Sunday, November 6, 2016

Chicago Comes Out By Millions to Celebrate During Cubs World Series Parade

Now, I know that the Cubs winning the World Series was indeed a big deal! After all, it had been 108 years - well over a century! - since the last time that this had happened. Many Chicagoans and Cub fans outside of the Windy City had come to believe that it would in fact never happen again, that it just was not in the cards for them.

However, obviously, the Cubs had one hell of a season here in 2016, and they allowed the general weirdness of the news during this calendar year to carry over into the sports world, as well. I mean, it seemed strange to me that the Boston Red Sox finally ended their championship drought of 86 years in 2004, and then the very next year, the Chicago White Sox finally managed to win their own World Series, to end a drought that had gone on then for some 88 years. Now, that seemed incredibly...well, coincidental. A writer would likely have been reluctant to make such two unlikely events occur in back to back years.

Of course, the Red Sox have gone on to win a few championships since, in 2007 and again in 2013. It reached the point where people were suggesting that they were baseball's newest "Evil Empire." I am not sure about that, as the Yankees are still around, and are gearing up with some serious talent, as I understand it. Not a big fan of baseball, admittedly, although this does not surprise me. While the Yankees have been hogging (and let's face it, buying) championships, those other teams (now including the Cleveland Indians) have been forced to endure incredibly long championship droughts that nobody should be forced to endure.

Yet, when the Chicago Cubs finally seemed to piece together the quality team that they had this season, I began to feel quite a bit excited. Again, I hardly qualify as a baseball expert or anything, but when they were announced as favorites to win it all as the season commenced, it was hard to think of how to take that. Would that help to lift the curse, was it a sign that the Billy Goat curse was finally about to be lifted? Or was it too much hype, perhaps the weight of expecting too much, too soon bound to crush this team, and the hopes of their fans that their beloved team might finally come through for them? 

Again, I could not say, not being knowledgeable enough about the sport, and generally not following the extremely long baseball season that went on for 162 games for each and every team. When I did check the standings, though, the Cubs always seemed to look good. And as a fan of seeing these three teams in particular end their droughts (first the Red Sox, then the White Sox, and now, finally, the Cubs), it seemed to bode well. But perhaps there was a tough of the low expectations that Cubs fans had come to endure, because there was always a half expectation that something was bound to go wrong, that the bottom was about to fall out from under them. Surely, this success (and the Cubs did have the best record in the league, so they enjoyed considerable success!) could not have that solid of a base, right?

Well, in fact, the Cubs did finish with the best record, and they did get through their playoff opponents while remaining intact, finally earning their first World Series berth since 1945 - the year that World War II ended! The Nuremberg Trials were just about starting, and the entire world (especially the Japanese, for understandable reasons) were still reeling from the two bombs that were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last time the Cubs had even been to the World Series. So, that was something.

Still, they had to win it to really make it that much more meaningful. Yes, this team had to end the Billy Goat Curse, once and for all!

That was when the ground finally did seem to open up from under their feet, and was about the swallow them whole, leaving still yet another tease of a season, another horror story of coming oh, so close!, but of not quite winning it.

It was not just that they were losing, but how they were losing. Cleveland dismantled them in Game 1, winning 6-0.

Oh, sure, the Cubs came back to win Game 2 5-1, and then the series went to Chicago's Wrigley Field. The home crowd was unbelievably excited, and ready to erupt at the first sign. Finally, a World Series game was going to be played at Wrigley Field! But Chicago lost Game 3, 1-0. And then they lost Game 4, 7-2. Other than Game 2, Chicago had scored a grand total of 3 runs, and allowed 14 in those three losses.

Wait 'til next year, right? That was how it seemed at the time.

Hey, at least if they could win one game at Wrigley Field, to make their home fans happy at least for one game in their home stadium, that would be something, right?

Indeed, they did that much. It was tight, but the Cubs finally beat the Indians again, 3-2.

However, the series now was set to return to Cleveland, and surely that was going to be that, right? After all, the last time that anybody came back from that kind of a deficit this late in the postseason, it was the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who actually came back from being down three games to none to their longtime tormentors, the New York Yankees, before storming back and taking the series, winning the last two games in the old Yankees Stadium, to boot!

But this was the 2016 Chicago Cubs, and they had been toasted through most of this series. Winning on the road, twice in a row? That was a tall order!

Yet, Chicago's performance in Game 6 actually did remind me of the 2004 Boston Red Sox. They went out and simply took the game, and perhaps the series, over, earning a decisive 9-3 win on the road to force Game 7.

But could they actually win this thing on the road? Moreover, could they actually win this thing, period?

What followed was perhaps one of the greatest single baseball games ever. It was a back and forth affair, with Chicago threatening to pull away several times, only to watch Cleveland pull right back. There was that long delay in the 9th inning, predictably perhaps, as both of these teams owned the longest active championship drought in baseball and, in fact, in professional North American sports.

When play resumed, the Cubs went right back to work, loading the bases and scoring two runs. When the Indians got their chance at bat, they were able to get another hit, but then the Cubs clamped down defensively, and finally clinched the series.

It was devastating for the city of Cleveland, which until this year's NBA Championship by the Cavaliers, had as a city not seen one of their professional sports franchises win a championship since the Browns managed to do it way back in 1964. I need not tell you that 1964 was a very long time ago, as well. But now, the Cavs had done it, and the Indians success seemed to mark a turning point, at least when they were up 3 games to 1. Now, from their vantage point, the team had choked, given up such a commanding series lead only to fall short and watch another team celebrate on their home field.

Surely, though, there had to be some part of their own experience that could allow Cleveland fans to rejoice at the success of the Cubs, and the end of a century plus long drought for that team. Everywhere you looked, people were celebrating. That included celebrities such as Billy Murray and Eddie Vedder. Cubs fans were in heaven!

So, you just knew that the parade was going to be out of this world. I did not go to the Rangers parade in New York back in 1994, when the Rangers finally ended their curse by winning the Stanley Cup. But I remember how happy that made the fans, and how the entire city was celebrating. My father, brother, and I went to Yankees Stadium that year to see Pink Floyd, and we went to see the 4th of July fireworks there that year, too. And you could just feel the sheer happiness of those fans, and how much of a celebratory mood they were in all summer long, as a result of that victory.

Yes, it was going to be a huge and very memorable parade! Everyone understood that.

But this? Literally millions of people coming out to the streets of Chicago to celebrate their baseball teams incredible success this past season? Quite literally, the seventh largest gather of human beings ever in the history of the world? And, in fact, the largest gather of people in the history of the Americas, both North America and South America?

That seems a bit over the top, and more than anyone could have expected. I mean, it is a baseball team, after all. Have we not had other incredible moments where millions could gather? The independence of a nation, or the collapse of a totalitarian regime? Perhaps the funeral of some incredible historical figure, such as Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Nelson Mandela? Maybe even a Papal visit? Or perhaps some kind of religious pilgrimage somewhere in Asia, either in India or in Mecca, both of which seem to have an extraordinary number of huge pilgrimages every single year.

Frankly, I am not sure how to take that. Again, this is just a sport we are talking about.

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that the Cubs finally did it. But for that many millions of people to turn out to celebrate one sports team's victory seems...well, a bit excessive and self-indulgent, no? I mean, we are not even talking about a nation coming out to celebrate a World Cup victory, or anything (and I was fortunate enough to be in France back in 1998 for their championship, so I have seen that kind of a thing personally). But for a regular team in a regular league for a sport that is not even the most popular sport in the country at the moment?


Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe sometimes sports does transcend almost everything else in life. Perhaps something magical does come from it, can be felt by so many people, that it becomes almost a miracle. Again, my recollections from being in Paris when France first qualified for the World Cup at a game that my brother and I attended, and feeling the building excitement. Then, watching France win the World Cup Final against Brazil, and experiencing the country explode with happiness, with just sheer joy, was truly amazing! That did indeed transcend sports, and on some level, unified the entire country.

Frankly, I would love to experience that kind of a thing just one more time. Just to watch a city like Paris completely shut down in order to celebrate something good, something great? It was the greatest celebration that Paris (and France as a whole) had seen since the Liberation! That does not happen every day.

Then again, I remember thinking recently that I actually did experience that kind of a thing again. Maybe not to the same degree, and it was not for a sports championship. But in 2008, when Quebec City celebrated it's 400th anniversary, Paul McCartney came to the Plains of Abraham to give a free concert. Now, a former member of the Beatles giving a free concert for such an occasion does not happen every day, and I remember how that was the big thing on everyone's mind while we were up there. That was all that people wanted to talk about that entire weekend, both before the concert, and especially afterwards. That night, and the entire next day, one radio station after the other kept playing songs from that live concert, and it reminded me a bit of the 1998 World Cup in France. The city had shut down, and come out to enjoy something positive, and it was a magical feeling. You do not get to see or experience something like that every day. I was lucky enough to experience that at least twice! In Brazil back in 1994, 3.5 million people came out to see a Rod Stewart concert. I remember also how huge the Roger Waters "The Wall" concert in Berlin was back in 1990, and people still recall Woodstock very fondly. Music can surely do that, too. It possesses some of that same magic, and to me, that Paul McCartney concert remains one of my happiest memories right to this day.

Of course, sports can make people feel special, and unusually united in joy, bridging the gaps that otherwise define a society. Fans young and old, rich and poor, healthy and unhealthy, black and white and everything else, and whatever faith, they will all come together to enjoy such an incredible event as a championship. When you hear that 5 million people gathered in Chicago to honor the Cubs and watch them parade around the streets simply in celebration with their fans, that is indeed something special and unique. Maybe, like l'Equipe de France did for Paris and for all of France, or like the German national team did more recently in the last World Cup, the Cubs indeed brought out the best in their fans, at least for one day. Maybe, like Rod Stewart did in Rio in 1994, or like Roger Waters did in Berlin in 1990, or like the organizers did at Woodstock, NY, in 1969, this was an event that transcended what it was originally designed for. So many people wanted to be a part of it, that the meaning went far beyond just another sports team bringing home a championship to a city - especially a city like Chicago, which has already seen a ton of major sports championships in comparison to other cities).

Maybe the Cubs did the same for the city of Chicago. Frankly, judging by the numbers, it appears that indeed they did!

Cubs World Series celebration ranks as 7th largest gathering in human history

WATCH: What city of Chicago sounded like moment Cubs won by Tony Crumpton - Senior Editor - Thursday, November 3, 2016:

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