By Nora Younkin
It’s November in Chicago and fans gather tonight to watch the Cubs play in the final game of the World Series. The city is blanketed in white “W” flags, and bright blue caps dotted commuter’s heads during the morning rush hour on the Red Line. Small children and dogs alike have been outfitted in Cubs regalia, and trucks honk loudly as they drive past Wrigley Field. Cubs fans are ready to end this 108-year World Series Championship drought.
Despite the wealth of Instagram filters and Snapchat geotags at their fingertips, Cubs fans are commemorating the occasion in a charmingly low-tech way. The brick walls of Wrigley Field on Sheffield and Waveland Avenues are coated in colorful chalk messages. Those who made the pilgrimage to the ballpark are leaving a mark not only for friends who are far away, but also for loved ones who never got to see their “Lovable Losers” come this far.
These fans are as likely to have a lump in their throat as a smile on their face. For a team that has so often rewarded loyalty with disappointment, this year feels different. Parents bring small children out and perch them on their shoulders to write on the iconic brick facade. An older fan waxes nostalgic with a Wrigley Field maintenance worker. It seems like everyone’s got a family story about the Cubs.
“My dad was 4-years-old the last time they were in [the World Series], so it means a lot,” said Cubs security guard John Hylka before Game 2 last week. Hylka and his father will be happy if they win it all, but will also be thinking of relatives who aren’t going to get the opportunity to celebrate. “There’s gonna be a lot of tears shed when they do win it.”
Peggy Gibbons bought her own batch of Crayola sidewalk chalk and has been camped out at the wall all morning before going to work at a nearby bar. She put out a call on Facebook and Twitter to offer to write messages on behalf of friends and family, and is working her way down a list of names scribbled out on a pink sticky note.
“Someone just texted me and reminded me of one of my old bosses who passed away earlier this year,” she said. “He used to take us to the opener every year, rented two buses, drove in from Aurora, took us all out drinking. He was a huge Cubs fan. He would’ve loved to be here tonight.”
On the corner stands a large statue of legendary Cubs commentator Harry Caray. Green apples are strewn at the foot of the figure. Far from litter, the apples are meant to evoke the Cubs icon’s prescient words. On the last day of 1991’s losing season, Caray proclaimed that, “sure as God made green apples, someday, the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series.”
This morning’s scene is oozing with nostalgia, but the reality of life in Chicago this year has been less rosy. A spike in gun violence has marred the city’s national image. In the popular imagination, Chicago often lags behind the glittering metropolises of New York and Los Angeles. As a city with something to prove, and with a presidential candidate decrying its streets as an out-of-control hellscape, Chicago needs a win.
It’s hard to say how long the chalk will last on the walls of Wrigley in the fickle November weather, but the tales of the 2016 season are sure to feature prominently in stories for years to come.
“The stadium is always filled. There’s never an empty seat,” said 35-year-old lifelong North Sider Mylynna Alvarado. “This is something [that is] so important to Chicago. It’s a loyalty that the Cubs bring to our city. No matter how old you are, or how young you are, it’s an awesome feeling that everyone has such a connection with the Chicago Cubs.”