Welcome to next year, Cubs fans
This day wasn’t supposed to happen.
It was imagined a million times over — by boys and girls playing wiffle ball in Pottawattomie Park; by the drunk geezer in the ratty blue hat at the end of the bar at Foley's; by the sunburned guy in the bleachers suffering through another year that brought more pain than joy; by the teenager playing video games at 3 a.m.; by the film executives; by the sixth-grader writing an essay for school; and by the boy genius who was handed control of the saddest team in all of baseball — sure, but those were just daydreams.
The Cubs don’t play in the World Series. That's a theory that had been proven so many times it was considered a law.
But it’s no longer a figment of the imagination — the law has been broken.
The day is here.
The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.
It takes talent, perseverance and luck to make a moment like the one we saw in Chicago Saturday night happen. The brilliance of sports stems from the alchemy of those elements.
You can think you have the perfect formula, only to find out you were just a bit off.
You can play 162 games and a dozen more and still find yourself wanting.
And no one knows that sinking feeling better than the Cubs and their fans.
There’s a tremendous bit of cognitive dissonance in sports: We believe the games are fair, that the best team always wins and that everyone who deserves victory will eventually get it, but hundreds of years of experience tells us that’s just not the case.
But still, we come back.
No one knows what it’s like to be as hopeful and hopeless as Cubs fans.
There have been other great Cubs teams — teams that could have broken the franchise's pennant drought. The 1969 team could have snapped it after only 24 years. The 1984 team was good enough to break it, too. The 1989 squad had so much promise, as did the 1998 team. The 2003 squad was five outs away, and while the 2007 and 2008 teams could never get that close, the hope was there at the start, nonetheless.
The alchemy wasn’t right — if they had the talent, they didn’t have the luck; if they had the luck, they couldn’t find the perseverance to push through when the moments got tough.
But still, the die-hards believed things eventually had to go the Cubs' way. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. It couldn’t continue like this forever. Next year had to be the one when the formula was finally right — even if by accident.
Well, next year is here, and it’s no accident.
This Cubs team showed Saturday night that it has the right formula.
The talent is undeniable. The Cubs have an awesome collection of baseball players. Look at the infield alone: it boasts the presumptive NL MVP in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo at the corners and the most exciting middle infield in a long time in the perfectly named Addison Russell and resplendent Javier Baez.
This team has three of the best pitchers in baseball — one is one of the game’s preeminent winners, the other is the 2015 Cy Young Award winner. And you saw what Kyle Hendricks could do Saturday — that was a stone-cold domination in the biggest game of his life. He then handed the ball to a man who can throw it 103 miles per hour.
The luck showed up on Saturday, too. Contrary to popular belief, you have to get lucky for Clayton Kershaw’s fastball to be that fat, and it was in Game 6. You also have to think the gods of fortune are smiling upon you when Andrew Toles drops that fly ball in the first inning. You can’t ask for better breaks than that.
The question that has been — and for at least four more games will continue to be — posed to the Cubs is if they had the perseverance. Could they capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes while minimizing the effect of their own? That’s the key ingredient, after all, and it’s one the close-call Cubs teams of the past so often lacked.
Considering how this Cubs team — specifically Dexter Fowler, Rizzo and Russell — pulled themselves out of a wicked slump at the plate and how they capitalized on the Dodgers’ mistakes Saturday night and in Games 4 and 5 before that, you have to say this team has it.
At the beginning, middle and end of the regular season, we thought this was the team that could break “The Curse.” In the playoffs — and especially Saturday night — they proved it.
The Cubs still have four more games to win, but a major hurdle has been cleared. After 71 years, they’re going back to the World Series.
It’s the moment that everyone and no one thought could happen.
But the formula is finally right.
Next year is here.