Holy Cow: Cubs Win the World Series and Our Hearts

This is a story of resilience, of hope rewarded, of an underdog rising to greatness. It’s a story of generations, of love passed down through DNA, of unifying triumph, of a storybook “happily ever after” and banished curses.

It’s a moment in history that’s been over a century in the making, and everyone wants a part in it. Five million people filled the streets of Chicago on Friday in the seventh-largest human gathering of all time–and the largest ever in our country–to watch the Chicago Cubs’ victory parade. “Thank you for your patience,” the lauded World Series Champions of 2016 said, giving as much praise to their fans’ perseverance as their own. The Chicago Cubs had had the longest drought of any professional sports team in the history of the USA: 108 years without a championship.

#FlytheW–the Cubs won the World Series! Photo courtesy of my friend Arnaud Buttin, who attended the rally.

That number, 108, keeps popping up in uncanny ways, signs of destiny that 2016 really was our year–according to Inside Edition, the list includes:

  • The building that broadcasts Cubs games: 108 stories high
  • Stitches on a baseball: 108
  • Original address of baseball manufacturer, Spalding: 108 Madison St., Chicago
  • Run time of movies Back to the Future 2 and Taking Care of Business, who predicted future Cubs World Series wins: 108 minutes

Here is the Inside Edition video, published 10/25, predicting the win:

Also, another that came forward, necessarily after that video: Joe Maddon, the manager of the Cubs, presented the championship trophy to the rally in Grant Park at 1:08 p.m. on Friday.

This feeling of destiny is a heavy weight lifted off the shoulders of so many who have inherited this love of the Cubs from others. At first, I thought the story I shared last week about our family Cubs tradition was unique, but over this past week, I’ve read many other touching stories of people rejoicing more on behalf of their loved ones than themselves.

One man drove all day to Greenwood Cemetery, Indiana, to keep a promise to his dad–that they would listen to the World Series together. He set up a radio and a lawn chair, and they did just that.

In my own family, my dad kept an unspoken promise to his mother, who raised him to be the Cubs fan he is today. She wasn’t far away during that epic game 7 of the World Series. Her mass card sports St. Anthony of Padua, who she always loved as the patron saint of lost things–and lost causes, she added. My dad kept her mass card and the lucky marble he’d shared with her on the table we surrounded while we bit our nails, jumped up and down, hyperventilated, and nearly collapsed during that game.

St. Anthony of Padua on my grandmother’s mass card, and the lucky marble my dad shared with her

The next day, he looked everywhere for a newspaper to take to her grave–an acknowledgement, a celebration, of the moment they’d been waiting for for many decades. And while she didn’t get to see it while she was here with us, she had the ultimate view from Heaven.

The newspapers were sold out at four different stores my dad went to, but he randomly found a pristine copy of two in the wrong spot by the coffee at Jewel. Even the cashier shared her shock he’d found one, but he smiled, knowing it was a special delivery.

Special Delivery: Victory Newspapers

We figured out later that our grandma was definitely watching the game from Heaven, when we realized the three final winning games had significant dates for her: her death anniversary, All Saint’s Day, and All Soul’s Day.

The game went on forever, in a good but completely nerve-shattering way. After jumping at a leaf the next day, my mom announced her nerves were shot. Several of our friends had to turn off the game at one point because they were about to be physically ill. As for me, my heart was racing for the entire game, but I determined to make it through, no matter what! After all, if these underdogs were about to change history, I didn’t want to miss it. As a bonus, I discovered I actually can hold my breath for 4.5 hours.

The game was as epic as a Lord of the Rings movie–and this, coming from an LOTR superfan–but it was like the climax lasted the entire duration. Movie producers would dismiss a script like that because it would be too unbelievable. When the game went into an extra 10th inning because of a tie, and then when there was a rain delay–even nature was adding to the drama–that was the breaking point for some people. For the Cubs, though, it was the moment of truth–Jason Heyward, outstanding outfielder for the team this year, gave a rallying speech to the Cubs that they could break the tie, break the curses, that not all was lost.

Speaking of Lord of the Rings, it reminded me of another rallying speech:

Image result for aragorn speech gif       Image result for aragorn speech courage of men

Indeed, after that rain delay, the Cubs pulled it together to achieve a final score of 8-7. To say the crowds went WILD is an understatement. It’s no wonder that the celebration is still going strong–“Go Cubs!” has replaced “Hello” around here, and “Go, Cubs, Go,” is the anthem of every place music might be played, from my own band’s performance to our hospital’s black-tie fundraising gala. Fans–of the Cubs, of Chicago, of the underdog story–want to acknowledge this moment of unity, perseverance, and reward of faith invested, breaths held for over a century. Our fandom only increases as we learn how the players are using their fame to give back to fans, including Anthony Rizzo’s foundation for cancer research he started after beating it himself. These aren’t just good players; they’re good people. These are heroes for America’s kids that we can be proud of. That goes for the Cleveland Indians, too–I was really impressed with the civility and kindness between the opposing teams. Now that’s a lesson we could carry with us!

Thank you, Cubs, for bringing us such a happy moment in history–something we could really use right now, especially in Chicago. Here’s to hoping we can carry this optimism and camaraderie with us beyond baseball. And even though 108 might be my new favorite number, here’s to hoping for another thrilling win in 2017.

 

Drawing by my very talented sister

Go, Cubs, Go: What Baseball Means to Me–and Chicago

It was a loud, proud night in Chicagoland Saturday night. Fireworks and cheers erupted over the region, and the closer you were to the epicenter–Wrigley Field, that is–the more you could feel the roar of excitement, relief, and pride. That pride rippled around the world, as I saw posts from some of my friends in different countries, struggling to find an internet connection to add their own voice to the cheering. Every local television channel switched to broadcast the news: the Cubs won the National League champions pennant, marking the first time they’d be in the World Series since 1945!

Image result for cubs world series

Are you wondering what blog you’re reading right now–when did I become a sports fan, right? In a way, you could say this year; in a way, you could say my whole life. I’ve become more invested in the Cubs this year, partially because of the community. One of my friends, Grace, had a playoff game playing at her birthday party, and while we were all there for her (she is wonderful), and while we enjoyed the made-from-scratch food, it was the game that caused the excitement that brought us closer together. I’ve become keenly aware of the game schedule, too, as the bass player in the string band I’m in is unequivocally not available for practice or performance on any game days (and it would be unthinkable to perform without our crucial Billy on bass!).

While I’m not much of a sports fan in general, I’ve always been a baseball fan, to some extent. Our family has gone to baseball games together since I was little (though my early Cubs memories mostly revolve around Cracker Jack and Lemon Chills). Now, we try to attend Kane County Cougars games at least once a summer.

Always the highlight of our summer–great family bonding time at Cougars games! My dad found this helmet for me in my favorite color so I can safely attend post-TBI–have to protect the noggin from foul balls and homers. 😉

Although our childhood focused heavily on music (my adulthood, too!), our dad made sure my sister and I learned how to play baseball the right way. To his shoulder’s chagrin, this involved swinging a ball attached to a rope around his head for us to bat as hard as we could, without the risk of it flying into a neighbor’s window (both the technique and the caution were learned from his childhood). We played catch, too, focusing on proper form. They’re all fond childhood memories for me.

Baseball is somewhat of a family tradition for us, though I’m sorry to our lineage that my sister and I inherited mostly the enthusiasm, not the athletic grace, of the sport! My dad bonded with his dad over many things, but baseball might have been the strongest one. Even though my grandfather had to use a prosthetic leg, he didn’t let that stop him from enjoying the game with my dad, by expertly playing catch, as well as coaching my dad’s little league and senior league teams. My grandmother, too, was an avid baseball fan, mostly of the Cubs, while my grandfather was more of a White Sox fan. I guess, by my generation, we are both, a mix not only of genetics, but also fandoms. We call ourselves “Chicago fans.”

And thank you, Cubs, for giving us Chicagoans something to be fans of. Thank you for making Chicago a proud city this weekend, when we’ve had so much tragedy this year. What’s remarkable to me is the uniting factor of the game, bringing together people of all ethnicities, all genders, all generations, all religions. In a time when our country is so divided over politics, we can all come together and be proud of something quintessentially American, no matter who wins the World Series–but this fan hopes it will be the Cubs.

When I found this video, I got goosebumps. Talk about unity–you can hear thousands of people singing together in joy from almost a mile away, high in the air. This was from a National League wildcard game this season (if the embedded version doesn’t work for you, try this: https://youtu.be/Drszsid3I1s ). Skip to 1:43 for the best sound quality on Chicago’s favorite song this season!

This flag’s tradition started in the 1930s as an announcement after every Cubs win–but now, fans have adopted it to represent the Cubs in general. I guess that shows the level of confidence in our home team! Go, Cubs, Go! (Thanks to Octavarius.com for the image)

Oklahoma Twister

Tonight’s blog post is dedicated to the people of Moore, Oklahoma. I started writing this a few days ago, but my heart was too heavy to see all the good that I knew came out of the sad situation at the time.  I felt a strange bond with the town, even though I don’t have any family there; I think it’s because we are part of the “family” of Midwestern states, the group known for wheat fields, long grasses, friendly neighbors…and, unfortunately, tornadoes.

I definitely wanted to identify the “jelly-side up” aspect of this tragedy. And I think, just like in Boston’s recent tragedy, the good is found in the people.

The beauty of the kindness of people shined through on Monday and is continuing to do so still. I think, for this tornado-riddled region, there is an inherent kinship in the hearts of the residents.

The 2-mile-wide F-5 tornado touched down around 3 p.m. CST Monday in Moore, Oklahoma and traveled 20 miles.
(Photo from Yahoo! News)

For a full news report, I think Yahoo! did a good job of writing one. For live updates, you can see ABC’s feed.

This event was beyond devastating. 24 people and 100 animals were confirmed dead. The destruction is unimaginable, even still.

Yet through it all, the people of Oklahoma have bonded together to protect and help one another.

A schoolteacher carrying a little girl out of the destroyed Briarwood Elementary School.
(Photo from ABC News)

One heartwarming story I heard was of another schoolteacher who covered three children with her body as the tornado ripped through the school. She saved them all.

They helped the animals, too. There are still animal rescue groups out there finding many animals who were missing. ❤
(Photo from the Denver Post blog)

I think people are still in shock from what happened. In Illinois, we were glued to our TVs and computers all day, watching news streaming live and praying for people and animals to be saved. As the weather system swept past us with only rain, we felt a mixture of relief and survivor’s guilt for our Oklahoman neighbors who weren’t as lucky.

But there were miracles that happened that day, and miracles continue to happen even now. In this article, I discovered a new favorite journalist whom I’m now following on Twitter: Andrea Ayres Deets. I really like her perspective, and I appreciate that she published this article (“10 Unbelievable Acts of Kindness Following the Oklahoma Tornado”) right when the nation needed it the next day. USA Today also posted a nice video about stories of hope in Oklahoma following the tornado.

The fact that the official death count was cut almost in half from Monday to Tuesday was a miracle in and of itself. I’ve never heard of that happening before. Another incredible miracle was a story of a baby being born in the middle of the tornado. Doctors and nurses bravely moved a woman in labor into a room with no windows, so she wouldn’t panic, and they delivered the baby as the walls collapsed around her. Both the mom and baby emerged in full health. The baby was named “Brayden Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” He certainly was, wasn’t He? If you watch that video (hyperlinked above in this paragraph), directly following it is the viral video of the woman who was being interviewed about her lost dog when he emerged from the rubble behind her.

For some people in Moore, I know life will never be the same. Twenty-four families are still in mourning over their lost family members. However, like the woman in the dog video says, Oklahoma is no stranger to tornadoes and rebuilding after disasters. People from all over the world are coming together to help out the victims; places as far away as Guam set up disaster relief. Also, a requested retweet: @redcrossokc has set up a shelter and reunification site for those affected by the tornado. They are asking for people to retweet the message.

If you’re interested, here’s an excellent listing of How you can help.

A symbol of America’s unity embracing the disaster victims. (Photo from Daily Kos via Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office, @OkCountySheriff

I was inspired by all of this to write a poem. It’s more newsy than my usual ones, but I thought that was suited to how I’ve been interacting with the story. I’ve been following the news coverage closely, evaluating those stories, and forming an emotional connection with the people and animals I’ve been reading about.

“Clouds”
By: Amanda Fowler

Touchdown;
Not a victory.
Clouds of fate
ripped through
the middle of
the middle of
the country,
destroying
buildings and lives
forever.

Black clouds
spread across
the whole nation’s sky;
the news reached Chicago
before the weather did.
By the time
the storm reached Chicago,
it just brought rain;
but we didn’t notice,
because our eyes
were full of water
already.

Swirling around,
everyone’s the same,
and people who didn’t know
each other yesterday
climb through debris,
risking their own lives
to save another.
Some who went up
will never come back down,
but there is still hope,
and until the last glimmer
goes out, they will
continue to search.

51 to 24 is a miracle;
27 raised from the dead,
27 more prayers to add
for the 24 who flew
into Heaven.
And in the eye of the storm,
two new eyes open
for the first time:
a child is born,
Brayden Emmanuel;
“God is with us,”
says his name,
and we know it is true.
A ray of sun
is breaking through the clouds.

Today,
Oklahoma is rebuilding,
and the memories and love
cemented in the old buildings
will be in these, too,
but also,
the new memories
of saviors, heroes, rescues,
hope,
light breaking through clouds,
miracles–
these, too, will be a part
of the renewed Oklahoma.