For those of you that have been following us around the last 10 years, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that the first thing posted here about the Cubs winning the World Series is going up a whopping 11 days after Game 7 in Cleveland. If nothing else, we've always been consistent with our maddening inconsistency. We posted (almost) daily game recaps during the early season even when the Cubs had a huge division lead and were playing the Padres and Brewers of the world, then had a grand total of 4 posts during the entire playoff run, one of which was about the NBA.
That's why I don't blame you if you don't believe me when I say that this post isn't the typical kind of late. It's not like I didn't have time or wasn't interested enough to put my thoughts down.
I just wasn't ready.
At first it was too much. There was too much to process. How does one begin to take it all in, something so many have been waiting on for so long, something that you hope and pray for that you have absolutely no control over. There's no one you can ask for advice because no one knows what it's like. I thought about writing this post at least once or twice every single day between now and last Wednesday, but I didn't know how to start. I didn't know how to put everything that I was feeling into any kind of coherent structure, especially in the days immediately after the win, reading so many better writers put what I was feeling into words better than I'll be able to.
But if I waited until I came up with the perfect framing device for my thoughts, nothing would ever get written so I think I'm just gonna jump in. There's no through line. This is all gonna be off the top of my head. Let's get into it.
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From the very beginning of this season, I was all in on the 2016 Cubs. Even in 2008, the Cubs didn't go into the season knowing they were the best team in baseball, so it was cool to totally buy into a team that was built to crush everyone. I also decided that going all in with this team meant leaving the baggage at the door. I would not suffer any talk about curses or goats. I would not live in fear of superstition or jinxes. Before the Cubs even took the field, I defiantly stated that they would win the 2016 World Series. As 7/1 favorites at the time, it was not a particularly HOT TAKE to have, but it was my first step into living jinx free all season.
And you know what? It was AWESOME. I talked about Jake Arrieta's no-hitter as it was happening. I counted down the last 12 outs in Game 6 of the NLCS. Hell, a few friends and I ate at the Billy Goat Tavern in the Loop the day of Game 6! No matter what was happening the entire season, I kept telling myself that absolutely nothing I did in my life would have any effect on any game, and it was incredibly satisfying. In baseball more than any other sport, there's a very high tolerance for superstition and so I get it if not everyone is onboard with my cavalier attitude, but it sure was fun not having to wear the same thing every day during a winning streak and being able to sit in any spot and in any position that I wanted to on the couch because there was no thing as a 'lucky spot'.
Ironically, I have to continue not believing in jinxes and superstitions next season because it worked this year. Right? Right.
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Thinking back to the NLDS against the Giants, I was really REALLY stressed out when the Giants won Game 3 to save their season. Looking back on it now, it seems like quite an overreaction. After all, the Giants won ONE game of that series. But man, was I in a bad mood when the Cubs lost that one. One thing this Cubs season taught me was how to most effectively be mad at the Cubs without being too moody of an asshole about it. I never gave up on the Cubs at any point this season, but I was certainly frustrated by them a whole lot in the playoffs.
I have a regular group of friends I usually talk to during the games, and I feel bad about bringing everyone down when they're trying to keep morale up, so I know that when I feel like I need to wallow in the doom and gloom for a little bit, I have my cousin to turn to. Whenever I complain to him, he's always willing to jump down the reverse shower drain into the murkiest depths. Any Cubs fan knows that there are times when you just need to hit rock bottom before you can get your head back in the game. It's really important to identify which people in your circle are willing to jump with you because being a total bummer to everyone around you is not the best way to go through a stressful playoff series.
Every Cubs fan has their way of expressing their frustration in real time, and this is mine: I throw my phone. But by 'throw' I actually mean 'toss'. And even 'toss' is a strong word. Whenever the Cubs do something awful and my phone is in my hand, I'll drop it out of my hand in an exaggerated way, only the phone is usually about 4 inches above the cushion of the couch and is usually tossed onto a pillow that is on top of the couch to boot. I take my frustration out on my phone, but only if there is no possible way for the phone to touch anything more solid than a gym mat. I also say "COME ON!" and "GOD DAMMIT, GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS" a whole lot.
I am not very creative with my Cubs frustration.
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Until this season, the loudest I'd ever heard Wrigley Field was in 2003. When the Yankees came to Wrigley Field for the first time in decades, I was at the Saturday game of the series when Kerry Wood was facing Roger Clemens, who was going for his 300th win. In the top of the 8th inning, Mike Remlinger was brought into a bases-loaded, 2 out jam to face the brand new toy in the Yankees lineup, Jason Giambi. Giambi worked a full count before striking out swinging to end the threat. When he swung and missed at strike three, the entire place exploded. The whole stadium was shaking down to its foundation. It was deafening.
I was lucky enough to go to all three NLCS games at Wrigley and I can tell you now that there is a new bar set for how loud Wrigley Field can get. But it wasn't during the pennant clinching game 7 like you would think. It was actually during game 1 when Miguel Montero launched a grand slam deep into the right field bleachers. I don't think I'll ever hear a crowd that loud again in my life. Even when the Cubs were clinching in game 6, I think everyone was too busy crying all over each other to yell and scream as loud as they could. But that Miggy slam was unbelievable. Poor Dexter Fowler hit the most overlooked Cubs home run of that series on the very next pitch. People were still up out of their seats and high fiving their neighbors before they even realized that Fowler launched a home run into right as well. Come to think of it, Fowler also hit a totally overlooked home run in the World Series off of Andrew Miller in Game 4 too.
Good thing he was able to hit the biggest home run in Cubs history 4 days later.
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The World Series was perfect. And I'm not just saying that because the Cubs won. The 7 games we were all treated to were so above and beyond everything a baseball fan could want from a World Series that I don't think anything else is going to touch it. I wanted the Cubs to win, but I also wanted them to play the Indians for 10 more games because this series had EVERYTHING.
There's not a whole lot that I can say about the World Series that you haven't heard already, so the one thing that I do want to draw some attention to is how well this year's Cubs team made adjustments and fought back. The first time the Cubs faced Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS, they took a patient approach and it blew up in their faces as Kershaw poured strike after strike over the plate and put the Cubs in what seemed like infinite 0-2 counts.
When the Cubs got to face Kershaw again in game 6, they were much more aggressive and it worked, tacking on 2 runs against him in the first and another in the second, mostly off if hits that came early in the count.
The same thing happened in the World Series against Kluber and Tomlin. In Game 1, Kluber had the best stuff that I think I've ever seen. He looked like he had perfect game level stuff and after the Cubs lost that one, I honestly wasn't mad at all. I was surprised the Cubs were able to scratch the 4 hits they did against him. When the Cubs faced Josh Tomlin in game 3, they made a ton of weak contact by swinging at pitchers pitches, especially low and out of the zone.
When the Cubs saw Tomlin again in Game 6, they stayed patient and, knowing that Tomlin isn't much of a strikeout guy, waited on pitches that they could drive. Tomlin didn't strike out a single Cub in the 2.1 innings he lasted. When Kluber came back in game 7, the same thing happened - the Cubs were patient and waited for pitches that they could drive. Again, the Cubs struck out 0 times in the 4 innings Kluber lasted. To see such a young team make the adjustments they needed to get the job done against the specific pitcher they're facing is impressive enough. To do it in the middle of the biggest games of their lives brings it all to a whole other level.
Another thing I heard a lot about during the playoffs is how the Cubs were so susceptible to curveballs and how throwing them more breaking stuff than usual is the key to beating this team. I think that is stupid. Yes, the Cubs struggled against breaking balls throughout the playoffs, but I'm pretty sure ANY team would have struggled just as much. Throwing a good curveball is tough and the reason the Chicago lineup was shut down so much by breaking pitches is because their playoff gauntlet featured some of the best curveballs in baseball.
Fangraphs can rank pitchers by how good they are by the specific pitches they throw. If you look at starting pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings by their curveballs, look how many the Cubs faced on their road to the World Series and their 2016 ranking:
1. Cory Kluber
2. Rich Hill
4. Madison Bumgarner
7. Trevor Bauer
9. Jeff Samardzija
13. Matt Moore
And that's just the starting pitchers! Looking at the relief pitcher leaderboards, Cody Allen had the 3rd best Curveball in the majors. Andrew Miller had the 4th best slider in baseball. So facing a path to a world championship littered with Cy Young winners and the best breaking pitches in the major leagues, yeah, any team is going to look like they struggle against curves and sliders.
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One thing that I've heard a lot of talk about over the last year is how to handle bandwagon fans. My official stance is that I do not care why someone supports the Cubs or how long they've been a fan. If someone is pretending to like the Cubs because that's the cool thing to say on Instagram of Facebook, that's fine! It doesn't take away from what I felt going through this season and honestly, I say the more the merrier. Despite growing up in a household that had Cubs baseball on all the time, I didn't really start my Cubs obsession until 1998, when the Sosa-McGwire slugfest caught the entire nation's attention. Those Wild-Card Cubs were the first team I ever got into and it's been an obsession ever since.
I don't care why people like the Cubs. I don't care when people pretend to like the Cubs more than they actually do and I don't care what reasons they have. If something can make people get into the Cubs or baseball in general, I'm all for it. It took a playoff run for me to fall in love with the Cubs 16 years ago and I've been fully onboard ever since. Who am I to judge anyone else for doing the same this year?
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I love the city of Chicago and I love the Cubs. The Cubs love this city and the city loves them right back. I would have rooted for a team of 25 Donald Trumps if it meant they would win a World Series for the Cubs, but it makes it even better that we got to root for such an awesome and likable team along the way. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are both a GM and marketing department's wet dream. Addison Russell and Javier Baez could combine for 350 web gems next season. Kyle Schwarber may already be knocking on the door of being one of the most beloved Cubs of all time and he's only played in 71 regular season games!
I think having such a likable team full of guys that looked like they genuinely loved each other and were enjoying every minute of this season made it safer for fans to fall for them. We knew that no matter what, win or lose, this team would never give up. They would never freeze and crack under the pressure like the the 2008 team did.
Even after the World Series and victory parade were over, Wrigley Field was still abuzz as of last Sunday. The streets were almost as crowded as they are for game days with fans leaving their marks on every single square inch of Wrigley that could be marked with chalk.
I'm still not ready to close the book on the 2016 season. I know that we have to move on to the next one eventually, but I'll never get tired of this season. I want it to keep going forever. I want to watch the 2016 Cubs play a million more games, finding ridiculous ways to win day in and day out. I want to watch Dexter Fowler smile and Javy Baez whip lightning-fast tags all over would-be base stealers. I want to watch Anthony Rizzo with his arm draped over David Ross in the dugout forever. I want to watch Willson Contreras bring the rookie swagger and fire to this lineup, never shying away from the biggest stage even though he had every right to. I want to see the relief wash over Addison Russell's face during the NLCS when he finally broke out, knowing he wanted to get rolling even more than the fans did. I want to watch Kris Bryant smile as he fielded the final out, that in itself a giant middle finger to curses and jinxes as he finally killed and buried the biggest one left in sports. I want to watch Rizzo slyly slip the final out into his back pocket before celebrating.
I'm sad that we'll never get to watch this exact group of guys play together ever again, but I'm so fucking happy that they gave us the best 179 games I'll ever see in my lifetime. I'm glad that guys like Ross and Fowler and Wood will forever be a part of Cubs history.
After the Cubs won the World Series, the bar that my friends and I were at served champagne and played music for hours afterward. We danced and drank and let it all sink in. The cab ride home took forever, as seemingly everyone in the city of Chicago was out driving around and honking. It was surreal. And it wasn't until about a half hour after I got home, already up late enough to make work the next day awful, that it really started to sink in. I randomly opened up Facebook and was presented with an ad from MLB Shop that just said "They Finally Did It!". Out of everything that happened, watching them win, celebrating with my closest friends, driving home through Wrigleyville, it was seeing that random ad in my Facebook feed that really made things get dusty in the old Funk household that night.
It actually happened.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. And they did it in the most perfect way possible.
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As I mentioned before, there are so many more articles about what the Cubs did that are much better than what you are now (mercifully) ending. Just off the top of my head, this post from SB Nation was awesome, this video by Scott Van Pelt and this post on The Ringer really put what I've been thinking and feeling over the last 2 weeks into words better than I can. That's why I waited till the end to link them.
I've taken up enough of your time with my thoughts. To finish, here are a bunch of pictures I've taken on my phone over the last few weeks experiencing what Chicago was like in the wake of a World Series win.
I got to Grant Park for the Cubs rally at about 5:00 AM and there were already about 500 people waiting to get in. All of the buildings were lit up with Cubs pride.
Here's a view of all 5 million of my closest friends...
...and what is left behind after everyone goes home.
I got interviewed on WGN at a Cubs World Series rally. That sentence knocks 3 things off my bucket list singlehandedly.
This was spotted outside of Wrigley on the Sunday after the World Series win. I assume it's been there since the day Joe Buck was born. Also, the fact that they wrote "Sucks" in quotation marks is a curious choice.
I criticized Arrieta a whole lot over the second half, but the dude pitched a hell of a game in Game 6.
No we did not.
Matt Murton Forever