Take time to reflect, share during this Cub celebration

Chicago Cubs fans celebrate during a watch party, after Game 7 of the baseball World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs, outside Progressive Field early Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cubs won 8-7 to win the series.

When we buried my dad on a cold Christmas Eve day, we made sure there was a Cub hat right next to him.

My dad was 80 when he died, and he lived his life as a Cub fan that never saw his team celebrate a championship.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, I saw my team – the one passed down to me from my father and his father before him – claim a title for the first time in 108 years. I'll admit the emotion was and still is overwhelming.

This column isn't about how Joe Maddon helped bring a title to Chicago, even though he nearly gave one to Cleveland. Or how Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber joined guys like Carl Edwards Jr. and Miguel Montero and Mike Montgomery to kill the curse of the Billy Goat forever.

I'll leave that to others, and those stories are out there.

This story is about people. Cub fans I know who suffered for so long as the 'lovable losers' failed time after time. Sometimes in October, and often time, before the Wrigley Field Ivy turned green in June.

My dad was raised on the south side of Chicago, White Sox territory. When I once asked him after another miserable losing streak why in the world he was a Cub fan, he answered in his typical laid-back way, "because my dad was a Cub fan.''

Hard to argue with that kind of logic. So my alliance stayed strong and eventually I would pass it on to my son Greg, who suffered through the painful disappointment of 2003 and learned early what it's like to be a Cub fan.

So this morning I think of my dad and my son, separated in the middle by a sportswriter who loves them both.

The faces came roaring back to me this morning as I watched over and over again the final out of an amazing 10-inning game that ended with a championship.

I thought of Bob Havlish, the 93-year-old Elkhart man who had season tickets for 30 years and attended Opening Day at Wrigley Field for 55 straight years. I interviewed Bob last week, just before he was going to Chicago to attend Game 4 of the World Series with one of his daughters.

I talked to him today and was glad to learn he was awake to see his beloved Cubs win.

When I was a teenager working on a grounds crew for several summers at Ancilla, my first boss was Elmer Boyer, one of the nicest, gentlest men you'd ever want to meet, with a work ethic beyond compare. Elmer wore a Cub hat every day to work and when the old one would give way, he'd spend some money on a new one.

He was a huge Cub fan and we talked baseball all the time. Elmer is gone now, too, but on this day, not forgotten.

I think of how happy Bill Moor is this morning. Another former boss and a guy that lived-and-died with the Cubs. I can still remember his extreme disappointment in 1984, and going to Wrigley Field with him a couple times and just watching him soak it all in.

There is my brother in Nevada and my sister in Donaldson, Ind., who have now witnessed a championship from our favorite team. I know they're happy and thinking of our dad, and that makes me smile.

My longtime friend Matt Kopsea lost his dad more recently than I did. As we've talked over the last few weeks, I've known he was going through the same emotions as me. When the Cubs beat the Dodgers to reach the World Series, there were tears from both of us, and not just for us, but for the generations before us.

Two guys I work with now, Bill Beck and Sam Householder, are a pair of die-hards from different generations who have ridden the emotional roller coaster the past few weeks and now get the opportunity to celebrate with everyone else Flying the W.

Chuck Freeby is another friend that has suffered through the bad times and now gets to celebrate. I know his angst over the past weeks was pretty much equal to mine.

I think of the times Mike Lightfoot and I would sit in his office at Bethel and just shake our heads talking about how the Cubs had fallen short again. The dumb trades, crazy players, bad managers and management.

I'm guessing Mike will be smiling through practice today, no matter how his team looks.

One of my son's good friends, Noah Nehls, is serving as a missionary in Guatemala, but he and I have talked numerous times through the season on Twitter and I can feel how strong his alligance is. He had some nice things to say to me on Thursday, things I'll treasure.

Earl Ulrich died late this summer and missed the joy of the fall. Earl was a wonderful man, kind and soft-hearted and a fan I could talk to at church each Sunday. He was the ultimate, "Wait Till Next Year,'' gentleman and I wish he was here to see that next year finally came. 

I'm even thinking of my daughter Mandy, who somehow escaped my Cub clutches and became a fan of ... the Cardinals. Until today, I was jealous of her happiness over the past decade, so hopefully she'll return the favor this morning, though I doubt it.

And of course my wife Jeanne, who stayed up late the past few weeks in support and has been there for me through the losses and disappointments. A Tiger fan by birth and a Cub fan by marriage, she kept the faith much more than I did at times.

I know so many of you can relate today. Parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, some of whom you're able to celebrate with and others who passed on before 12:20 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 3.

So take a moment to remember them, or pick up the phone to call and talk and cry. Take a Cub hat or a championship shirt to the cemetery and smile. 

Because, honestly, you never know when it may happen again.

Ken Fox is an Elkhart Truth sportswriter. Contact him at kfox@elkharttruth.com. Follow on Twitter at @KenFoxTruth.

(1) comment

IndyMo

I'm really hoping that my old classmate from Elkhart Hi's class of "56 is still with us and in good enough health to really savor this moment. Last I heard, he was a coach somewhere in Michigan, but all thru H.S. his greeting both coming and going was always; "Go-Go Cubs!"Here's one for you Larry Lee!

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