When my son, Grant, was born 20 years ago, a colleague announced the occasion to my co-workers with an email that concluded, "All are healthy and happy and hopeful that Grant will see a Cubs World Series in his lifetime."
I inherited the Cubs fan gene from my father, who back in suburban Chicago enjoyed listening to Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau on WGN Radio while working in the yard on Sunday afternoons. When closer Bruce Sutter would enter the game, we'd head inside and turn on WGN-TV to watch him confound even the best hitters in the National League.
Sutter, with his revolutionary Bugs Bunny splitter, was pretty much all we had back in the late 1970s. There were always more losses than wins, usually many more. But I learned early on that there was honor in foul-weather fandom. Ever since, I've loved this franchise like no other. I even worked in the Cubs' front office right out of college, which only cemented my devotion.
Though I'd moved to the East Coast by the time Grant came along, I was determined to make him a Cubs fan. I made sure that Wrigley Field was the first ballpark he visited, at 10 months old. Then over the next several years, I took Grant to Cubs games at nearly every venue east of the Mississippi, from Miller Park to Progressive Field to PNC Park to Citizens Bank Park, Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field. I outfitted him in Cubs gear, even buying him a Kosuke Fukudome T-shirt that his buddy's mom at first thought was obscene. (Turns out, it probably was.) I taught him that Derrek Lee was a great role model and that Lee's No. 25 would look good on him. (Grant's Little League nickname became "25.")
One special day in 2006, before a Cubs-Brewers game in Milwaukee, I even introduced him to Ron Santo, which for a Cubs fan was like getting an audience with the pope.
All the while, as Grant fell deeper and deeper, I had a secret, nagging thought in the back of my mind: By making my son a Cubs fan, was I dooming him to a lifetime of disappointment?
I was at the Bartman Game, sitting a couple sections away with my college roommate. I'm glad I didn't take Grant to Wrigley that night. Filtering out of the ballpark, I witnessed a dejected Cubs fan about my age talking with his two devastated young sons. He just looked at them and said, "Boys, you are now officially Cubs fans."
I was also at Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS against the Dodgers, when every Cubs infielder made an error. Really, what are the odds of that? Now, I never believed in the Curse of the Billy Goat, the scapegoat curse or any of that hocus-pocus that so many thought bedeviled the Cubs. But with Lou Piniella's teams of '07 and '08, neither of which won a playoff game, I saw a team crushed by the weight of history.
After 2008, a full century without a title, I didn't think much about the World Series anymore. I often joked that if the Cubs ever did get there again, it would probably be the seventh sign of the apocalypse, signaling the end of days. So while all the bandwagon jumpers were sure this was the year, decades of Cubs fandom told me to hope for the best but to never expect it.
But 2016 was the year of anything is possible, the year of 5,000-to-1 Leicester City shocking the Premier League, of LeBron James' Cavaliers coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win their first NBA title, of the Oakland Raiders performing Silver & Black Magic on a weekly basis. So why not the Cubs?
Grant turned 20 the day before they clinched their first pennant in his lifetime, my lifetime or the lifetime of anyone under age 71. When Anthony Rizzo squeezed Kris Bryant's throw to record the final out of the World Series, I felt relief, initially because they didn't let that 5-1 lead get away, eventually that another generation of Cubs fans won't have to carry that baggage, ultimately that my son is not doomed to a lifetime of disappointment.
Grant is away at college now, busy with classes and football practice and whatever else college kids do. I wasn't sure how closely he was following the playoffs. So late in October I texted him and asked.
His response: "I've watched all the games at the expense of schoolwork and procrastination."
That's my boy.