Everything is different now.
That was one of my first thoughts in the moments after the Cubs won the World Series last November. And now, as Spring Training begins for the 2017 season, that concept has never been more true.
This is obviously a brand new experience for Cubs fans. You mean we’re actually heading into a new season with real hope? We’re no longer the laughingstock of baseball? We’re actually…expected to win? Again?
Think back to every other Spring Training in your lifetime. As kids, we believed every year was “the year.” As we got older, though, we learned there were certain years that “could” be “the year.” But deep down, we were always waiting for the collapse. Would the Cubs choke towards the end of the season and miss the playoffs? Or would they lose in October? Even the most optimistic fans had the fear of failure deep down inside, the same feeling that returned with a Rajai Davis home run in Game 7.
But then…everything changed.
Every drought ends with rain, right? The rain delay, the meeting, the rally, and the celebration. It all changed what it means to be a Cubs fan forever.
It even changed how we view players. Dexter Fowler is now a Cardinal, yet he’s going to get a standing ovation at Wrigley Field when he returns. Why? Because everything is different now. As Tom Ricketts once said, the players who win it all in Chicago will forever be legends. Can you imagine if the Cubs fell short in the World Series and then saw Fowler in St. Louis? Fortunately, that didn’t happen. No matter what Fowler or any of the other players do for the rest of their careers, they will forever be World Champion Chicago Cubs.
My wife is eight months pregnant with our first child, which means that my daughter is going to grow up in a world that views the Chicago Cubs in a completely different light. Think about that.
Consider how different future playoff games will be at Wrigley Field. I’ve been to several of them over the years, and they always felt tense (especially in 2008), the pressure on the players unimaginable. Thank God for Bud Selig’s stupid All-Star game rule, right? It allowed the Cubs to get away from the pressure cooker of Wrigley Field so they could win it all in Cleveland. There will still be nervousness and anxiety at the ballpark in October, but now it will be less paranoid.
Maybe now Cub fans can even enjoy the regular season more. Every other year, even when the Cubs were good, it was like a waiting game to see when it would all come crashing down. Not to mention all the ammunition Cubs-haters had at their disposal. The Cubs could be 10 games ahead of the next-best team, and the inevitable catcalls of “1908,” “Steve Bartman,” or “you know they’ll choke eventually” would ring out. Well, you can kiss those goodbye.
Every time I put on Cubs gear now, it just feels different. I swear Ben Zobrist gets that hit to left field every time I put on my World Champion sweatshirt. Every time I talk about the team, it’s different. I imagine every trip to Wrigley Field for the rest of my life will also be different.
I know this might come as a shock to us now, but the Chicago Cubs are not going to win the World Series every year from here on out. It may even be a long time before it happens again. But whether they repeat in 2017 or don’t win it again for another 108 years, no one can ever take away what happened in 2016. That’s the greatest thing about a world championship.
Growing up, I was always asked this question: “If the Cubs ever win it all, will it be less exciting to watch them afterwards?”
I already know that answer, and I think you do too.
I cannot wait to watch the world champs in action again, to feel the jealous hatred from other teams and their fans. I cannot wait to see how different the storylines become for this beloved franchise.
Spring Training will never feel the same again. Opening Day will never feel the same again. Baseball will never feel the same again. Everything is different now.