CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs have the best team in baseball, but even more than that, they have the best young team in baseball. They've already set records for having the most World Series starters aged 26 and under, and, all told, they actually have too many young hitters to fit into their lineup. Most teams in baseball would base their whole future roster construction around hitters like Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras … and they're all likely to be coming off the Cubs' bench on Friday night. This team is the future of baseball. They have built this thing to last.
Thus, this, the first World Series at Wrigley Field in 71 years, will not be the last World Series here for another 71 years. Frankly, it would be a surprise if it were the last for another, say, three years. The Cubs are going to be back here again, no matter what happens in this series, and then possibly again and again. This is the new reality. The Cubs are the future.
But it's never going to be like this again.
Look at that picture again. That is the line to get into the Cubby Bear bar, across the street from Wrigley Field, at 5 a.m. Friday morning. A few facts about the Cubby Bear bar today, courtesy of the Cubby Bear website:
- The Cubby Bear does not open until 11 a.m., six hours after that picture was taken.
- At the time that photo was taken, it was 39 degrees in Chicago.
- The Cubby Bear is charging a $100 cover.
- Seriously, you read that bullet point correctly: It costs $100 to get into a bar showing the Cubs game on television.
- If you are reading this column and are not in line, it is already too late for you.
John Barleycorn down the street is charging $500 to guarantee a four-seat table. (Drinks and food not included.) The city of Chicago has activated its Emergency Operations Center, deploying more than 1,000 police personnel to the Wrigleyville area to assure order. Random security checks will be enforced within a two-block radius of the stadium. Anthony Rizzo said it will be "insane", and Jon Lester said he was relieved to be inside the stadium tonight rather than directly outside it. "Probably a little more mellow in here." But good luck getting in: Standing Room Only seats are currently $1,700 minimum on StubHub.
It's going to be a glorious sh-tshow. I'm arriving five hours before gametime and am a little nervous I'm showing up too late. It'll be an experience no one near will ever forget.
And thus: No matter how many World Series the Cubs make it to in the next decade or more, there will be never another one quite like this one.
Looking to the 2004 Red Sox and what happened afterward, is instructive. Obviously, in 2004, when the Red Sox won the World Series, the whole planet shook. You might remember:
You won't admit it now, but you were even sort of rooting for Boston back then. It was fun, right? But, inevitably, the backlash set in, once the underdogs became the favorites, once "historically tortured" becomes "incessant braggadocio." As always, the quote from Broadcast News is relevant.
But it was different for Boston fans, too. Obviously, it was fantastic when they won the World Series in 2007, but no Red Sox fan would ever argue the experience was even close to as exciting as 2004 was. And 2013 had an emotional kick because of the Boston bombing in April and David Ortiz's subsequent "this is our f---ing city" quote, and it was also the first World Series they won at home … but was it 2004? It was not 2004.
This year's Cubs team hasn't just been the best Cubs team in more than 100 years. It has been legendary from start to finish, a collection of personalities that has captivated the city in a way no team has since the 1985 Bears and their Super Bowl Shuffle. They have been the "Try Not To Suck" Cubs -- if they win the World Series, you will see those T-shirts for the next four decades -- and the Kris Bryant MVP Cubs (probably) and the Travis Wood in left field Cubs and the David Ross retirement Cubs and, perhaps most of all, the Kyle Schwarber comeback Cubs. Man do they love them some Kyle Schwarber.
This team has been a traveling road show since Spring Training, and they have not once faltered. They have destroyed all of the silly "Curse" talk, the Bartman prattle, the once-omnipotent Fear that all Cubs fans knew lurked perilously just around the corner. They have faced all challenges and conquered them all. They have been dominant in a way we would have thought impossible.
And thus, they are here, hosting the World Series, for the first time in 71 years.
You only get to do this once. Whether the Cubs win this World Series or whether they lose this World Series, an evening like Friday night, a surreal, the-World-Series-is-here night, a night in which people pay $100 and stand in line for six hours to simply get into a bar across the street from where the game is playing eight hours later, a night in which Wrigley Field is hosting a World Series game what in the world is happening? … this only gets to happen once. What is new and groundbreaking always, inevitably, evolves into the familiar. A Cubs World Series game will always be thrilling for Cubs fans. But it will never be what Friday night is.
This has been a special team. This has been a special season. It was all building up to Friday night, and all the glory and insanity that this lunatic evening will bring. But history won't end there. They'll play on Saturday, and then again on Sunday, and then again some other night down the line. There will be only one night like Friday night. No matter what happens, it'll never get more exciting than this. It's Wrigley's big night. It might end up being Wrigley's biggest night ever.
Unless, of course, the Cubs win tonight and then again on Saturday. Then we are talking about something very different. If that happens … well, again: If you're reading this and not in line for Sunday's game, it's already too late.