2016

As the calendar year starts to wind down and reset there appears to be one overwhelming and inalienable narrative from pretty much everyone: 2016 was really horrible.

You’d be hard-pressed to make an argument otherwise. We lost too many great people to entirely list from musicians to sports luminaries, actors, actresses and so on. The ones that cut deepest with me were probably David Bowie, Prince, and especially Leonard Cohen. Cohen’s death felt like a cruel swift punch to the gut. I had been really reveling in his latter-day records over the past few years and he’s become one of my favorite artists. He released his final masterpiece You Want It Darker this year on October 21st, my wedding day. Thanks for the unintentional wedding gift Mr. Cohen.

Devastation was on a global scale with social unrest, mass shootings, and at its epicenter the American public flinched and elected (Not me) a petulant spoiled brat of a “man” in Donald Trump as their next President of the United States.

Work is still pretty horrible overall and I’ll definitely be ramping up the intensity of the job search in 2017 for a “career” and not just a “job.”

Those things make 2016 bittersweet for me and going forward I’ll choose to remember the good of this year and not the bad.

This year was one of the best years in recent memory for me as far as new music and albums go. Phenomenal personally rewarding albums were released by the likes of Metallica, Car Seat Headrest, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Pistol Fire, Kings Of Leon, Radiohead, and the aforementioned Cohen and Bowie along with many others.

I went and decided to do the most grown-up thing I’ve ever done and finally get married to Maggie. She’s one of the (very?) few people that truly makes me happy and understands me… and tolerates me! We decided to go to Ireland for our honeymoon and it was an incredible experience (Minus international flights). Plus they had a Tower Records in Dublin! How about that?

And oh yeah, last but not least… THE CHICAGO CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES! I’ll be sitting on that one till next Spring for sure. Sorry haters, you lost this time. The Cubs were the best team in baseball (Hell, all of sports!) from the start of 2016 until the end. Best record in baseball, NL Central Champions, National League Champions, World Series Champions. Checked everything off the list in 2016. The greatest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life as far as sports fandom goes. I’ll cherish that forever.

I’ll remember the good times more than the bad for sure. And now with a star pointing True North to New Year’s Eve let’s all have a room at the top of the world that night.

LEGENDS OF THE FALL: CHICAGO CUBS 2016 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS

World Series Cubs Indians Baseball

(Curses and history be damned: The Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series Champions. Chicago Cubs celebrate after Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Cleveland Indians Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cubs won 8-7 in 10 innings to win the series 4-3.(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Now that I’ve a little more time to process what seemed to be impossible; I blinked and yes, the Chicago Cubs are still the 2016 World Series champions. For the first time in 108 years (And the first in my 20+ years of die-hard fandom) the Cubs accomplished something that many, and I’ll admit for a long while myself as well thought would never happen. It wasn’t easy of course, in true Cubs fashion it had to go the distance to a Game 7 and extra innings nearly ensuring an early installation of a pacemaker for my heart. Not to mention at one point the Cubs were teetering on the brink trailing the series 3-1 and for me personally I began to ponder my own sports fandom (again) with a sense of existential dread creeping back in. Would I ever see a favorite sports team of mine win a major world/national championship?

The only two sports teams I generally care for anymore are the Cubs and Notre Dame football. Yes Notre Dame did technically win a national title when I was four beating West Virginia but I wasn’t really cognizant of that obviously. When Notre Dame went 12-0 during the 2012 season on their way back to a national title game I didn’t know how to react during the build-up. I had never been in that situation as a sports fan, being the best team in football that year was on the line. Of course what transpired was (If I a may steal a title from a live album by the band the Drive-By Truckers) an “Alabama Ass Whuppin'” dished out by the Crimson Tide on Notre Dame as they rolled the Fighting Irish to the tune of 42-14. I began to ask myself, “Is this it? Is this as good as it gets for me as a sports fan? To see my team have a great regular season only to get stomped in a championship game?”

As Notre Dame got demolished in that national title game the Cubs were in the middle of a lengthy rebuilding process and were still at least a couple of years off from really being competitive. In the past 20 years or so though the Cubs have been no strangers to regular season success. You could’ve called them “lovable losers” I guess for not winning a World Series recently but they’ve been frequenters of the postseason since the late ’90s appearing in 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015, and of course 2016 while coming close in 2001 and 2004 (The final week meltdown of the ’04 Cubs still leaves a sour taste in my mouth as they were poised for the NL Wild Card spot and it forever remains a big What If for what they could’ve done that postseaon) as well.

The results in the postseasons for the Cubs were heartbreaking on different levels. The devastating NLCS loss in 2003 (We really don’t have to recap that one do we?) followed by the unceremonious and extremely impotent exits in ’07 and ’08 getting swept in the NLDS twice even after winning the NL Central both of those years. Being a Cub fan a part of your composition is that of superstition and beliefs in curses so I always had a sense of pessimism and doubt (If you didn’t at least to a certain degree you’re not a real Cub fan or you’re in denial) and nothing seemed like it was going to change, like it was an exercise in futility. Things began to change though in 2015. Yes, the Cubs were also swept out of the playoffs but this time not until the NLCS. While that was unfortunate and one-sided there were building blocks of positives to be found. Up until the NLCS they had eliminated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card elimination game backed by a shutout performance by ace Jake Arrieta who had ice water running through his veins that night. The following NLDS series was far more important and seemed to be a path of destiny. If the Cubs were to ever make it to and win the World Series at some point they would have to go through their arch-rivals the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs dispatched the redbirds in four games and something started to shift it felt on a cosmic scale. The Cubs were swept next round by the New York Mets but things felt different than the ’03 NLCS. While I was disappointed to come up short again I had this sense that, “We’re going to be back in 2016 and we’re going to be even better.” I was never more confident in this team and organization than at the end of the 2015 season.

Obviously I’ll get to the 2016 postseason in a bit but let’s rewind things. The Chicago Cubs are better than any other team in baseball for the first time in 108 seasons. They accomplished something that is so rare to do in baseball now too: They were the best team in baseball the entire year from start to finish in 2016. Let’s look back at how they did it.

The Cubs dominated the NL Central from the beginning jumping out to a 25-6 record and after April/early May nobody really got anywhere close to touching them in the division. They finished with a league-best record of 103-58-1 and won the NL Central by a ridiculous 17.5 games. Baseball is by far my favorite sport and with Major League Baseball the journey is so much more epic than any other sport. Pitchers and catchers reported in February 2016 and spring training ran through March. The preparation of the season + the season itself ran from February through early November with Game 7 of the World Series. An absolutely unfathomable, magical season. There were numerous highs and yes some lows but the ultimate goal was finally realized. I thought I would use the rest of this post to riff on some of the spectacular highlights of the regular season and postseason for the Cubs:

  • February 25th- Dex Returns: Dexter Fowler was thought to be gone and reports started appearing of him signing with the Baltimore Orioles. Instead he surprised the team during a workout session and he had actually signed a one-year contract to return to the Cubs for the 2016 season. He was the catalyst to a potent Cubs offense all year and defined the term, “You go we go.”
  • April 7th- Cut down in the desert: The Cubs are dealt their biggest blow losing Kyle Schwarber for the rest of the regular season after colliding with Dexter Fowler in the outfield in Arizona tearing his ACL and LCL.
  • April 21st- Jake Arrieta paints another masterpiece: The Cubs crush the Cincinatti Reds (A recurring theme throughout the season) 16-0 and hit five home runs. The evening though belonged to Jake Arrieta throwing his 2nd career no-hitter. He claimed he was “Sloppy.” The Reds didn’t think so.
  • May 2nd- Leisure suits provide rocket fuel: The Cubs were already a league-best 17-6 at the start of May and it only got more ridiculous after that. Always one for themed road trip attire Joe Maddon mandated the team dress in leisure suits while heading out to Pittsburgh. The Cubs then rattled off eight more wins in a row running their record all the way up to 25-6 and never looked back after that. It had to be the suits!

cubs-suits

  • May 8th- Mother’s Day Marathon: The Cubs were going for a four-game sweep of the Washington Nationals at home and after a lengthy battle that went 13 innings Javier Baez stepped up and uncoiled with the pink Mother’s Day bat launching a ball into the left field bleachers to seal it (Feat. A little Sosa hop!). He was appropriately mobbed at home plate.
  • May- The Ben Zobrist Month: Ben Zobrist was probably the biggest free agent acquisition the Cubs brought in during the offseason after 2015 and it showed in May. Zobrist batted .406 in May with a .483 OBP and knocked in 25 runs. He’s one of the most consummate professional hitters in the game and as we found out down the road, his best heroics were still to come in 2016.
  • June 19th- Father’s Day fun with Willco’s Debut: The Cubs recent legacy of prospects turned stars continued. Following in the footsteps of guys like Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber white-hot catching sensation Willson Contreras finally made his big league debut and he did not disappoint. The first pitch Contreras saw in the Major Leagues was crushed out to right-center for a home run. It was a Sunday night game against division rival the Pittsburgh Pirates (Also another team the Cubs manhandled all year) and Wrigley Field came absolutely unglued and the future looked bright for the Cubs behind the plate with Willco (I am taking that nickname from a message board and running with it) getting a curtain call after his first at-bat.
  • June 27th- The Kris Bryant Game: He’s already proven he’s a phenom and won this year’s NL MVP but on June 27th Kris Bryant had a legendary instant classic of a game offensively. In Cincinnati Bryant had 16 total bases hitting three home runs and two doubles going 5-5 for the game with six RBIs leading the Cubs to victory. I can’t recall if the bat was definitely sent to Cooperstown or not. Either way, Bryant himself will one day be there.
  • June 28th- The Joe Maddon Game: Joe Maddon and conventional have probably never been used in the same sentence when it comes to his managerial style. One night after “The Kris Bryant Game” we had the even crazier “Joe Maddon Game.” The game went into extra innings and by the 12th all of the position players had been used up. Maddon utilized pitchers Travis Wood, Spencer Patton, and Pedro Strop to continually switch positions between pitching and playing left field. Eventually the Cubs pulled away in the 15th thanks to a Javy Baez grand slam but it will be remembered for Maddon once again out-foxing the competition and using whatever resources he had to get the job done. Albeit probably with a grin and a wink.
  • Late June/Early July- Dogs Days Of Summer: The Cubs looked nearly unstoppable for about 90% of the season but even they had a bit of a mid-season slump. It wasn’t the entire reason for it but the skid coincided with Dexter Fowler getting injured. Maddon tried to shuffle his lineup and find guys that could lead-off and ignite the team in Fowler’s absence but nothing really stuck. That coupled with no days off in over three weeks and the Cubs limped into the the All-Star Break losing 15 of 21 games. Much needed rest and recharging of the batteries was needed. That’s exactly what they got.
  • July 12th- The Cubs Take Over The All-Star Game: The All-Star Game took place in San Diego but it felt like the Cubs had the home field advantage. The Cubs had seven players named to the All-Star team including the entire infield of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant starting in the game. Fowler was voted to play in the outfield but was still injured while Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta were named to the pitching staff. The biggest highlight came early as Kris Bryant took White Sox ace Chris Sale deep in the 1st inning. Kris Bryant says hello! And all of the NL supporters who complained that there were too many Cubs in the All-Star Game and that was the reason the NL lost… well, look what happened! Everything turned out okay in the World Series anyway!
  • July 25th- The Chapman Cometh: As good as Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon performed in the first half of the season at the back end of the bullpen they had their inconsistencies. To take that extra step toward the playoff and World Series push the Cubs were looking for a dominant closer to shut the lights out on opponents. The Cubs acquired left-handed flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. Chapman was the imposing gavel the Cubs needed for the 9th inning regularly blowing away opponents with effortless 100+ MPH fastballs.
  • July 31st- Rally caps sink the Mariners: The Cubs were still looking for the definitive 2nd half spark and on the last day in July they found it. Trailing 6-3 to the Mariners in the bottom of the ninth they put three on the board to force the game into extras. All position players were eventually used again so in the bottom of the 12th an unlikely hero stepped to plate in Jon Lester. With Jason Heyward on third base Lester dropped down a perfect bunt for a suicide squeeze as Heyward raced to the plate and scored for the walk-off win. Lester’s reward for his heroics? A face full of rosin.
  • August- How the Cubs got their groove back: The Cubs started August scalding hot eventually winning 11 in a row and did not lose a game until the 13th of that month. The Cubs had the NL Central all but locked up at the end of August going 22-6 in the month and leading the division by 15 (!) games.
  • September 15th- NL Central Champions: Despite losing to the Brewers the Cubs clinched the NL Central when the St. Louis Cardinals lost later that night to the Giants. That’s okay the next day Miguel Montero hit a walk-off home run in Wrigley to beat the Brewers and in a way that felt like it was clinching day instead. They certainly celebrated like it was.
  • September 26th- The Century Marks: For the first time since 1935 the Cubs had won 100 games in a season by clobbering the Pirates 12-2. Kris Bryant also clubbed his 39th home run of season and for the first time in his career reached the 100+ RBI plateau.

As the Cubs were winding down their regular season their dominance allowed them to sit everyday players and let the pitching rotation get some extra rest as well. The Cubs not only won the NL Central convincingly but also home field advantage throughout NL playoffs. A very distinct advantage considering they were 57-24 at Wrigley Field during the season.

Now that the Cubs flexed their muscles in the regular season it was time for “The Big Boy Games” in the postseason as John Lackey coined them. The postseason recap is only going to be of the games the Cubs won because, hey, no one wants to dwell too heavily on the losses right?

  • NLDS- Cubs vs. Giants Game 1: Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto were locked in an epic scoreless pitcher’s duel in front of a ravenous Wrigley Field. The bats stayed silent until the bottom of the eighth when Javy Baez hit a high towering shot into the left field basket. Aroldis Chapman came in to slam the door in the ninth preserving a 1-0 Cubs win as they took the crucial Game 1. This game and really all of the postseason was a coming out party for Javy Baez on the national scene. We as Cub fans knew how special he was, now everyone would.
  • NLDS- Cubs vs. Giants Game 2: The 2nd game of the NLDS I’ll always remember as I was in the rooftop bleachers across from Wrigley Field for playoff baseball. The Cubs seemingly had everything working this game. Kyle Hendricks even drove in two runs. Then a come-back line-drive at Hendricks knocked him out the game early. I thought that might be a momentum swing in the Giants favor but what happened instead? The Cubs bullpen completely shutdown San Fransisco’s offense and “The Super Athlete” relief pitcher Travis Wood even had home run! Couldn’t have written out that bizarre of a game if I tried. The Cubs took a commanding 2-0 series lead back to the bay area.
  •  NLDS- Cubs vs. Giants Game 4: In Game 3 the Cubs put up a valiant fight but eventually fell to the Giants in 13 innings as the series tightened to 2-1. One positive in that game was that the Cubs humanized postseason legend Madison Bumgarner as the Cubs knocked him around and Jake Arrieta even took him deep for a three-run bomb. For eight innings the Giants remained in control and I was already dreading a winner-take-all Game 5 back at Wrigley against Johnny Cueto. But in the ninth inning the Cubs’ postseason history book was torn up. Kris Bryant started the inning with a single and Anthony Rizzo was walked next batter. Ben Zobrist rediscovered his May magic and doubled home Bryant to cut the Giants lead to 5-3. Willson Contreras came up in a pinch-hitting role and delivered with a single up the middle driving home two and tying the game. After a botched double play attempt by the Giants Jason Heyward was standing at 2nd base with just one out. Javy Baez then continued his magical postseason and drove home Heyward with an RBI single and the Cubs stormed back to take a 6-5 lead. Aroldis Chapman then struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth and the Cubs were heading back to the NLCS for the 2nd year in a row.

The Cubs were able to enjoy a couple of extra days off while they waited for their opponents for the NLCS. The Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers went the full five games in the NLDS which eventually saw the Dodgers prevail. The Cubs would have to continue wrecking their way through the NL West if they were to make it to the elusive World Series.

  • NLCS- Cubs vs. Dodgers Game 1: The Cubs jumped on the Dodgers’ Game 1 starter Kenta Maeda early as Kris Bryant drove Dexter Fowler home with a ringing double in the first inning and then they quickly tacked on two more the next inning. The Dodgers tied the game late and it was 3-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth. The Dodgers eventually loaded up the bases to get to Miguel Montero and forced a man who had struggled all year offensively to beat them. What did Miggy do? On an 0-2 pitch he smashed the ball deep into the right field bleachers for a grand slam and Wrigley Field was shaking to its foundations. The Cubs didn’t look back after that and took a vital 1-0 series lead.
  •  NLCS- Cubs vs. Dodgers Game 4: After putting up eight runs in Game 1 the Cubs offense stalled in games one and two. Clayton Kershaw lead the Dodgers to a 1-0 shutout in Game 2 and former Cub Rich Hill foiled his old team 6-0 in Game 3. The Cubs offense had been shutout in back-to-back games and didn’t score for 21 straight innings. But in the fourth inning of Game 4 the Cubs offense caught fire again in a big way. The Cubs plated four runs capped off by an Addison Russell two-run home run. The offensive surge continued next inning with an Anthony Rizzo home run and the Cubs added five more in the sixth to blow the game wide open. The Cubs won in convincing fashion 10-2 to even the series back up.
  • NLCS- Cubs vs. Dodgers Game 5: The game started off as a Game 1 rematch between Jon Lester and Kenta Maeda and was a pitcher’s duel into the sixth until Addison Russell broke a tie ballgame with another two-run shot. Russell had been struggling mightily offensively the entire postseason but he found his swing out in L.A. and added a much-needed offensive weapon to the Cubs arsenal.  The Cubs again piled more runs on late and won 8-4. They took a 3-2 series lead, one win away from the World Series and were heading back to Wrigley Field.
  • NLCS- Cubs vs. Dodgers Game 6: The Cubs had one last major hurdle to conquer in their quest for the World Series appearance, beating the best pitcher on the planet Clayton Kershaw. The Cubs meanwhile turned to the man that had been brilliant for them all season in somewhat surprising fashion, ERA champion Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs offense jumped on Kershaw early as Dexter Fowler doubled to lead off the game and was knocked in by Kris Bryant. The Cubs continued to chip away at Kershaw’s armor and in the fourth inning Willson Contreras tagged him for solo home run and Anthony Rizzo followed the next inning with one of his own as Kershaw sank on the mound and the Cubs took a 5-0 lead. Meanwhile on the other side of the mound Hendricks pitched the game of his life completely shutting down the Dodgers offense allowing only two hits and no runs in 7 1/3 innings of work. Chapman took the mound and got the remaining five outs and the party was on at Wrigley Field as the Cubs were on their way to the World Series for the first time in 71 years. Deservedly so Javy Baez and Jon Lester were named Co-MVPs of the NLCS.

I was nearly at a loss for words. The Chicago Cubs were going to be in a World Series for the first time in my life and the first time since 1945. I was heading to Ireland the next day with Maggie for our honeymoon so it couldn’t have worked out better. I didn’t have to be sitting on a plane across the Atlantic for Game 7 wondering whether the Cubs were going to the World Series or staying home. I can’t even imagine how excruciating that would’ve been. I wasn’t about to miss the Cubs in the World Series while in Ireland so I ponied up and purchased the MLB TV international postseason package, even if it was just for four games.

As for the Cubs themselves they would be facing the Cleveland Indians who looked nearly untouchable in the AL playoffs going 7-1. Unquestionably the two best teams in the majors with two major chips on their shoulders. The Indians themselves hadn’t won a World Series since 1948 and the Cubs, well… you know, 1908. The Indians had home-field advantage thanks to the terrible All-Star Game rule (Can we please change that?) but the Cubs unveiled another weapon for the war. Kyle Scwharber, thought to have no chance at playing in 2016 was cleared medically to at least be a DH for the Cubs on the road. His bat would prove to be a vital part of the World Series success for the Cubs.

  • World Series- Cubs vs. Indians Game 2: The Cubs were no strangers to facing some of the best pitchers in the playoffs. Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and now in the World Series it was Corey Kluber for the Indians. Kluber dominated the Cubs in Game 1 shutting them out 6-0. The Indians looked to take a 2-0 lead to Chicago but Jake Arrieta had other plans. Arrieta kept the Indians quiet offensively while the Cubs bats awoke thanks to a galvanizing performance from the returning Kyle Scwharber who knocked in two runs and helped the Cubs win 5-1 evening up the series and heading back to Wrigley on a positive note.
  • World Series- Cubs vs. Indians Game 5: The World Series had returned to Wrigley Field for the first time in 71 years and the electricity of the environment was palpable to say the least. But things didn’t exactly go the way the Cub faithful would want. The Indians came in and stunned the Cubs taking games three and four in a place where the Cubs had been so dominant all year. All of a sudden the Indians had a commanding 3-1 series lead and the Cubs were staring down the barrel of “Wait Till Next Year #109”. This couldn’t be how this unbelievable season was going to end was it? The Cubs postseason ace Jon Lester was not about to allow that. Despite giving up an early home run Lester settled in and waited for the offense to once again kick in. Kris Bryant woke up the echoes with his first World Series home run and the Cubs were able to tack on two more runs to take a 3-1 lead. Lester allowed one more run as the Indians closed the gap. Joe Maddon always one for the unorthodox brought Aroldis Chapman in for an eight-out save (!). Chapman was maximized and closed out the game to send the series back to Cleveland. The Cubs however still had serious work to do down 3-2 in the series. Either way it was great of the Cubs close out the last game at Wrigley Field in 2016 with a W.
  • World Series- Cubs vs. Indians Game 6: The Cubs once again turned to Jake Arrieta in an attempt to tie up the series. He would go up against Josh Tomlin who blanked the Cubs in Game 3. Things were different though this time as Kris Bryant crushed another home run deep into the left field stands. The Cubs then took advantage of some Indians outfield snafus and plated two more to take an early 3-0 lead. The night belonged to Addison Russell. With the bases loaded and down 0-2 in the count (Does this sound familiar?) Russell massacred a hanger deep to left-center for a grand slam to put the game to bed early. Russell ended up driving in six runs in the game. Anthony Rizzo tacked on a consolation home run late and the Cubs won in convincing fashion 9-3. Suddenly the series was tied up and heading to a winner-take-all Game 7. Streak vs. Streak, 108 Years vs. 68 Years. Something was about to give.
  • World Series- Cubs vs. Indians Game 7: I’m going to preface this summary by saying this was legitimately one of the greatest games ever played in baseball history. At times it was unbearable to stomach and others the absolute pinnacle of ebullience. Kyle Hendricks was once again the man the Cubs would hand the ball to. Winning the pennant for the Cubs is one thing, but winning the World Series for the Cubs? You can imagine how legendary of a feat that would be. The Cubs for the third time in the series would try to figure out Corey Kluber who had been a complete mystery to them in Game 1 and Game 4. To beat this mighty Cub team though three times in one series as an individual pitcher is quite a task to pull off. The Cubs jumped on Kluber immediately as Dexter Fowler lead off the game with a home run to give the Cubs an early advantage. In the fourth inning the Cubs took a 3-1 lead off of a double from Willson Contreras. The next inning Javy Baez hit a home run to drive Kluber from the game, the Cubs had finally got to him. Andrew Miller, arguably the best reliever in the game came in to try and stop the bleeding but the Cubs were able to get to him as well. Kris Bryant drew a walk and Anthony Rizzo followed it up with and RBI single, scoring Bryant all the way from first. Hendricks had a 5-1 lead and looked to be in control but was pulled after a walk with two outs in the fifth. Jon Lester made a rare appearance out of the pen to try and help seal the deal. David Ross had also come in as Lester’s personal catcher to replace Contreras. Things got off to a rocky start as the Indians were able scratch across two runs tightening the game to 5-3. As if to make up for some of his misfortunes behind the plate the previous inning, 39-year-old David Ross stepped into the batter’s box and took the once-thought impervious Andrew Miller out to dead center for a home run. Miller, like Bumgarner, Cueto, Kershaw, and Kluber before him was made mortal by the Cubs in the postseason. The Cubs were up 6-3 and Lester held down the Indians into the eighth and recorded two outs there. The Cubs were four outs away from the impossible. But as we know in Cubs lore, nothing is ever easy. NEVER. Lester gave up a single with two outs and Joe Maddon went to Aroldis Chapman for a third straight game. He served up a double and all of a sudden the Indians were trailing by just two with the tying run coming to the plate. As if the baseball Gods had one more thorn to stick into the Cubs and their fans Rajai Davis promptly hit a two-run homer to left off of Chapman and the game was tied 6-6. A little sidebar personal story here: I was watching this game in a bar which I was solidly against for fear of jinxing them by going out in public for any of the World Series. A few of my friends though goaded me into it and against my better judgment I went. When Davis hit that home run I was beyond devastated, I don’t have a word for it. My head sunk and I was completely deflated. I asked Maggie to whisk me out of the bar. I could no longer be sure of controlling my actions or emotions in public, especially if the Cubs were going to come this far only to have one more epic collapse. When I got home I was briefly despondent still not believing the dream season was trying to morph into a nightmare one more time. Back to the game, both the Cubs and Indians were unable to push across any runs in the ninth inning and as if there needed to be more stress added, this game was headed for extra innings. Something cosmic happened again though before the 10th inning could start. The heavens opened up and the rain fell as if to cleanse everything that had come before it in the game. A legit reset button. Meanwhile inside the visitor’s weight room the Cubs gathered as a team and Jason Heyward rallied the troops and reminded them who they were and why they were here. The 1oth inning began with Kyle Schwarber singling and Albert Almora Jr. pinch-running for him. Almora advanced on a sacrifice fly from Bryant. The Indians opted to intentionally walk Rizzo to get to Ben Zobrist. The biggest hit in Cubs franchise history came off the bat of Zobrist who slapped an opposite field double down the left field line scoring Almora and the Cubs reclaimed the lead 7-6. After an intentional walk to Russell Miguel Montero delivered another big insurance run with a single driving in Rizzo. The Cubs were leading by two and now three outs away from completing the dream. Young fire-baller Carl Edwards Jr. came in in the bottom of the 10th and retired the first two men. He then walked Brandon Guyer and who else but Rajai Davis drove him in and just like that the lead was back down to one with the tying run on base. The Cubs countered with Mike Montgomery, a mid-season pick up from the Seattle Mariners to try to get that precious final out. He faced Michael Martinez and on the 2nd pitch he hit a grounder to Bryant who fielded the ball. As he gathered himself he threw to first and slipped (Remember that rain?) but his aim was still true and Rizzo caught the ball in time. Everything stopped for me for a second. I realized it was over, the Chicago Cubs were the champions of the world. The curses: William Sianis, The Billy Goat, The Black Cat, Bartman, 108 years all erased in one night. But there was a wave that had been building for nearly nine months until that moment. The Cubs completed one of the most epic World Series comebacks in arguably the most epic Game 7 ever to end their title drought. I sobbed like I think I’ve never sobbed in my adult life and hugged Maggie. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing and experiencing. I couldn’t form full sentences and began to pace around the basement couch (Which has become a postseason tradition for me now the past two years). Ben Zobrist was appropriately named the MVP of the World Series and a celebration that was 108 years in the making was on.

Looking back on it I still can’t believe it happened several weeks later. I think about it multiple times daily and I’m still mystified by how it went down. I still smile every time I reminisce too. I’ll savor this one forever and I’ll be letting Cub haters and detractors hear about it until next Spring, maybe longer.

So many things in the regular season and the postseason that I’ve left out that I can’t possibly cover entirely:

David Ross’ “Year long retirement party” was great. His wisdom and guidance were so pivotal on a young team. Hitting a home run in Game 7 off of Andrew Miller and getting carried off the field after winning the World Series and sailing into retirement is better than anyone could’ve wrote it.

Kris Bryant’s otherworldly MVP season and watching him play so many positions without skipping a beat (3B, 1B, LF, RF). His first two years in MLB he’s won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year, the 2016 NL MVP, and is a 2016 World Series Champion. Not too shabby of a start. The phenom is just getting started.

Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Jake Arrieta all emerging as NL Cy Young candidates. Lester’s brilliance spanning the regular season and postseason, Arrieta’s fierce confidence and his 2nd career no-hitter, Hendricks’ calm demeanor and ascendancy to the upper echelon of MLB pitchers on the way to an ERA title.

John Lackey’s outspoken attitude and unmatched competitive fire. And who could forget, “We’re trying to win a World Series. I didn’t come here for a haircut, you know what I mean? We’re trying to get it on. I came here for jewelry.”

Javy Baez and Willson Contreras becoming part of the Cubs’ essential core. Sometimes this game can get a little too bland and by-the-books. They brought a certain charismatic flair, a machismo/moxie to this team. I loved watching these guys play. Contreras wearing his heart on his sleeve and gunning out runners. A coming-of-age tale behind the plate becoming a defensive marvel and swinging the bat great as well. He had big hits in all of the series clinching games for the Cubs in the postseason. A two-run single in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants that completely swung the momentum of the game and series, a solo home run off of Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS, an opposite field RBI double off of Corey Kluber in Game 7 of the World Series. I can’t wait for him to be the Cubs’ prominent catcher next year. Baez finally showed he could be the All-Star he’s been touted as for years and lived up to his potential. A defensive wizard at any position. His tags that defied the laws of physics. His postseason heroics and that smile.

Ben Zobrist as King Midas, anything he touches turns to gold. Winning a World Series title with the Kansas City Royals in 2015 then winning the next year with the Cubs in 2016. His inhuman month of May and the World Series MVP.

Addison Russell not only continuing his dazzling play at short stop but his burgeoning offense as well, hitting 21 home runs and having an astounding 95 RBIs in the regular season. Igniting the Cubs offense out on the West Coast in the NLCS clocking homers in back-to-back games. His grand slam and six RBIs in Game 6 of the World Series.

Jason Heyward’s defense in right field. Although he struggled mightily all season offensively and will definitely work on it in the off season his glove was never in question. Like Baez and Contreras, I loved watching him play defensively. Not to mention he added another Gold Glove to his trophy case as well.

Dexter Fowler’s million-watt smile and galvanizing the team as the best Cubs lead-off man I’ve ever seen. The “You Go We Go” mentality that he had causing a ripple through the entire lineup. I highly doubt he’ll be back with the team next year so whichever team gets him will be getting a great ball player.

Kyle Schwarber’s inspirational return in the World Series and immediate impact on the lineup. After that gruesome injury back in early April I can’t believe he’s walking right now. I can’t wait for his bat to be back in the lineup full-time next year.

Anthony Rizzo being the heart and soul of the team. He’s been through it all in this rebuilding process and was on some of the worst Cub teams in the history of the organization. Oh and he also ended up having a pretty incredible year too. In the hunt for the NL MVP all year and he raked in the awards after the season winning a Silver Slugger award, a Gold Glove, and the rare Platinum Glove award only given out to one defensive player in each league.

Joe Maddon being the Zen-master of the dugout. He was absolutely the right man to take the Cubs to the promise land and get the ultimate victory a World Series Championship. His experience and decades of baseball knowledge helped a young team show poise and have fun at the same time. His slogans, “Try not to suck,” “Respect 90,” “Never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” Those themed road trips. He’s immortalized now.

The front office of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod and the owners the Ricketts family for caring about this organization, its players, and its fans. They tore the organization all the way to the ground and built a championship kingdom in its place.

And let’s not forget, LET’S NOT FORGET… my Cubs tweeting throughout the year(s). I’m sure I annoyed a lot of people and I’m sure some people actually enjoyed it. It was therapeutic for me. A release of joy, confidence, celebration, frustration, anger, sorrow. The numerous and sometimes ridiculous nicknames and hashtags: #W #CUBS #FlyTheW #WorldChampions #CubsTwitterAfterDark #CardinalsLose. Li’l Z, Z, Zorilla, King Midas (Zobrist), Phenom, MVP, Bryzzo (Bryant/Rizzo), Russellmania (Russell),  3B (Baez Bein’ Baez), Machismo/Willco (Contreras), Miggy (Montero), Ross Sauce (Ross), The J-Hey Kid (Heyward), Hail Szczur! (Matt Szczur), 3 AM- Automatic (Tommy La Stella), Rodan (Rondon), Soler Power/Soler flare! (Soler), The General (Arrieta), Big Jon Studd (Lester), Big John Studd (Lackey), The Professor (Hendricks), The Super Athlete (Wood).

Well, this thing’s getting pretty long and has become and open love letter to the Chicago Cubs. This is a season, a team, a year I’ll never forget and I’ll make sure no one else does either. so hell, I’ll just leave you with some sweet pics.

But one more time…

#W #CUBS #WorldChampions

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Lords of Summer: Sweet Summer Sun

I’ve been pretty inconsistent posting on here so let’s see what I can generate. I’m going to attempt writing more random recollections on music, movies, and movements. I used to do it back when I was a lot more freewheelin’ and weirder. It also helped that I had a lot more free time on my hands. So let’s all get weird together again.

It’s arguably been my most eventful Summer yet, trekking to both places familiar and alien. An ocean? Holy shit. We’ll get to that…

The opening scene of Summer happened in late May in Chicago with Woodstock ’15 (Fagan term). First on the docket was a return to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs vs. Royals. This was my first time back in the friendly confines to see a Cub game since 2011 I believe (Checks facts, still hazy).

There hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about over the past 4-5 seasons during this rebuilding stretch, but out of those ashes has risen a youthful, hungry 2015 Cub team. This has been the long-term plan ever since the new front office of President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs in late 2011. They’re ruthless and cut-throat when it comes to analytical decisions and they will do whatever it takes to make the Cubs succeed and chase down that elusive World Series title. After what they did in Boston, I fully trust them to get it done.

It was a great time being out in the center field bleachers for the first time. I had far too many beers (I would not recommend drinking a 12-pack worth of beers at Wrigley alone, for both your liver and your wallet) and the crowd was a rabid mix of Cubs fans and Royals fans (Est. 2014). Unfortunately I think I legitimately went to The General Jake Arrieta’s last “bad” start (This was May 29th, almost three months ago) as the Royals ended up pulling away with this one. I anticipated retribution the following night but it was not to be as the game was rained out. I’ll have to wait until the make up game on September 28th, which could have huge playoff implications for both teams. If I would’ve known then what I know now just how great this Cubs team would turn out to be, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed in the loss. The young nucleus of this team is only going to get better too as the years go on. More importantly they make sure to keep it fun.

Denorfia W

After having a few more (unneeded) beers at Merkle’s it was up to my associate Matt Moss and I to stumble drunkenly through the Wrigleyville area in an attempt to find the Riviera Theatre to see “The Chief” Noel Gallagher. astonishingly we were able to find it (After a vital pit stop at Al’s Italian Beef) and Noel was able to pick us up with his impeccable, soaring anthems. A set that infused magnificent solo cuts (If you don’t have the new incredible Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album Chasing Yesterday that was released in March, stop reading this post, order it, then continue reading) with timeless Oasis classics ending things with a majestic “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

June brought with it a pilgrimage to Waverly, IA to experience the carnival feel of Mumford & Sons’ traveling Gentlemen of the Road festival. An interesting endeavor considering the current boom of stationary festivals. It was a diverse line-up that featured some of my favorite stalwart bands like Dawes, Jeff The Brotherhood, and The Flaming Lips as well as unfamiliar ones that were a pleasant surprise like Rubblebucket and The Maccabees. The two-headed dragon of My Morning Jacket and Mumford & Sons were to no surprise the best parts of the weekend. Mumford & Sons have seemingly made an effortless transition to the bright lights, big crowds, and main stages of the world. They were a well-oiled machine in Waverly and always an extraordinary live act. My heart however, belonged to My Morning Jacket pertaining to the live acts. They were operating on a totally different plateau than everyone else there that weekend both spiritually and physically. I’ll never tire of seeing them live, sonic transcendence at its best.

I had to pick myself up off the floor for the next weekend in Kansas City to see some band called The Rolling Stones. One of the bands I’ve definitely been pining for to see live and cross off my concert bucket list. It is astonishing what they are doing at their age but they still sounded incredible and Mick Jagger cemented his legacy as the greatest front man of all time. He strutted and preened like he was in his 20’s belting out classic after classic. It was like witnessing the Dead Sea Scrolls of Rock & Roll. They were in the rattling genesis of Rock music, like witnessing the Big Bang of the universe. I don’t know how long they’ll tour (Mick said he has no plans of retirement and Keith is going to live forever), but I’m glad I had a chance to see them live in person. What this had me salivating for more than anything was a new record from them. 2005’s A Bigger Bang was their best album in my opinion since 1978’s Some Girls and recent singles like “One More Shot” and “Doom and Gloom” came off as effortless blues rock instant classics. I’m sure they have enough fire power to churn out another batch of marvelous tunes. I’d love for them to work with Jack White or Rick Rubin as the producer, but I’ll take anything to be honest.

Stones KC

I had been redlining at work for sometime and needed a lengthy break physically and mentally. I took the longest amount of time off I’ve had from work in 13 years, I whopping two weeks (For me that’s impressive!). For the first leg of vacation I headed to South Carolina, specifically Folly Beach for a relaxing few days. This was foreign territory for me, I’d never seen the Atlantic Ocean, it was a sight to behold. I am horrible at taking pictures so this was as good as it got (Look at that fuggin’ rad moon!).

Ocean Breathes Salty

We left South Carolina a few days later and proceeded to trek across the countryside for nearly 19 hours. What was awaiting me on the other side of this road trip was Chicago and Lollapalooza. I’ve now been to Lollapalooza six consecutive times and I must confess although it’s a great time, I was considering sitting out this year. The way the festival has been trending in recent years was more towards EDM (Bull shit), abysmal hip-hop (Bull shit), and flavorless pop acts (Bull shit) rather than the guitar-centered Rock & Roll bands. Sure there’s always a strong undercard every year but the main stages have been getting less stellar. Well, when they announced the Friday and Saturday headliners I was all in. Paul McCartney and Metallica, I thought it was a hoax at first. No hoax at all. I saw McCartney back at Bonnaroo in 2013 and he was the best act there and he was brilliant again here. Meanwhile it’s been nearly seven years since I’ve seen Metallica live and they did not let me down. They’re still arguably my favorite band of all time and have been since high school (Okay, okay, I had a severe Guns ‘N’ Roses crazed phase in there too). Couple those monolithic acts with the other acts I saw: St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Father John Misty, The War on Drugs, Gary Clark Jr., Catfish & The Bottlemen, Death From Above 1979, Delta Spirit, Tame Impala, Circa Waves, Lord Huron, Strand of Oaks, Of Monsters and Men, TV on the Radio, and Florence + The Machine and it was one of the best Lollapaloozas I’ve been to. Next year? We’ll see.

There’s a lot of details I left out but I’m getting royally distracted by the blitzkrieg heaviness of Metallica’s Lollapalooza set I purchased from their website:

Metallica.Lollapalooza.Chicago.cover_.0801-15I’ll always be forever tethered to this band. For people that don’t like Metallica or don’t understand, I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s that chaotic angst the registers in your marrow, only Metallica is able to drill that deep for me I think. You could buy the physical double CD of this show (Which I did) or download it. Metallica does this for all of their live shows now and I wish all acts would do it. For one, an extra source of revenue for them and two it would cut down on bootlegging.

That’s it for now, more posts coming I believe. One on Sunday if I’m up to the task.

P.S.- I’m seeing The Tallest Man on Earth tonight at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City so let the live shows keep flowing! I’ve seen him a few times already live and he’s extremely captivating, one of the best lyricists on the planet. Cheers!