As I write this, I’m sitting in my Cubs-themed man cave, which serves largely as a shrine to the 2016 World Series Championship team. I have a poster with a collage of images of the team celebrating their title, next to one with a bunch of newspaper covers from the following day. I also have a framed picture of the 1908 team next to the 2016 team, while a giant photo of me posing with the World Series trophy hangs above my chair.
Those images will continue to serve as a reminder of one of the most thrilling moments of my life: witnessing the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. And for 351 days, the Cubs were the champions. It was a great run. So much pride. Lots of celebration. But as the cliche goes, all good things must come to an end. Last night, in an anticlimatic 11-1 loss to the Dodgers, the Cubs’ reign as champions officially ended.
I am upset about the loss to the Dodgers. I wanted to see a repeat as much as anyone. But I’m also at peace with it. And just because they didn’t win it all again this year doesn’t mean it was a bad season. Think about the run the Cubs are currently on:
Three straight seasons of over 90 wins.
Three straight NLCS appearances.
A World Series Championship.
If someone told you three years ago that this is what the next three years would bring, would you be happy? I’m guessing most Cubs fans would be thrilled.
I know that series against the Dodgers was brutal. And it always hurts to get that close to the World Series and not make it. But this was still a great season. And we’re still living in a great era of Chicago Cubs baseball.
We can get upset about the lack of hitting or all the walks from the pitching staff in this year’s NLCS. It was tough to watch for sure. But the Dodgers are the better team this year, and we have to give them credit for getting the job done. Last year, these two teams also met in the NLCS, and the Cubs were the better team. Despite a couple of rough games, the Cubs’ superior talent eventually took over before they won the series in six games.
This year, the script was flipped. The Dodgers were the National League’s dominant team in 2017, just like the Cubs were last year. They won 12 more games during the regular season. They were better than the Cubs in virtually all phases of the game. And not only that, but they came into the series well-rested while the Cubs were drained from an exhausting five-game series win over the Nationals in the Division Series. Even the most optimistic of Cubs fans had to admit that this was going to be a difficult series to win.
Repeating as World Series Champions is hard. There’s a reason it hasn’t been done in almost 20 years. In fact, this was the first time in four years that a defending champion even made it back to the playoffs. Considering all the injuries, the loss of key players Dexter Fowler and David Ross, and the physical toll that last year’s deep run had on the team, they still came one step away from a return trip to the World Series. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
This isn’t the first time the Cubs’ season ended in disappointment. But I understand that this year is different. Most years, at some point, we have to deal with the pain of the fact that the team won’t win a championship. Last year, for once, we were spared that bad ending.
But now, after a year of celebration and of being on top of the baseball world, we again had to taste defeat. It’s a sad occasion to see our season end like this. Still, after taking a little time away to reflect and to get over the difficult way the season ended, one day we’ll look back fondly at the 2017 season. I’ll remember all the celebration. I’ll remember sitting through 13 innings of bitter cold at Wrigley Field before the Cubs finally pulled off a win against the Phillies. I’ll remember those thrilling late season wins over St. Louis and Milwaukee and never forget Game 5 in Washington.
I don’t think I’ll look back on 2017 as a failure. And once the sting of this loss is gone, I’ll be ready to come back for the 2018 season, hanging on to the new dream I started to have this year: seeing the Cubs once again win the World Series.
Brian Johnston is the author of the book The Art of Being a Baseball Fan, his story of following the 2015 Chicago Cubs, available on Amazon. He lives in St. Joseph, Michigan with his wife and two children.