I made several phone calls the night the Cubs clinched a spot in the World Series. One was to my former little league coach, who was sobbing on the other end of the line. He’s 74, retired to Florida, and recently lost his wife. He’s been a huge Cubs fan his whole life. When the Cubs made it to the World Series for the first time since 1945, he cried.
Another phone call was to a good friend who doesn’t like baseball or the Cubs. She’s not hostile. Just not a fan. I’ll admit I cried that night and was a bit choked up on the phone with her. She was confused by my emotion and said, “I just don’t get why people are so excited about a game.” She wasn’t being mean. This wasn’t mocking. It was a moment of honesty from someone who isn’t a fan of the Cubs or baseball.
In the week after the Cubs clinched, I’ve cried some more. Not full-on weeping, but I’ve gotten choked up. A lot. And I’m not alone. Men all over America have been a little more emotional since the Cubs won the pennant. Why?
Like my friend who isn’t a baseball fan, many think the tears are falling because of happiness about a team’s success. Surely that’s part of it. But that’s not why they’re crying. It’s much more personal than that. There are two reasons and they are closely connected: nostalgia and family.
Nostalgia: Before lights were installed at Wrigley Field in 1988, all Cubs home games were played in the afternoon. That meant kids like me came home from school to the Cubs on TV. Even when school let out in the summer, I’d either see the games on TV or hear them playing on the radio as my dad worked in the garage. I loved Harry Caray and wanted to be him when I grew up (minus the Budweiser). The whole reason I’m in radio is because I struck up a conversation with a minor league baseball broadcaster when I was in high school. He did what Harry Caray did, and I wanted to know more about it. He arranged a radio internship and that launched my radio career.
A big part of my childhood and career featured the Cubs. Thus, seeing them enjoy success reminds me of my childhood. And those are good memories.
Family: The other reason is connected to the first. I never would have watched or listened to Cubs games if my dad didn’t have them on. He came to the mainland from Puerto Rico in 1958 and somehow latched onto the Cubs. He was a quiet man, but would jump off the couch, screaming and clapping when a Cubs player hit a homerun. He loved them.
Growing up I lived a block from my great-grandfather’s house, so I spent a lot of time there as a kid. He too loved the Cubs (though he also watched Sox games) and I spent many afternoons in his den watching the Cubs.
Both my dad and great-grandfather died before being able to see the Cubs win a World Series. My former little league coach’s wife died before she could see one. This, hopefully, explains our tears. They’re not really because of a team’s success (though that’s part of it). They’re really about longing for a return to a childhood that seems so far removed from today’s record murders and political tension. We cry because we miss the loved ones who never got to see this. We miss them and we want them to be here to enjoy it with us.
That’s why so many grown men are crying. And it’s a good thing.
Now my kids watch the games with me. Imagine the thrill when we all jumped up and down, yelling, screaming, and hugging each other when Addison Russell hit the grand slam in Game 6. My children are young and don’t really understand what’s going on. But we’re enjoying this together.
And I fully expect 71 years from now I’ll be gone, my kids will be watching the Cubs in the World Series, and they will be crying. And it will be a good thing.