The MLB post-season is always a great time for baseball fans. Whether your team is a participant or not, you get to sit back and enjoy baseball being played at its very highest level. Unfortunately for me, I have had to watch other teams enjoy the excitement of the post-season more often than I have been able to watch my own. If you don’t count game 163 in 1999, the Reds have been to the post-season exactly four times in my lifetime: Two losses in the division series, a loss in the wild card game, and a World Series championship that happened when I was barely old enough to know what a baseball was.
I have always wanted to experience the playoffs first-hand, but I have always imagined that it would be to watch the Reds. Baseball has its way of being weird sometimes, and when I found out that my brother (Cubs fan), uncle (Cubs fan), and father (Reds and Cubs fan, depending on which of his sons he is talking to at the time) were meeting up in Chicago this weekend to watch the Cubs try and win its first World Series in 108 years, I figured that this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I had also imagined that my first post-season experience would mean that I would be attending the game, but with ticket prices being outrageously high this weekend I just had to enjoy the party instead. What a party it was.
To say that you could feel the buzz in the city is an understatement. My anticipation grew as Cubs fan piled into the train on each stop as we made our way downtown. I can’t imagine how it must have felt for those who actually had a team to root for this weekend. That feeling only grew once I got off on Addison St and made my way towards the thousands of people surrounding the stadium.
I arrived at Wrigley Field about an hour before the game and the scene was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I had to push my way through thousands of nervous and excited Cubs fans to finally meet up with my family, who had arrived earlier in the day. I snapped my typical picture of the Wrigley Field sign and made my way to Casey Moran’s. The crowds around the bars were also a sight to behold. I’ve never seen so many people hang out outside a bar just to see what was on the televisions inside. While I was waiting in line I saw a Cubs fan strolling down the street while carrying roughly 200 blue and white balloons, just because. I don’t know what kind of elation I will experience when the Reds make it to the World Series, but I hope it’s the kind that gives me the urge to carry 200 balloons around the stadium.
After hearing the horror stories of insane cover charges and even higher prices to claim a table, $60 to get in to Casey Moran’s with a free all-you-can eat buffet ended up not being so bad. I got into the bar right around the time of the national anthem, and as every red blooded American sports fan is compelled to do, we all paused to sing the anthem in our best (read: loudest) voices.
I don’t root against many sports teams. Most of the time, if my favorite teams aren’t involved, I just want great competition and an entertaining game. I’ve never particularly disliked the Cubs, either, even with them being a division rival. This Cubs team isn’t that dislike-able either, though the excessive media coverage this season often made me roll my eyes, but for some reason I found myself rooting for Cleveland through the first three games of the series. That all changed on Saturday night, and when the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first I was cheering as loud as everyone in there. If I was going to spend my weekend in Chicago, I wanted the full experience. If that meant cheering for a division rival to win a World Series game then so be it, I could be a Cubs fan for a night.
Whatever excitement that was felt when the Cubs took that early lead quickly went away. Carlos Santana dingered. Kris Bryant made an error, then he made another one, and all of a sudden the Cubs were facing what seemed like an insurmountable 3-1 deficit. The fans still had hope, and every time the Cubs showed any sign of life they did everything they could from a block away to try and will their team to a win.
The most surreal moment came in the bottom of the 8th when we were making our way back to the train and decided to watch the Cubs at-bat from outside one of the other bars. We were still very close to the stadium at that point and heard the crowd going nuts while, thanks to television delays, Fox was still showing Andrew Miller highlights. After what seemed to be about 30 seconds, or long enough for the crowd to settle down, we finally saw that Dexter Fowler had hit a solo home run to give Cubs fans the slightest glimmer of hope. I’m not sure why that stuck out to me, but it was my not-so-subtle reminder that I was standing across the street from an actual World Series game.
On Sunday morning, we made our way back to Wrigleyville. The attitude around the ballpark was quite a bit different than what I saw Saturday evening. Granted, it was still about 8 hours until the game was going to start, but it felt like everyone was trying to soak everything in one last time before their team’s final home game of the season. Everyone in Wrigleyville was still excited, but the atmosphere was filled with a nervous anticipation that seemed to say “Holy crap, the dream could really end tonight.” Fortunately for them, the Cubs weren’t ready for that dream season to end and gave their fans the long-awaited experience of celebrating a win in the World Series in their home town.
Overall, the short trip to Chicago was fantastic. Even though it was short and exhausting, it is one I would probably do again. Post-season baseball is something I have always wanted to experience first-hand, hopefully the next time it will be in Cincinnati.