People from all over the city of Chicago rushed to Wrigley Field, crowing the souvenir store, the bars around the complex, and even the surrounding blocks. Over the course of a few hours the crowd would continue to surge, with people climbing the walls of the field and the fences of the neighbouring houses to get glimpses of inside of the stadium – even if only on the television screen of a stranger through their window.
After the outcome was announced, fans started to write the names of loved ones who did not live long enough to see the victory happen in chalk on Sheffield Wall. The Empire State Building turned blue. American President Barack Obama tweeted an invitation to the White House for the team. Others joined the overwhelming media storm celebrating the victors of the World Series.
While this reaction may seem over-the-top, there is a complex and culturally important explanation for the magnitude of this celebration. The Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908. Before this, they suffered from what many fans referred to as ‘The Billy Goat Curse’.
According to Cubs folklore, during the 1945 World Series a goat made an appearance at Wrigley Field but started to garner complaints about his smell. The goat in question was Murphy, a mascot for the Billy Goat Tavern, and had been escorted there by then owner, William Sianis. When Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field, he is said to have remarked that the Cubs would not win anymore.
Fans came to interpret this to mean that the Cubs would be unable to win either the National League Championship Series or the World Series. As the World Series has increased in popularity, fans have become increasingly dissatisfied with a National League Championship Series (NLCS) win alone as proof of the curse’s termination; a World Series victory is the gold standard of professional baseball.
Despite the veracity, or lack thereof, of the so-called curse, the 108 year drought has been a trying time for many fans of the Cubs. Unlike in other cities, the Cubs have a strong and unfailingly loyal fanbase who always retained hope. Perhaps it was because of this unfailing confidence that the Cubs made it so close so many times. For many, this only made the disappointment worse.
For some, this served as evidence of the Billy Goat Curse. In the 2003 NCLS, The Cubs were only five outs away from winning the pennant when a foul ball narrowly escaped the left fielder at the time, Moises Alou. He insisted that he would have been able to catch the ball were it not for the interference of a fan named Steve Bartman. Many fans reacted poorly, believing that Bartman making contact caused the Cubs to choke, losing the otherwise secured pennant, and ensuring the incident was recorded in the annals of the Billy Goat Curse.
For many sports fans, the 2016 World Series represents the fulfilment of a long held dream. However, this historic occasion is not solely applicable to Americans who subscribe to the national pastime.
The Cubs’ victory represents a traditional American narrative of the triumph of the underdogs, the self-made man: the American Dream. Above all, this game can serve as a message to Americans to never lose hope, even under the most dire of circumstances.
Image courtesy of Rex Hammock