To a man, the players all talked about how the team never gave up. Even the opposing manager, Terry Francona praised Chicago’s beloved “Cubbies” when he said, “A lot of teams would have folded”.
The Cubs faced a three to one game deficit in the World Series and were one game away from elimination. Then they led 5-1 in game seven, and found themselves tied 6-6 going into the ninth-inning.
Would they fall apart again as they did in 1969, 1984 and 2003, each time coming so close and failing? Back in 2003, Chicago held a three games to two lead in the best of seven series of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), when in game six, with Chicago ahead 3–0, in the eighth-inning they did fold. This came after the infamous Steve Bartman incident, where a fan reached into the field of play to take away a sure out for the Cubs, starting a chain reaction where the team completely fell apart.
But this team didn’t fall apart each time they faced adversity. Instead, after the ninth-inning and the game was still tied 6-6, led by outfielder Jason Heyward, they came together in the clubhouse during a rain delay, huddling together and firing each other up to finish the job… the job that took 108 years to complete, since the Chicago Cubs last won the world championship in 1908.
For 108 years, Chicago fans waited for another championship, coming close time after time, and failing each time. Enduring “The Curse of the Billy Goat”, when in 1945, a bar owner placed a hex on the Cubs after his goat was kicked out of the ballpark, the black cat that came across in front of the Cubs dugout in 1969, Leon Durham, the Cubs first baseman’s error in 1984, and Steve Bartman in 2003. For so many years, talking about “the curse”, and how the Cubs might never win again…
Even in the 10th inning, when they scored twice to take an 8 to 6 lead, they allowed Cleveland to score, bringing them within one run of tying Chicago.
But they got that last out.
It was the most epic drought in sports history. No other team in the history of sports had taken that long to win another championship.
And just as the team had made a historic comeback, so did their players, and even management.
Team President, Theo Epstein put together another championship team that was supposedly cursed…the Boston Red Sox, who broke an 86-year stretch of futility when they won. He did it again with the Cubs, breaking an even longer stretch of futility. He did it by filling the team with players that could withstand adversity, training his players’ brains with mindfulness exercises, visualization drills, and meditation.
This was stuff that old time baseball people would scoff at, yet those old-time baseball people could not bring a championship to the Cubs.
After being swept 0-4 in the 2015 National League championship series, Chicago started this season with a 27-8 record, quickly becoming the best team in baseball.
Outfielder/DH Kyle Schwarber suffered a torn ACL in the third game of the season after an outfield collision, spending the whole season rehabilitating his knee. He made it back in time to play in the World Series, and played well.
Cubs closing pitcher, Aroldis Chapman, who came from the New York Yankees, was the first player to be suspended under Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy. He was suspended for 30 games but he pitched in this final historic game, after being possibly overused in previous games.
Pitcher Jake Arietta was run out of Baltimore, but he won the 2015 Cy Young Award with the Cubs.
A sign that hangs in the team’s locker room reads “Don’t Let the Pressure Exceed the Pleasure.”
When the playoffs started, Cubs manager Joe Maddon gave a speech to his players, telling them to prepare for the unexpected, to prepare for things to fall apart. He did this to steel the minds of his players, so that they wouldn’t fall apart, because if you expect for things to go wrong, you will be prepared for it, and prepared they were.
And it is the perfect metaphor for our lives as human beings, as many of us have difficult lives, enduring difficult hardships year after year, yet we rise each year to keep trying to make our lives better… to win.
And when we see a team like the Cubs win, after 108 years of struggle, we believe that we can also win after years of struggle. The phrase, “never give up” comes to mind, and of course our own “fall down seven times, rise up eight” saying that is oh so true, in that each time we have a setback, we rise again to keep fighting.
Each year, Cubs fans would say, “Wait until next year!”, and finally, after 108 years, THIS is next year. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs, world champions of baseball, 2016, and congratulations to us for having witnessed that, inspiring us with the thought that no matter how many times we fall, we can rise again, even after 108 years.