Unofficially at least, there were no losers during baseball’s finest hour
Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians had to overcome much more than history in an epic World Series clash
Put them away, all of them, because there is not a single adjective that can properly describe game seven of this year’s World Series.
The magnificence of the moment was only slightly diminished by the fact that either the long-suffering Chicago Cubs or the long-suffering Cleveland Indians were actually going to end up on the wrong side of history. Neither deserved it.
But history has to be cruel to be kind and history has never been so prominent in a championship quest as this one.
There are really only a handful of sporting franchises in our rapidly expanding sporting universe that have been in existence for over a century and none, other than the Cubs, have suffered a 108-year drought.
Playing in one of the world’s most famous cities and one of sport’s more charming and antiquated parks, there are at least three or four generations of loyal Cub fans who have no idea what it feels like to win a World Series.
In fact, there are two or three generations who had never seen a Cubs’ World Series game because it had been 71 years since they last played in it.
It was almost as long as the 67-year gap since the Indians last won the title, the longest drought by any team not called the Cubs.
With that kind of history as a backdrop, the actual games did not even have to be interesting to be dramatic.
However, they delivered a plethora of memorable performances with the underdog Indians surging to a 3-1 lead, a victory away from an unlikely title.
Before the hometown Cavaliers stormed back from their own 3-1 deficit to win the NBA championship in June this year, the city of Cleveland endured a torturous title drought of 52 years.
And now they were going to have two championships parades within a five-month period?
Things were downright delirious in a place that has long been the butt of jokes nationally. But what the so-called “mistake by the lake” lacks in bucolic splendour or urban refinement, it makes up for in communal pride and a sporting resiliency hewed by a half century of heartbreak.
On the north side of Chicago there was naturally a familiar sense of unease, but this time it was particularly painful. The new improved, deep pocketed and well run Cubs were the undisputed best team in baseball.
With a bottomless pool of supremely talented young players, they were destiny’s darling and a national media obsession lacking only an official coronation. Yet here were the largely unknown Indians with no regard whatsoever for the popular culture narrative.
This Cubs team, though, are remarkably resilient and no fan of history. They rallied to force a game seven in Cleveland that was riveting before the first pitch was even thrown. The Cubs took a 5-1 lead, then squandered parts of it before restoring their advantage to 6-3 with all but four outs separating them from a seminal and transcendent fate.
This was now a deeply emotional moment, memories of families, of parents and their parent’s parents, most of them gone now and so many of them linked primarily by their love of the Cubs.
Dry eyes were in short supply. But you better save some tears Cub fans because life is never neat. When the Indians rallied behind a heroic and deafening Rajai Davis home run to tie the game at 6-6, the drama was palpable. A deadlocked ninth led to extra innings but not before the rain came to delay things and let the world digest the epic unfolding before it.
The Cubs came back to score two and once again an elusive, excruciatingly orgasmic victory was in sight.
But the Indians scored one and put a runner on base with two outs and the winning run coming to the plate. They do keep score in these things because they have to. But there were no losers here, only winners.
This was two teams of indomitable will battling not only each other but a daunting history and treating us to a memorable display of fortitude.
Not sure about you, but this was not only the greatest baseball game in my lifetime, it was the most significant professional sporting championship as well.
I suppose one begets the other when it is a sublime treat of this magnitude.