They say that champions live for moments like these. A young, upstart challenger looking to de-throne you; thinking they’ve got you right where they want you. Just one strike away.
“They’re done,” my friend Jimmy Gordon texted at 9:49 p.m., a time when wiser men are already in restful sleep.
Jimmy is of course a Cubs fan. He’d just watched on TV the Cubs’ bullpen surrender the tying and go-ahead runs to the Brewers in the seventh and eighth innings.
“This is really bad,” I responded. “Arrieta gave them everything they needed to win and to blow that is something they just can’t afford to do. It sets the tone for the entire series.”
“Yup, I think they’re done,” Jimmy responded as if on Cubs fan text auto-pilot.
Cubs fans haven’t learned to live for moments like these. At least those of us who’ve been around long enough to have witnessed the horrors of that ball that rolled through Leon Durham’s legs or the one that landed in the outreached hands of that bespectacled fan.
The old Cubs were predictable. They’d always lose in the end. This team? They’re anything but predictable. They’re unlike any other Cubs team in our lifetimes. Just when you think they’re done, when they’re down to that last breath…
Javy Baez smacks a single through the middle of the infield and Ian Happ races from second base to score the tying run in the top of the ninth.
“Holy Javy!” I texted.
“Yeah nice!” Jimmy replied. “They gotta take this…I’m not sure I can watch.”
Believing still doesn’t come naturally to us. “Yeah I still get the feeling the Brewers are going to come out on top at the end,” I wrote back.
“I think so,” Jimmy replied. “I have to shut it off or I’ll never fall asleep.”
You can’t shut off this team. We saw what they were made of last year, when they came back so many times in the postseason in the most improbable ways. But let’s face it, this year’s team just hasn’t seemed like that team.
Until last night.
Until Wade Davis, the team’s season-long MVP, the one who never seems to rattle, somehow escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the ninth and managed to coax a dribbler into his glove for the final out when the Brewers were one ball away from a walk-off walk.
“Whew!” Jimmy texted.
“Guess you couldn’t turn it off!” I wrote back.
“Nope. Even if I wanted to Erich wouldn’t let me.” Erich is Jimmy’s son. He’s young. He has none of the scars that we, the old die-hards, have.
Erich no doubt saw what was coming even before it happened. He’d seen it last year. He just expects it.
Then it came, in the top of the 10th: K-Boom. Kris Bryant, last season’s MPV, shook Miller Stadium with a 2-run blast, serving notice to not only the Brewers but to the Dodgers and the Nationals and, yes, even the Indians, that the Cubs are still the champions.
“That saved the season,” I texted after Davis calmly put away the Brewers one-two-three in the bottom of the tenth.
“Could have for sure,” Jimmy replied. “I can sleep now. Have a good one.”
Going to bed happy. I think we, the old-time Cubs fans, can get used to this.
Randy Richardson is the author of the Wrigleyville murder mystery, Lost in the Ivy, and a regular contributor to Wrigleyville Nation. He is presently working on a book about celebrity Cubs fans with fellow Wrigleyville Nation contributor Becky Sarwate.