The wait - and the weight - is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

The wait - and the weight - is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

There is a scene in the 2009 movie “Up In The Air” where George Clooney’s character (Ryan Bingham, a “job termination facilitator” for a human resources company) gives an inspirational speech at a corporate seminar. He stands at a podium in one of those big, sterile hotel conference rooms.

His talk revolves around how the things we love can be burdensome. He compares all of our interpersonal relationships to wearing a heavy backpack—and how all the conversations, negotiations and conflicts of those partnerships can drag a person down, with the straps creating divots in the shoulders.

Now take the Cubs fan’s relationship with the team. Imagine how heavy that backpack was until Wednesday’s Game 7 victory.

It was 108 years of misery. A century-plus of broken promises and unrealized potential. Bad drafts. Weak pitching. Questionable management. Failures in the postseason. And it carried over to derisive mocking at the hands of friends, family members, strangers on the bus, late-night talk show hosts and so on.

And much like the movie, Dexter Fowler hit one ‘up in the air’ and out of Progressive Field. 406 feet to be exact. The backpack felt even lighter after a 5-1 lead. It went back to having the weight of a hundred cinder blocks after nine innings. But Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Miguel Montero and C.J. Edwards helped to ensure the Cubs’ eventual cutting of the backpack straps, much like a college basketball team does to the nets after a championship. The Cubs cut down 39,467 consecutive, burdensome days. Their job was complete. The backpack lay in a shambles.

And just like that, the wait - and weight - was history.

Gone was the tired shot of the 1908 Cubs team photo, with the bizarre mascot front and center.

Gone, also, were the losses in the 1910 and 1918 World Series, the latter to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox.

Out of the backpack was the inexplicable loss to the Philadelphia Athletics in Game 4 of the 1929 World Series, where the Cubs led 8-0 in the seventh and ended up losing 10-8. Also vacated: Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 series. And the Cubs failure to capitalize on a 100-win season in 1935. Same goes for Gabby Hartnett’s 1938 “Homer In The Gloamin,” which was a mere regular season footnote after another stinging October loss to the Yankees.

Another backpack casualty was the 1945 World Series. No more carrying around that loss to the Tigers—the last such championship series appearance for the next 71 years. In fact, Sam Sianis’ billy goat may have started to eat away at the backpack a little. Don’t goats eat everything anyway?

The mundane Cubs of the 1950s? Gone. The blotchy College of Coaches era of the early 60s? See you later. No black cats of 1969 tugging on the shoulders anymore, either.

Gone are all the “Completely Useless By September” acronyms, fitting of the 1977 club that had an 8.5 game lead in late June and, somehow, finished 81-81 and 20 games back.

The audio of the Lee Elia tirade of 1983 is silenced. The vision of the ball going through Leon Durham’s legs in 1984 is now opaque. Cubs fans will no longer get chided about Andre Dawson’s MVP effort being wasted on a last place team in 1987. Or how Will Clark’s dominance in the 1989 NLCS led to the Cubs demise.

Does the 0-14 start in 1997 give you chills? Maybe not as much now. Ditto with how the Cubs fell flat against the vaunted Braves pitching staff in the 1998 NLDS.

Steve Bartman and the 2003 Cubs might have set the backpack on fire.

The players who smashed Sammy Sosa’s boom box after the 2004 season –perhaps the same ones who critiqued the team broadcasters after a late-season collapse-- probably took a few whacks at the backpack, too.

Still carrying around that burden of Ted Lilly slamming his glove to the mound in the 2007 NLDS? Don’t worry. It’s been released. Same goes for that James Loney grand slam in 2008 that sent Wrigley Field into a catatonic state.

The 100-loss team in 2012? Theo Epstein helped kick that to the curb as part of the new Cubs Way.

Turn the backpack upside down and shake out the one remaining artifact—the meager NLCS exit in 2015 against the Mets.

The wait is over. The ‘weight’ is a thing of the past, too. No longer are the talks of curses, billy goats, black cats and bad omens. The towels that were used by the Cubs pitching staff a decade ago are now backpack-free, currently used to wipe champagne out of the eyes. No more jabs about priests spraying Holy water on dugouts or freak injuries to prized starting pitchers. Forget about trying to explain the “Eamus Catuli” sign, a yearly numeric chronicle of Cubs failure, to confused onlookers. No more chants of “19-08, clap-clap, clap-clap-clap” in road venues across the country.

The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions, and their fans can finally raise their hands in victory above their sore, tired shoulders.

More on the World Series victory

--Joy to the World: Cubs finally end 108-year Series drought

--Finally: The Cubs are World Series champs

--The wait –and the weight- is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

--Barack Obama congratulates Cubs World Series championship

--Famous Cubs fans celebrate World Series title on Twitter

--Ben Zobrist becomes first Cub ever to win World Series MVP

--Numbers game: statistical oddities of the Cubs World Series title

--Jed Hoyer: Rain delay was ‘divine intervention’ for Cubs

​--Fans give Cubs a taste of home in Cleveland

--Ben Zobrist delivers exactly what the Cubs expected with massive World Series

--‘Dreams come true’: Bill Murray reacts to Cubs winning the World Series

--Big surprise: Kyle Schwarber plays hero again for Cubs in World Series Game 7

- Ryne Sandberg: World Series ‘made it able for me to live in the present’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”


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