Perhaps some baseball fans don't want to let the innocent, aw-shucks Cubs go. But, seeing that smile on Kris Bryant's face when he was fielding the final out and the tears streaming down faces outside of Wrigley Field shows that the time has come.
Watching game seven of the World Series did not feel like a real experience. Aside from the sheer brilliance of the game, probably one of the most exciting in league history, I could not comprehend that the Cubs were approaching a title. Their multiple-run leads throughout the game and their two-run 10th inning obviously indicated that they were — yet, somehow, the scoreboard didn't register. Some understanding of the Cubs prevented my brain from grasping and perceiving that it was really happening: the Cubs were going to win the World Series.
The Cubs' championship is not a surprise by any statistical, talent, leadership or team cohesiveness perspective — aside, perhaps, from the fact that they have not won in 108 years. Theo Epstein, along with general manager Jed Hoyer and the rest of the baseball operations department, has created a sporting masterpiece. They spent the last five years drafting, developing, and acquiring with the efficiency and precision of a hedge fund. But, their emphasis on ruthlessness was perfectly complemented by bringing in people with character like David Ross and a manager who never let his players lose sight of the joy in the game.
It's surprising in a cultural and contextual sense. The Cubs have built themselves a business and a following based on their perennial misery. Yankees fans talk about their 27 titles; Dodgers fans talk about the brilliance of Koufax, Robinson, Valenzuela, and Kershaw; Giants fans talk about 3 in 6; and Red Sox fans talk about their own curse that Theo helped expel as well as their subsequent two titles in the past nine years. Even the Mets and the White Sox, who have shared in the losing ways of the Cubs, can point to a few special years. Cubs fans have mostly been preoccupied with a curse about a goat and Steve Bartman. The only team that has avoided November baseball at a rate even comparable to the Cubs is Cleveland. But their World Series drought was 40 years shorter than the Cubs', and they almost won twice in the 1990s. For years uncountable, the Cubs have been the champions of losing.
No more do Cubs fans have to take refuge in “there's always next year.” If they did not win a World Series for 208 years, fans would still have returned to Wrigley to cheer their team on in April. But now, they've parted with the one thing that has defined them most: losing.
Now that they have, the winning is unlikely to cease. The Cubs will probably go grab another big name free agent (Jose Batista?) this offseason and welcome a few talented young players into their ranks, like Ian Happ. Schwarber-Rizzo-Baez-Russell-Bryant-Heyward-Zobrist-Contreas and Arrieta-Lester-Hendricks isn't a great team; it's an all-star team.
But, even though losing has largely defined the Cubs for many seasons, they'll still remain the baseball team they always have been as they continue to pursue glory. They'll take their essential identity with them — they'll just likely omit the losing part. Baseball is a relatively pure sport compared to the other major American leagues, and the Cubs have been the purest representation of our nation's pastime.
Wrigley Field is a national monument, and the Cubs' relationship with the North side of Chicago is familial. They sure look like they could be the class of the league for the next decade, if not more. If that pans out, it could not happen to a more deserving team.