When I originally planned on writing these 10 essays for the 10EYS, the first topic I jotted down to write about was the Cubs World Series win in 2016. If we’re talking about the last decade in sports, that has to be on there. No other event was so tectonic, so full of consequence and history. It was a shoe-in. And then I sat down to write and…nothing.

What else is there to say? What was the larger meaning of that moment? Did anything really change because of the victory? It wasn’t the start of some great Cubs dynasty; just five years after vanquishing the Billy Goat, the Cubs are acting like lovable losers again, trading ace Yu Darvish for no reason and refusing to tender beloved Kyle Schwarber because ownership is too cheap to pick up his $10 million contract. Maybe it was just this happy little blip in the decade, and that’s that.

I dove in to reading some stories from that magical run, including my own essay that I sat down to write the day after the win. It’s all conjured up memories of the months-long playoff run, the tickticktick of climbing a roller coaster and not knowing if there was a fun ride at the top or just a free fall to impending doom. It’s clear now that my behavior bordered on psychological breakdown. For weeks I didn’t do a single piece of homework and somehow, my teachers accepted, “I had to watch the Cubs,” as a viable excuse before I even offered it myself; they just knew. In the time between Games 5-7 of the World Series, I didn’t change my clothes or shower once. Perhaps most baffling: I started going to church.

I traveled to Chicago with my dad for the World Series games, and there’s one memory from that trip that’s more vivid than any. We walked in under Wrigley Field’s red marquee that read, “INDIANS VS. CUBS, WORLD SERIES GAME 3, 7:00 PM,” and climbed some stairs to get our first view of the field. I was speechless, Dad less so. He reared his head back and screamed something he’d been waiting to say since he was a high schooler taking the red line to Wrigley from math class. “I’M AT WRIGLEY FIELD FOR THE FUCKING WORLD SERIES!” And then again, “I’M AT WRIGLEY FIELD FOR THE FUCKING WORLD SERIES!” And then, “THE WORLD SERIES! AT WRIGLEY FIELD!”

Nobody batted an eye, and we walked to our seats and passed Bill Murray in the concourse. Even when the Cubs lost that day, people celebrated in the streets around Wrigleyville. When they won the whole thing a few days later, we were back home in Los Angeles after concluding we would be too stressed if we were watching live in Cleveland. As Anthony Rizzo caught the final out, I collapsed on the ground and sobbed. Dad stood there speechless, and then we hugged and popped champagne and didn’t go to sleep the entire night.

We called my grandfather, whose parents honeymooned at Wrigley Field, and my grandmother, who once listened to Harry Caray call a game from the bleachers, recognized a familiar voice cussing in the background, and scolded my dad when he returned home. Everyone I knew, it seemed, called to congratulate me. At school the next day, those same teachers who excused my tardy homework assignments gave my hugs—hugs!—and told me how happy they were for me.

In nearly all of those interactions—and in everything written about the Cubs World Series win—there was mention of how singular the victory was, how no other sports moment would ever come close to matching the momentousness. That’s where I disagree, and that’s where we might be able to find some meaning in the memory. When Ben Zobrist knocked in the go-ahead run, it was one of the most joyous moments in my life, a weight lifted. I recognized the same type of joy when I checked in on a friend, then a sophomore at Villanova, when their men’s basketball team won a National Championship, and she sent a video of the celebration in Philadelphia’s streets. I recalled the same sense of community at bars watching Team USA win a Women’s World Cup. I saw the relief just this year, even in the time of social distancing, as the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills made Super Bowl runs.

That Cubs win meant so much personally because that was my family’s team, and the Cubs are a part of me. It meant even more because of all the heartbreak—Bartman, black cats, billy goats—that had come before. But every sports fan has their World Series win at some point, a special time when everything melts away into mania and a pure distillation of joy and relief and tribalism. Imagine what will happen in New York when the Jets win the Super Bowl, in Rocky Top when Tennessee finally wins a National Championship, in Toronto when the Maple Leafs play for a Stanley Cup. These moments are at the core of what makes sports special, and maybe five years later, that’s what the Cubs victory did more than anything else. In such an easy-to-understand story with its package of lovable losers and marketable stars, maybe those Cubbies were something close to the perfect embodiment of sports, revealing to everyone just why those fleeting moments make all the other ones worth it.

The 10th Annual Joey Awards

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