I remember the weekend before it happened. I was in Albuquerque with my family for the annual balloon festival. I had been there before, but it was different that time. The Cubs had advanced in the playoffs, and I could taste the World Series. It seemed inevitable.
A couple of games in the Marlins series took place while I was in New Mexico. I was, for a brief moment, concerned that I would not be in Chicago for the clincher. But it lined up well, since I returned in time for Game six on a Tuesday night. Mark Prior was pitching, and he had been his unhittable self in the postseason so far. It was in the bag.
I bought a sheet of window cling stickers, and cut out the Cubs logo shown above. I put it in the rear window of my family’s 1999 Subaru, which was newly ours after we had finished a four-year lease and bought out the car when it was over. I wouldn’t have put the sticker in if the car was still being leased, but in my exuberance it seemed like a small act of confidence.
As the Cubs built an early lead, and Prior was cruising along, I told my wife I was going to get a bottle of champagne to celebrate the first pennant of my lifetime. She objected, and told me that the Cubs were just going to lose the game. There was a split second of disbelief on my part when she said that. I went back to the game, but never did get the champagne. It was a harbinger of what was to come.
I didn’t know that Bernie Mac was a Cubs fan, but there he was in his blue warmup jacket, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with 40,000 fans in the ballpark, and who knows how many more outside the park. I would have been there too, but I had an infant daughter that I wanted to watch the game with. I wondered at the time if her birth had something to do with the Cubs’ success. I know that’s silly, but she had been born on the night of the All-Star game (which was held in Comiskey Park that summer), so anything seemed like it was possible.
When Bernie Mac warbled out “root, root, root for the Champions” I thought it was kind of sweet. I didn’t consider it a jinxing moment, the way some others are claiming they knew it was. He was just enjoying the moment. Everybody was.
The Cubs took the field in the eighth inning, just six outs away. The next half hour or so is a painful blur. It happened, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t angry at the unnamed fan (at that time) over what happened. I’ve gotten over that part of it in the years since then, but it’s still something I turn over in my mind. What could have changed? Did it have to end up as it did?
The short answer is yes, it did have to be this way. Fate knocked me on my butt that night, and left a scar that can only be healed when the Cubs win the World Series. Are you reading this, Theo Epstein? There are thousands, if not millions, who feel this way. And we’re looking to you to fix this.
The car with the Cubs sticker on it was towed away for good a few months ago. I had planned to drive it for several more years, but the Prius that has since replaced it means I’m paying less for gas than I used to, so that’s a good thing. And this time, I’ll wait until the deed is done before putting a sticker in the window.