershaw and Hill's back-to-back wins. I panicked again after losing two of three at home in the World Series.
Every time, I pledged a renewed faith in the superior quality of this team and that they would eventually do what they had done all fucking season long.
Some friends in L.A. were getting married and wanted me at their wedding, so they flew me out there. Their wedding was on October 28 (Game 3 of the World Series). Before they booked the flights in late September, I told them that the flight to L.A. had to land before 5 p.m. Pacific time and the return flight had to be on October 29 (Game 4) and land before 7 p.m. Central, because I was damn sure the Cubs would be in the World Series and I wasn't about to be in L.A. for a potential clinching game.
How's that for confidence?
They complied with the second part of my request, but I watched part of Game 1 of the World Series on my phone with Southwest's bizarre TV app. As for doubts? Oh, I had them. Not too many during the NLDS or NLCS, but that World Series ...
After Game 2, the series was tied 1-1. Then, out of the blue, my uncle died and my mom was hospitalized. Those two things are unrelated. They weren't in the same car or anything. Just crazy coincidences. I'm 2,000 miles away from Chicago, these people are having a weird sunset wedding during Game 3 of the World Series, my mom is in the hospital and her brother is dead. The Cubs lost Game 3.
I flew back to Chicago in time to see them lose Game 4. As you can imagine, I wasn't really feeling terribly positive at this point. My mom was released in time for Game 5 and the Cubs managed to hold on and win it. But I still thought we'd lose it in six games.
Game 6 was the day of my uncle's memorial service. At the service, all people could talk about was the World Series. My 68 year old uncle died out of the blue, and people were leaving his memorial service early so they could get home and watch the game. We know our priorities in my family. The Cubs won game 6.
I was surprisingly confident going into Game 7. The entire playoffs seemed like Cubs vs. Unstoppable Juggernaut Pitcher Who Had Their Number, yet the Cubs would always find a way to prevail. I think I experienced the entire spectrum of human emotions during Game 7. I didn't have many doubts (why would I? We were winning!) until the 8th inning. The Indians tied it, and somebody had obviously used the Dusty Baker mind-swap ray on Joe Maddon, who began making moves that make no fucking sense ... it felt like all the bullshit talk of curses might have some merit after all. Hell, even up a run in the bottom of the 10th with two outs, I remember thinking, "Fuck. The Indians can still win this thing on the very next pitch." They didn't. We did.
Someday, when my illegitimate child tracks me down and introduces me to my grandchildren, I'll recap the 2016 Cubs World Series to them. In that version, I will have never had a single doubt about the outcome. But, come on. Anyone who claims they were confident that the Cubs would win this when they were down 3 games to 1 is completely full of shit.
The question of whether or not I let doubt quietly creep into my mind during the Cubs’ historic Championship run implies I otherwise maintained an overwhelming confidence, ripe to be wavered.
Instead, my general state during those 27 days was more like that of an abused shelter dog in a new loving home. They kept offering me a toy. It was so close. Jesus, I could SMELL it! But I knew the moment I finally let my guard down and went to seize that ball, a size 14 would come out of nowhere and knock me into yesterday.
So instead, I spent most of that time - including a few hours at Wrigley during game three of the Series - trying to find the most effective combination of beer, whiskey and pretzels to give myself an ulcer. (I still have the recipe if any of you good people are searching for any last-minute ideas for Thanksgiving!)
Sure, there were moments when I screamed and threw up my hands - like when we rallied in the 9th to put away the Giants or when Dexter led off game seven with a moon shot. But there were an equal number of times, capped off by Rajai Davis’ home run, when it felt like that boot was winding up like it had so many, many times before. It wasn’t until Zobrist slapped that ball into left field during the 10th inning that I caught myself letting out a genuine little smile and said “Holy shit this might actually happen.”
It's weird, but no. Was I nervous? Yep. Nervous enough that I couldn't even watch some of the games, especially once they hit the NLCS. They lost those games to Kershaw and Hill without scoring a run, but I just didn't believe that the offense would go cold for a whole series.
Then when they hit the World Series and Kluber, I didn't think they'd tank 3 games against the same pitcher. As soon as they won that last game in Wrigley, I knew the series would go all 7 games. I wasn't sure the Cubs would win, but I knew they weren't going down in 6. Either they'd win or come so achingly close it would break our hearts. And they almost did lose that way. But this team wasn't the 2003 Cubs, or the 2007, or 2008 Cubs. Jason frigging Heyward said "We got this" and it turns out they did.
Two periods of time I suppose. The first is more of a fuzzy feeling of dread after the Rich Hill game. I don't remember it much, because it only lasted one night.
Then around the 7th inning in game 4 of the World Series. Walking around Wrigleyville with Rich, trying to soak in the old, familiar lonely feelings. Then I went back to his place and ate a bowl of chili and passed out. So again, it didn't last long. Even that Sunday morning, it was "Well, if Lester can get it done tonight we go to Cleveland with Schwarbs." So I never had a two or three day binge of dread and hopelessness.
I definitely had doubts once it got to 3-1. I was definitely hopeful that the Cubs could still win it, but the odds seemed really insurmountable, considering how the Cubs had hit in games 1, 3, and 4. I certainly had my frustrations and I even quit watching game 4 before the Kipnis home run.
(I couldn't take the stress anymore...I watched Stardust on Blu-ray and got really drunk. I know Stardust is an odd choice, but for some reason that movie always makes me happy.)
Still, I never gave up hope. Shit, I was supremely doubtful when Maddon sent Chapman back out for the bottom of the 9th in Game 7, considering who was coming to bat. However, I wore myself out, bouncing all around my basement, watching every pitch in terror, hoping for the best to happen.
Fun story: During the rain delay, I told my wife (she sat through all of Game 7 with me - bless her heart) that the Cubs were going to score 2 runs in the top of the 10th. This is proof of my unwavering hope. During Game 6, she promised me that she would do a shot of tequila with me to start Game 7 if the Cubs would go on to win (she didn't stay up for the end of Game 6). She had a hard time getting our daughter to bed before Game 7 and then didn't feel so great, so I ended up doing the tequila shot on my own after the bottom of the third inning. The Cubs then went to score 2 runs. So I ended up doing 3 more tequila shots and every time I did, the Cubs scored. I don't even believe in that shit, but it's still bonkers.
Sorry this is such a long, continuous rant. Bless your heart and Bless "Basehit" Ben Zobrist.
Honestly, the only time any sort of doubt crept in the entire series was immediately following the Rajai Davis home run in Game 7. Like a Nam flashback, it was like, "Oh shit, so this is it, huh? The 'Bartman moment' that will get played over and over for years until our souls turn to dust." But then we made it through the 9th, and after the rain delay something clicked emotionally (maybe it was the fact that they played some lively music at the bar during the delay that stirred the loins), where I was like, "Nah fuck it, this team is different. This just happened to make it all the more sweet." As sweet tasting as the 8 Old Style tallboys I'd consumed to that point.
It was the same feeling of confidence (not cockiness) that I had when we went down 3-1. I still knew I was going be in Chicago to watch Game 7. I had no doubts. And when that 9th Old Style tallboy was poured on my head after the last out, victory (and Old Style) never tasted sweeter.
[This post shockingly NOT brought to you by Old Style]
Did I ever doubt? Am I a Cubs fan? Of course I doubted.
I know (from watching others teams over the years) that the playoffs are an entire different type of season - things don't generally happen the way they do in the post season. Especially in a short series, a hot pitcher can take a series over. I was a bit nervous against SF because of Bumgartner. I also figured their armada of scrappy position players would undoubtedly go off. For every Derek Jeter and David Ortiz World Series domination, there's a Mark Lemke and Craig Counsel lurking somewhere. I doubted against L.A. because of Kershaw, and it looked for a bit like we were the same team that faced the Mets last year: we swung at everything and couldn't muster much offense.
During the World Series I must say I was anything but a true believer. When we went down 3-1, I didn't figure the series wouldn't go back to Cleveland. Not with our schizophrenic offense and knowing we'd have to face Kluber again. When we pushed it to Game 7, I actually had some confidence. You know, right up until Maddon's handling of the pitching staff, where it seemed he was was trying to do everything he could to blow the series.
But winning cures all, doesn't it? Perhaps the win felt even sweeter because I doubted. No, that's not true. I haven't been the best Cubs fan recently, nor any sports for that matter. You become an ex-blogger with a demanding job and 2 kids, and you might catch a regular season inning here or there. But this playoff season, I made sure I saw everything - unless I fell asleep for a few innings here or there. My fandom came back strong, and every pitch and swing was a live-or-die moment. I was yelling at the TV, I was pacing the living room, I was scaring my kids, my wife told me she couldn't watch a game with me.
This World Series felt great, but it wasn't all elation for me. I got so emotionally invested that after each game it felt like I had gone for a long run. More than anything, the World Series title felt like...relief.