I confess to being uninterested in most sports. Actually, “contemptuous” would be a more accurate word. I crave narrative, not competition, when it comes to entertainment.
My mother is the true sports fan in the family, and she’s always supported the White Sox. So, due to her influence, I am nominally a White Sox fan (even though I find baseball deadly dull), and I celebrated along with my mom when the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. In Chicago, you can be a White Sox fan or a Cubs fan, but not both. Those who claim to be both are looked on with suspicion—they might be outsiders, aliens, or replicants, but they are not normal Chicagoans, that’s for sure.
Thus, I’ve remained largely indifferent to the hullabaloo that’s been going on around me this fall. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve seen the “W” flag flying and people dressed in Cubs’ blue. My Facebook news feed has been filled with anxious, hopeful, and celebratory posts for weeks. But I’ve scrolled past it all…
…With a few notable exceptions. While my mother’s family is firmly in the Sox camp, my uncle on my dad’s side was the greatest Cubs fan ever. I’m sure many people try to assert that title, but my uncle has a legitimate claim on it. See, my uncle was Steve Goodman, the Chicago singer-songwriter who wrote “Go, Cubs, Go.” He died in 1984, shortly after the release of his anthem for his favorite team and just days before the Cubs clinched the National League Eastern Division title and earned the Cubs their first postseason appearance since 1945, three years before Steve was born. Since the Cubs entered the postseason this year, a few articles have paid tribute to Steve including a remembrance featuring interviews with his two surviving daughters in Sports Illustrated and this profile posted after the Cubs won Game 5 of the series. Although I didn’t know him well (I was young when he died), I was glad that my Uncle Steve was getting some attention, but I didn’t really care about the Cubs themselves.
But as the Cubs came closer to achieving something that had eluded them for more than a century—108 years to be precise, a number that will be ubiquitous for the next few days—I noticed something touching. On social media, people started posting remembrances of their own. My Facebook news feed became filled not just with posts of support for baseball’s perpetual underdog team, but with comments like “My dad would have loved to see this” or “My grandparents are smiling down on the Cubs.” It wasn’t just a couple of comments. It seemed that, for every Cub fan, there was a legacy of forbearers in the afterlife cheering along with them. Even I, sports derider that I am, began to get a little misty.
The Cubs winning the World Series is something special. It’s more than just the outcome of a game. It’s more than just the underdog finally coming out on top. It is the culmination of 108 years of history, of fans waiting and hoping, faithfully following their lovable losing team, and passing on an inheritance of that hopeless, hapless, but doggedly loyal fandom down through generations. This championship highlights the significant role sports fandom plays in uniting people to their past and the memory of family and place. Along with my friends in Chicagoland, every Chicago expatriate is rejoicing tonight. And fans near and far and even non-fans like me are thinking back to those friends and family who trudged on through the dry years but who aren’t here to witness the celebration.
So, tonight, I’ll put on a Cubs hat and share the joy of the Cubs fans all around, and I’ll raise my glass and sing a chorus of “Go, Cubs, Go” for Uncle Steve.