Last night, the Cubs returned to the place of their first World Series win in 107 years for the first time with a 10-3 win against the Cleveland Indians. Not-so-friendly rivalries between my friends and I sparked back up again from the 2016 slumber, and I was quickly reminded why Cleveland is the best non-Chicago city in the world to be a Cubs fan.
First things first, the phrase "die-hard," doesn't come close to describing my Cubs' fandom. My family's name is engraved in a brick outside of Wrigley Field, I proudly own a necklace filled with the rubble from Wrigley Field's last renovation, my family dog's name is Wrigley, the only tattoo my father has is in honor of the World Series' win and the basement of my childhood home was decorated to resemble a Cubs'-themed sports bar. Simply put, I really love the Cubs.
The night the Cubs beat the Dodgers and solidified their place in the series against the Indians, I was nervously binge-drinking at the XYZ Tavern after a performance of Silence: The Musical
at Blank Canvas Theater. A castmate of mine, a die-hard Indians fan, rushed me to the bar to catch the final two innings of what would be a life affirming game. The inning ended, the Cubs were victorious, and I broke into uncontrollable and ugly tears.
I could feel the whole bar staring at me, and judging my castmate thinking he'd done something to upset me. He picked up on it as well because he erupted and screamed, "This is my friend BJ! She's from Chicago! She's the biggest Cubs fan I know! Give it up!"
Immediately, the entire bar began to cheer. Strangers were patting me on the back, a very nice woman bought me a drink, the bartender gave me a napkin to wipe the mascara tears off my face and said, "Enjoy it now. We'll see your Cubbies next week."
Wait. The rival city for the World Series is actually happy for me?
I spent every game of the series proudly wearing my Cubbie blues. Sure, some playful ribbing from coworkers was bound to happen and plenty of bets were made, but not once during the entire Series did anyone make me feel unwelcome or unsafe as a Cubs fan.
My Ben Zobrist jersey was often a point of conversation with strangers on the street, usually to reminisce about how no one else in the world understands what it's like to be a Cubs fan or an Indians fan. There's an unspoken camaraderie between Cubs and Indians fans, mostly due to how little respect the rest of the world gives us. The "mistake by the lake" and the "lovable losers" had made it to the biggest baseball game on earth, and no one could take that away from us.
No other team understands sports heartbreak like Cleveland. No other team understands constantly having to fight for respect like Cleveland. No other team has so much love and pride for their players regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of them like Cleveland.
Except for maybe, the Chicago Cubs.
The 2016 World Series will go down as one of the most thrilling displays of baseball in history. The Cubs forced the 3-1 lead of the Indians into a Game 7, a rain delay appeared like an act of God and completely shook up the momentum of the entire game, and somehow, my Cubbies won the game in my new home of Cleveland.
Having grown up around Chicago, my immediate instinct was fear. Was some drunk asshole going to punch me for wearing a Cubs jersey? Am I going to be heckled no matter where I go? Should I just go home and hibernate until the initial heartbreak of an entire city wears off?
I didn't have to do any of those things, and it's because Cleveland Indians fans wouldn't have let me. The night the Cubs won the series, Cleveland welcomed the fans with open arms. The city was flooded with blue caps and 'W' flags, and plenty of excited hugs from Indians fans. I remember a stranger crying and hugging me so tightly I was afraid he'd snap my ribcage whispering to me, "If we were going to lose to anyone, I'm glad it was the Cubs."
Yesterday, I walked around downtown yesterday in my commemorative Cubs' World Series Championship T-shirt in preparation for their return to Cleveland. I was a little weary in doing so, but some random Clevelander shook that nonsense right out of me. "Yo! 2016 was fuckin' awesome, right?!"
And so today I sit, Progressive Field in view from my desk, and know that with all certainty that Cleveland Indians fans are some of the greatest baseball fans in the world. Even after the Cubs won the World Series, Cleveland Indians fans were nicer to me than Chicago White Sox fans have ever been in my entire life.
There are few cities that have a love for baseball as pure as Cleveland does, and I am so proud to be a part of this city. Thank you for welcoming this Cubs fan with open arms.
There's always this year.