Top of the ninth. Down three.
The Cubs had a 2.5 percent chance of winning game four against the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series (NLDS) on Oct. 11.
A 2.5 percent chance.
If you’re reading this column, odds are, you know what happened. The Cubs won that game 6-5, advancing to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) for the second straight year.
There’s something special about the Cubs.
The same Cubs who lost 101 games five years ago had the best record in baseball this season. These same Cubs had never won a playoff game west of St. Louis until Oct. 11.
Giants fans were keen to remind us that it’s an even year, and that they won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. About to tie up the NLCS, Giants fans were licking their chops at the thought of a winner-take-all game five.
But the loveable losers were having none of it. Not this time.
I’m in an interesting predicament. You see, I’m a White Sox fan. I grew up despising the Cubs. I would have rather eaten dog poop than step foot on Wrigley Field. There was no way on earth I would wish them success.
But this year, something changed, and I can’t explain it.
Win by win, my hatred deteriorated. With smiling faces here, and great plays there, how could I hate these guys? I eventually reached a point of indifference. I couldn’t hate the Cubs, even if I was a White Sox fan. But cheer for them? “No, I’m a White Sox fan,” I told myself. “Don’t be ridiculous, Dylan.”
Top of the ninth. Down three.
The White Sox fan in me was jumping for joy. They were doing it! They were losing! The Giants were going to force — and then win — game five, extending the longest championship drought in American professional sports history.
But then Javier Baez sent a ground ball into center field, bringing Jason Heyward home, capping an absolutely improbable comeback. The Cubs’ win tied the record for the largest deficit ever overcome in an elimination game. The Cubs had not staged a ninth-inning postseason comeback since 1910. It was the first time since 1911 that the Giants blew a ninth-inning lead in the postseason.
This game was special.
When Baez drove in the winning run, I did something I never thought I would do.
I cheered, and I cheered loud.
Sometimes, we lose sight of the importance of things. I was raised around Chicago sports, always assuming that the Cubs would just lose. It took 22 years for me to realize that the Cubs winning the World Series is not just a thing of legends: For once, it’s a real possibility. It has been 108 years since that happened, but this year, there’s a good chance we’ll see the Cubs actually win it all.
I’m a White Sox fan, sure, but I have learned something from a couple Cubs fans I know and call friends: I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. I don’t want to say I was cooped up in my room sulking because the Cubs — and not the White Sox — were singing “We are the Champions.”
Let’s not crown them yet; the Cubs still have to get through the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Call me a traitor, a bandwagoner — call me whatever you want. I don’t care. However, I do care about witnessing something no one has seen in over a century.
I made a bet with one of my friends, a Cubs fan, that I’d write this article if those loveable losers won the NLDS. Joke’s on her; I wanted to write it anyway.
I’m a White Sox fan, but at least for this October, I’ll “Fly the W.”