Anthony Bourdain once said about Chicago, “This one of the truly most awesome cities in the world…it’s like the greatest city in America.”
Chicago will always be home. I grew up 15 minutes outside the city limits, went to undergrad there and lived in my first apartment there, overlooking the lake on the North Side. I found my people in Chicago- artists and eccentrics, people willing to grow into themselves amidst a large and looming city. Chicago is tough and Chicago is complicated, but it’s also warm, welcoming, and culturally extraordinary. I once heard that New York is “What the hell do you want?”, LA is “Who the hell do you know?”, and Chicago is “How the hell are ya?”
In my completely biased opinion, I can’t help but agree with Bourdain.
On Saturday night, some 2,000 miles away from my fair city, my eyes welled up with happy tears. The Chicago Cubs, our Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series. Typing that feels like I’m writing the punchline of a joke. Despite how many times during these playoffs I told myself that it was just a game, just a sport, I could not shake feeling that it was more. It was more because it was the Cubs, Chicago’s beloved team, the one we’ve loved without condition. There is not a team in Chicago, and maybe America, that has been loved with such devotion.
That, I believe, is a reflection of Chicago and the people in it. I live on the West Coast now and every time I go back home, I note the warmth of the people there. I realize it’s an odd thing to say about a city in so much turmoil. It’s a place constantly in flux, constantly contradicting itself.
Once when I first started hanging out in the city on my own, I was rushing to meet a friend at a bar, turned down Clark, and there it was. I had been to Wrigley before and been a fan for years, but it wasn’t until then that it occurred to me how cool it was that a ball park was smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood. One night after a college party on Southport, a group of us walked to the only McDonald’s open, the one across from Wrigley (now recently torn down). We were outside, sharing fries beneath the glow of the sign, sitting quietly, looking up at it with an unexpected reverence. Eventually someone said, “Isn’t it cool we’re here and Wrigley Field is just…right there?”
Chicago’s unwavering commitment to the Cubs stems from its relationship with that neighborhood ballpark. Wrigley, and the team that plays within its confines, is accessible. It’s just over there, where it’s stood for 102 years.
Saturday night, watching the post-game coverage and listening to the speeches, there was a common thread- the fans and the city. You could not mention the success of the team without mentioning the abiding power of its fans. No man is an island, and in this case, no team is either. The team has made it abundantly clear- this is for Chicago. Sox fans are hopping on a bandwagon they never imagined hopping on. An at times inconsonant city can come together on this one. And the Cubs have the confidence of knowing they are always beloved, win or lose.
The Cubs are Chicago, the Cubs are Wrigley, the Cubs are “How the hell are ya?” And now, the Cubs are going to the World Series.