When myself and the two Killians booked flights and accommodation for Chicago to go and see Ireland play the All Blacks in the city’s Soldier Field stadium, we figured we’d spend the week before the game wandering the city, pick up a hockey game, nothing major. We never expected to be in the city when the Chicago Cubs’ 108 year wait for a World Series title finally ended. We were though.
The chances of actually being here at the time became much bigger when the Cubs made it to the best of 7 series last week. Increasingly excited Whatsapps were exchanged; “If the series goes to games 6 and/or 7 we’ll be there, lovely”. The Cleveland Indians then proceeded to take a 3-1 series lead Saturday night and the dream looked dead and buried. The Cubs went on to win 3 straight and now sit as the best team in baseball for the first time since before the Titanic sank or the Irish Republic was declared outside the GPO.
We watched the Game 6 victory in a bar. Nothing too mad in the city afterwards: the next day would the big one and we’d hopefully see the madness then. The question was now where to watch it; we wanted to be in the heart of it. This was in Wrigleyville, the area around Wrigley Field the home of the Cubs. The issue was the extortion. Word filtered out from Uber drivers and shop staff; $250 just to get into the bars up there and $500 if you want to get in and have a a table. $250 to step in the door?! Good luck to you. We found a lovely little spot called Streeters in Downtown Chicago with free in and cheap pitchers. Happy days.
It seemed for a lot of the game that the Cubs were cruising to victory when leading 5-1 after the fifth inning of nine. The Indians, who themselves haven’t won a World Series since 1948, rallied to bring it to 6-6 after 9 and we were headed to “extra innings”. The momentum appeared to lie solely in the hands of Cleveland. Then the rain delay. The bar was starting to clear out, people had work early on Thursday mornings and couldn’t be waiting around a city centre bar for the rain to end. Satellite images on Twitter showed a storm on the way. Ah here we’re not waiting for that, back to the hotel to regroup. We arrive back and play has resumed so we peg it to the room. We don’t have Fox Sports. B****x. Peg it back downstairs to the lobby to watch it with another 15 people, mainly Indians fans. Right, here we go; the final run in.
The Cubs would go on to win it by one run in the next inning. Even for lads who’ve been watching the team for only two nights it’s strange. Oh my God they actually did it. Sports curses aren’t real. Mayo take note; these things end eventually. Right, forget bed, out into the madness.
Initially the streets are relatively quiet. Sure we’ll head up to Wrigleyville and wander the streets. When we get to the red line stations people are flowing upstairs towards us. Maybe downtown is the place to be (After seeing video from Wrigleyville this wasn’t really the case but what ya gonna do?). Sure we’ll find a bar, there are loads of good ones north of the river. As we walk the streets things are getting louder. Car horns beep incessantly, stranger after stranger is throwing us and everyone else high fives. We get to a street of bars where everyone is outside, people flooding out of the clubs and taverns, maybe the street is the place to be. The crowds were congregating in pockets, everyone just looking for the hub of the party. The horns got louder, people hollered their Ric Flair woos into the night and the high fives kept coming. It’s a Cubs tradition to hoist a W flag after every win and now they fly from every building and car. We’re all part of this. Three Irish lads as much as born and bred Chicago fans.
As the night goes on it becomes clear that that’s not really the case. These people have suffered for years through being awful, a joke, loveable losers. Now they are champions. Even the series itself was hard on them. Down 3-1, up 5 runs to 1 in game 7 only to see the lead snatched away. Now peace, and bedlam, and relief. I started to become aware of the fact that we wandered the noisy crowded streets as observers now. Unable to get to the same place of euphoria as our new friends, undeserving of it. The night was special to see, special to witness but there’s the rub. We were watching this city breathe a collective sigh of relief after 108 years as opposed to breathing it ourselves. What a view it was.
My mind turned to Irish droughts and imagined Kildare winning an All Ireland for the first time since 1928, how insane that would be. Ireland winning a Euros one day even. Sure we can all dream of anything on nights like this. Throw in the World Cup for good measure while we’re at it.
Saturday swam into view. Ireland’s own curse to conquer. No billy goats here. No angry priest at a funeral even. But on a night like this, beating the All Blacks feels that bit more possible.
We all revelled in something special on the streets of Downtown Chicago last night. We were all part of it in a way. This belongs to the people of the city though and fair play to them. They deserve it.