I need to start off by offering the following: I've been a die-hard Cubs fan since, oh, 7pm CST on Tuesday, November 1st of this year. It was a tough run, but that's neither here nor there because - we did it, y'all. We won a freaking World Series championship.
What's interesting about being an unapologetic bandwagoner is that I've gotten to see a different perspective from most lifers. Lifers bleed Cubby blue, know the history, share the history with family members - some of whom may be deceased. They have the baby photos taken at Wrigley, they have their engagement photos taken at Wrigley and sometimes even get married at Wrigley. They know the players, attend the pre-season games, know Wrigleyville like the back of their hand, and know which players can be counted on, ten out of ten times. They have the lucky watch, the lucky shirt, the lucky baseball cap, the lucky ring, the lucky pen, the lucky flag, the lucky burpcloth - ALL the lucky things, and some even sacrifice family time with the in-laws to watch alone so as not to ruin the juju. Lifers know why the game starts at 7:08pm. Lifers don't touch goats, eat goat, or let their kids read nursery rhymes like "The Three Billy Goats Gruff." Also, no petting zoos involving goats. The most dedicated lifers give their kids names like: Addison Clark Johnson, Markie Grace Jones, Bryant Russell Edwards, or Harold Caray Smith (Harry for short). One may even make "Arrieta" a beautiful baby girl's name. Arrieta Louise, perhaps.
But there's one thing that all of us do - new, old, ancient, and fair-weather . . .
We fly the W.
Ok, as a newbie to Chicagoland almost seven years ago, at first I was beyond confused. "What's this 'W' for?"
Willow Creek Community Church?
Whataburger nearby? (I really wish, you guys.)
Wayne's World fan extraordinaire?
I had no idea. But now, as an expert insider, it's obvious:
Historically, the W was flown over the stadium when the Cubs won at home, but in recent days, it seemed as if Ws were flown if the Cubs even sneezed in the direction of a win (which was a lot). Navy Ws flew on doorposts, above car windows, against office walls, and on the back of MacBooks. Ws were spray painted on bedsheets, hung from flag posts, and donned across grocery stores and coffee shops.
Somehow, this season, the W dared to represent more than just Cubs wins. It started to represent hope. Hope in what, you ask? More wins, sure. A World Series title, absolutely. But as someone who moved to this city not caring about baseball (sorry Astros and Dodgers), but who cared about the people living in it and the problems they were bravely battling on a daily basis, I really wonder if flying the W this season, this year, was meant for more than baseball.
I wonder if flying the W was meant for Chicago. For humanity.
This year in our city we've been surrounded by shootings, protests, and strikes; gang wars, poverty, and broken education systems. We've been plastered across mainstream media as a troubled and dangerous city. Headlines have highlighted the death toll and messy politics.
But we're more than that. As a city. As people.
We're neighbors who bring each other's newspapers to the porch and who help the elderly with their groceries. We pick up each other's kids from daycare when we're running late, and we let each other sleep in our extra bedroom when the overflowing toilet destroys our entire house. We borrow each other's lawn mowers, and pay for the guy behind us in the Starbucks drive-thru. We visit the new mom with the colicky baby and bring pastries to work to celebrate birthdays. We send cards in the mail "just because" and buy way too many Girl Scout cookies to encourage the next generation. We dance 'til our feet hurt at our best friend's wedding and send selfies to our sick co-workers. We call our grandparents to tell them we love them and to hear "that" story for the hundredth time, gladly.
In a world where fear is normalized, churches and mosques are being burned and vandalized in the name of political agendas, peoples' ideas of normalcy and security are being upended due to terror, social media is the Autobahn of hate speech and judgement-casting, Chicago . . .
. . . we actually take care of each other from time to time. Probably more often than you think.
We actually celebrate each other's wins.
And we actually still fly Ws in the face of losses. Because, as a city - and as people - we do well when we dare to hope.
The thing I love about this championship isn't the championship itself. It's what it did to us. Without us even knowing it, the Cubs in the World Series took years of winless droughts and turned Chicago into a city overflowing with unbiased joy, love, and hope. In Wrigleyville last night, it didn't matter if you were brown, black, white, purple or blue. It didn't matter if you were Democrat, Republican, Independent, or anti-establishment. It didn't matter if you drove a Toyota or a Tesla. It didn't matter if you lived in the Gold Coast or Fox River Grove (stand UP!), went to college or have yet to graduate from middle school. Last night, for a few precious hours, we were truly unified. We were just - Chicago. The good Chicago. The victorious Chicago. The patient and faithful and "finally!" Chicago.
Can we do this, even without the Cubs? Can we still celebrate wins and spur each other on in the face of losses?
I think we can. I know we can, actually. Because if a baseball team can bring that out of us (even a 2-day fan like me), so can a lot of other things.
I look forward to the day when we're flying Ws around our city because gang violence has claimed no more innocent lives. I look forward to the day when we're flying Ws because our kids know how to treat one another with love and respect at school. Ws for neighborhood cookouts and depleting homelessness. Ws for literacy and job training and environmental sustainability and peace.
Ws only happen though, when we have a common something to believe in - and a winning team. This World Series happened on more than dreams and fantastic apparel. It took great management, talented and dedicated players, and teamwork.
So it will happen with us. We will only fly Ws as the lovable Second City if we do more than hope. We must commit to managing ourselves, our homes, our spheres of influences in ways that call out the best. We must remain dedicated to the cause, and - here's the kicker - to each other. Because Bryant, Rizzo, Russell, Chapman, Ross, Arrieta, Baez, you name one. None of them could've won a World Series alone.
Keep flying Ws, Chicago. For this and future Cubs wins, yes.
Humanity wins, too.
Never put those Ws away. Keep flying them, forever. Keep daring to hope in each other.