Why it's OK to be happy, even here in Milwaukee
The Cubs won the World Series Wednesday night for the first time in 108 years, ending decades of Loveable Loser-dom and foreshadowing years of big, annoying Chicago crowds at Miller Park.
I have a few thoughts about this.
- On the first day of the Series, I posted something on the MilMag website alleging that it was OK for Milwaukeeans (and even Brewers fans) to root for the Cubs in the Series. I got an avalanche of scorn from people who would never cheer for the Cubs in a million years. But I have to say I don’t regret that post a single bit, and I’m glad the Cubs won.
- The manner of their winning was also quite satisfying in that, true to the Cubs’ nature, it came with nearly fatal flaws. Their manager, Joe Maddon, made questionable decisions in removing at least two pitchers prematurely from the game – apparently callers talked about this all night on Chicago sports radio, and it sounds like the sports commentators agree. The first reliever he brought in, Jon Lester, threw a wild pitch that let two runs score, and beloved, superannuated catcher David Ross looked terrible chasing it down (though he homered in the next inning). And then Cleveland figured out Aroldis Chapman, the overpowering closer Maddon had been over-relying on recently, and tied the score in the eighth. But Chapman got them out in the ninth inning, and there was a rain delay before the 10th, which the Cubs players used to regroup and refocus, and they scored the go-ahead runs in the top of that inning. On the Indians’ last out in the bottom of the 10th, third-baseman Kris Bryant had a huge grin on his face even before he threw to first (where Anthony Rizzo quickly tucked the ball into his back pocket). And to tell you the truth, I don’t think they could have got to this point without the even-keel, calm psychology Maddon promoted all year.
- The best thing about this all is how it has transformed the city of Chicago – at least temporarily. My wife, a Chicago suburban native, was down in the city for a few days last week and reports that everybody was talking to each other on the street about the Cubs. She’s not a sports fan, but really, this is what sports do – provide a unifying experience that allow us big city residents to feel we’re all part of the same tribe. (With a small t, the Tribe being the nickname of the team that lost last night.) I remember this from 1982 in Milwaukee, when the Brewers made the Series (losing in seven games to the Cardinals). Social barriers evaporated; everybody was your friend.
- Check out the Chicago Tribune this morning for evidence of this. My favorite part of this story is where they talk about fans visiting the graves of their relatives to tell them the news. I also like the fact that people have been chalking messages, and relatives’ names, on the walls of Wrigley Field in recent days. And that what Theo Epstein, the architect of this excellent Chicago team – after his similar transformation of the Boston Red Sox into a world champion – loved most about his earlier experience was all the fans who thanked him both for themselves and for their late relatives. I like that this victory was both for the living and the dead fans. And as I wrote before, I especially think of one close friend named Michael, who died in 2015 after many years of loving the Cubs.
- And condolences to Cleveland fans who didn’t get to experience this. There was evidence in the last few days that many of them felt snake-bitten after the Cubs’ Game 5 victory – just as Cubs fans have felt so often – and thought they might be suffering from the “karma” of the Cavaliers’ comeback from being down 3-1 in the NBA finals this year.
- For those Milwaukeeans unwilling to enjoy the Chicago triumph: A key part of compassion is taking joy in the happiness of others. And compassion is something we should all strive for. Chicago is like Milwaukee’s big brother. We hate him and resent him a good part of the time, but at the end of the day, he’s family, and we should be proud of him. Also, check out this link, which asks the question, Milwaukee and Chicago, One City or Two?
- I don’t know when the Milwaukee Brewers will be able to overtake this Cubs team, but they certainly now have a model to emulate, in terms of franchise transformation. And G.M. David Stearns is well-launched in an effort to do just that.
- Which the Brewers should continue doing, as by one measure, Milwaukee is now the major sports city that has gone longest without a championship – 45 years since the Bucks won the NBA title in 1971. But that measure leaves out the Packers, who won the Super Bowl most recently in 2010. So never mind.