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Esther J. Cepeda: At long last, the Cubs deliver bliss to their eternal fans

Published October 26, 2016 6:00 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

CHICAGO • Like manna from heaven, a small bit of much-needed joy fell upon Chicago Saturday night as the Cubs secured a trip to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

I wasn't watching the game but knew the moment they won because the pure bliss emanated from Wrigley Field many miles out to me as my neighbors burst from their homes onto the street shrieking and hooting. Moments later, the sky was awash in fireworks and people were driving down the street honking their horns in jubilation.

The collective delight offered a refreshing pause for Chicagoans distressed over the nation's election-year anxiety and the gun violence pounding the city's lowest-income residents.

On Saturday night, people of all backgrounds, races and income levels were in the streets singing together, hugging and crying — there were quite a lot of bittersweet tears, in fact. The Cubs' win brought wistfulness to those lucky enough to witness the October miracle.

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Kaduk picked right up on it, writing: "The thing that struck you were the tears.

"The tears were for so many things. They were for the achievement, of course. ... But for the fans, the tears were also for so many other things. It was for relatives no longer with us. One man waved a posterboard sign that said 'Best fan in heaven: Mom' with a picture of a woman wearing a Cubs hat in a hospital bed. 'I wish my dad was alive' trended on Facebook because so many people were posting that phrase in relation to the Cubs.

"It was for people no longer near us, too. Fans texted and called others from the stands when they could catch a signal. When's the last time so many sons and daughters called their mothers and fathers that late on a Saturday night?"

This 'til-death-do-we-part love affair between Cubs fans and their beloved team is viscerally real to many people. In his 2014 book, "A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred," the Washington Post columnist and Cubs fan George F. Will wrote:

"The gushing is never worse than when Cub fans get going about Wrigley Field. It is, they think, if thinking can be said to enter into such talk, a little foretaste of — you guessed it — the hereafter. The only real resemblance between Wrigley Field and heaven is that the ballpark is indeed the final destination of some Cub fans. Every once in a while someone in the bleachers leans out from the front row and, pursuant to the wishes of the deceased, pours onto the outfield a small billowing gray cloud of dust that is the ashes of Uncle Ralph or Aunt Min, who, one hopes, really meant it when he or she said, 'You know, when I die I wish ... ' This use of Wrigley Field is officially frowned upon, but it is believably said, sotto voce, that ushers and other representatives of officialdom have been known to enable this by pretending not to see it."

I'm not a Cubs fan, but when I heard the news my mind went to Senobio Nila, a 106-year-old Cubs fan whom I interviewed in 2007. He had come to the suburbs of Chicago from Mexico in 1923 to work in the railroads and, during his long life, Nila married, had seven children, put them through Catholic school and basically achieved the American Dream.

When I spoke to Nila, he was near the end. In his hoarse, low voice, he told me that he was very satisfied with all the things he'd experienced in America and in Chicago — but the one thing he wished he could live to see was the Cubs winning the World Series.

Nila passed away 10 months later. But if there is a heaven, I like to imagine that this Cubs-loving immigrant, who initially lived in a discarded boxcar given to him by his employer and who eventually made his way to a beautifully appointed suburban home surrounded by well-to-do children and grandchildren, is up there waving a Cubs flag.

Fans of underdog teams like the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians — who between them have 174 years' worth of World Series-win drought — know the true meaning of hope, love and faith. And this week, they'll hold precious memories of their ancestors close as they cheer on their teams.


Twitter, @estherjcepeda




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