By Cinesnark | Think Pieces | November 7, 2016 |
By Cinesnark | Think Pieces | November 7, 2016 |
Being a Chicago Cubs fan has been, for 108 years, a lesson in futility. Cubs fans bonded over shared frustrations and grief, recalling almosts and not-quites, and always ending every conversation with the refrain, “Next year.” It was always Next Year to Cubs fans, when the team would come together and gel in just the right way and make it to the Series. We lived in a kind of perpetual future, comparing emotional bruises and war stories of games lost and achievements nullified by failure. No matter how long-suffering you were, there was always someone who had lived longer, suffered longer, or had a relative who lived 97 years of Cubs losses. It wasn’t just anxiety over a losing streak, among Cubs fans was the stoic acceptance that you would live your whole life and never see the World Series, let alone a championship. To love the Cubs was to embrace futility and welcome heartbreak. We weren’t “lovable losers” so much as straight up masochists.
But 2016, trashfire garbage hell-year that is has been, is the year it finally happened. Next Year arrived, in the middle of the precursor to the apocalypse, and delivered a Cubs World Series. I can’t describe what it was like to be in Chicago, just a mile from Wrigley, as the Cubs steadily advanced to the playoffs. Excitement was palpable, but so was the suspicion. No one trusted it—no one WANTED to trust it. Every conversation talked around it, every speculation came with a caveat and disclaimer. “We gotta get there first” was the North Side chorus. But then came the Ws, counted off in office windows across the city, on the façade of the Merchandise Mart, and with every raising of the Wrigley Field flag. Division champs, League champs…World champs.
The city went nuts, to put it mildly. My neighborhood was cacophonous in celebration—cars honking, people spilling into the street to sing “Go Cubs Go,” the firehouse blaring all their sirens, the church two blocks over ringing their bells, and in the distance, the roar from the crowd outside Wrigley, thousands of people screaming in ecstasy. On and on it went, till nearly dawn. And the next days and weekend, more insanity. Five million people poured into the city for the parade and rally, parties and impromptu celebrations derailed business as usual, as a hundred and eight years of disappointment was swallowed by a perfect kind of joy.
That Next Year came in 2016 is nothing short of poetry. This has been, to put it mildly, an awful fucking year. For many of us, this is the worst year in our lifetimes, the year that we will look back on as the genesis of the Reaver threat plaguing the wastelands where we are trying to survive. But for one month in October, we had a life raft. As fear and hatred threaten to pull us apart, as the awful fucking presidential race which seems more like a ritual to raise Asmodeus than elect a president unfolds, we had not only a distraction, but a bond. We had Something Else To Talk About, some neutral ground on which to meet and relate.
The rifts forming this year threaten not only our national fabric, but for many of us, our families. A lot of us, including me, are living with the very real anxiety that this election cycle could do irreparable damage to family relationships, and I clung to the Cubs even harder. Politics has dominated our annus horribilis, but I can’t have those conversations with my family for fear of actually destroying it. The unreasonableness of strangers has come home in painful ways for many of us this year, but at least in my house, we had the Cubs to fall back on. The Cubs winning the World Series isn’t just a sports victory, it’s a saving grace.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. And in a lot of ways, the outcome doesn’t matter because the damage has been done. It will take years, maybe decades, to drain the poison from the infected wound of 2016. We’ve seen the worst of ourselves this year, we’ve marinated in it, rolled around in it, and a depressingly large portion of the population has willingly and gladly eaten it up. We’ve taken steps back as big as canyons, and in the worst moments it feels like that ground can’t be regained, that this, this furled asshole of a year, is our new normal. That the idea of unity has gone right out the window in favor of selfish, nihilistic solipsism.
But then I remember midnight on November third, and sharing champagne in plastic cups and singing with strangers in the street. We probably wouldn’t all agree on every issue, we’re probably going to vote differently in the election, we probably have different ideas about what it means to help people and which people need helping. On any other day, in any other place, maybe we’re scrapping and arguing and doing more damage to the social contract. But on that night we were just Cubs fans. For one, shining moment, we were one.