Smells like…victory

The Cubs are BACK-TO-BACK NL Central CHAMPS!

What a crazy day and night!

There was a palpable excitement throughout the ballpark yesterday, knowing that our magic number was down to one. With a division clinch imminent, I was feeling nervous. I usually don’t–but even my wife, Peggy, said the same thing, even going so far as saying she should’ve taken a Xanax.

The nervousness was a good one. It ramped up when the Cubs got out to a 5-0 lead; you could smell the victory (my apologies to Robert Duvall’s Col. Kilgore for stealing his line from Apocalypse Now).

duvall_94967a.jpgBut when the Cardinals scored four runs off Ted Lilly in the sixth to make it 5-4, that nervousness took an uneasy tilt. In the eighth, as Carlos Marmol faced Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols, I kept thinking someone was going to launch one. But it didn’t happen. By the ninth, when Jim Edmonds squeezed that flyball for the final out, the nerves left.

Just then it occurred to me that there is no curse or hex on the Cubs. The curse belongs to the Cubs fan, the one who constantly feels like the sky is falling. I count myself among them, unfortunately, but is there a Cubs fan out there who can separate him or herself from those types of deep-rooted thoughts after so many years of anguish? Is there a Cubs fan, who has cheered longer than my 15 years in Chicago, who can say they can do that?

The celebration

It’s no secret that the Cubs clubhouse is small. Consider then, how a throng of media, that stretched 40 feet from the concourse entrance, was going to fit into that locker room. Miraculously, the clubhouse attendants did a terrific job in clearing out tables, chairs, equipment to allow the maximum room for celebration.

_S9F8717lr.jpgCompared to 2003, the celebration was actually subdued. As we filed in, the room was empty because all the players were on the field spraying fans. It was a nice gesture to include the fans because 3.3 million of them–a new club and Chicago sports franchise record–filed into Wrigley Field this year to watch a level-headed group methodically win the NL Central.

The celebration reflected that. Ryan Dempster, Ryan Theriot, Mark DeRosa, Lou PIniella–their demeanors and calm said more than any of their words did. There was more work to be done and this was only one step toward their ultimate goal: The World Series.

“We know this is just the first step,” DeRosa said. “We’re going to enjoy this tonight, but there’s still more work to be done.”

DeRosa remembers that fateful double play into which he hit during Game 3 of the 2007 NLDS. It extinguished just about any hope of a comeback, but it also fueled his drive for 2008.

“Yeah, that play went a long way in reminding me what we needed to do this year,” DeRosa said. “It’s not enough just to win the division this year.”

That’s not to say the festivities were mellow. As soon as I walked down the stairs, the almost-sour sweet fragrance of champagne was overwhelming. As I interviewed DeRosa, suddenly a bottle full of bubbly got dumped on both of our heads, courtesy of Marmol.

Sweet, indeed.

–Mike Huang

 

2 Comments

Mike-

What a day, what a week! I agree with you, that it is hard to be a long-time Cubs fan {30 years}, and not feel like something bad could happen, even when everything seems to be going our way. But after the way the Cubs have pulled off victories time and time again this year, (such as Soto’s amazing 9th inning HR Thursday!), it’s hard not to believe this team is something special, a force to be dealt with.

It’s wonderful that they clinched so early this year, and the fact that the backup Cubs could still beat Pujols and the Cardinals today gives me a lot of hope!

Absolutely. This team, more than any other team I’ve seen in the nine years I’ve been with the organization and covering the team, is the most resilient bunch so far. I think their 40 come-from-behind victories are a testament to that resiliency. Keep the faith!

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