An odd turn of events with this Broadway tour is that we have inadvertently followed the World Series. The show began in Cleveland just a little over a month ago, as the excitement towards a possible wild card position for the Indians was starting to heat up. As tours do, we moved on, and we soon found ourselves in Chicago for the excitement of games six and seven. Admittedly there is now a slight soft spot in my heart for the Indians after our time extended time in Cleveland, but in the end, I still had to root for the Cubs. The energy here is just too magnetic.
I am not usually a follower of baseball, with my typical response to an invitation to a baseball game being, “Sure, I like hot dogs and beer.” So when a group decided to take in an Indians game one evening, I was cool to go, and I got my obligatory beer and settled in. We were housed in the hotel across the street from Progressive Field, where sometimes the stadium fireworks and drunken fans did not make a good impression on Maggie Dog, but it did make for an easy outing. As the game progressed, we were impressed with how this young team was passionately fighting through to the end, never giving up, and coming back to win against the KC Royals by the end of the game. They played a song where everyone stood up and chanted, with matching movements, “O-H-I-O!” over and over. There was a clear connection of camaraderie and excitement coming from the stands for their team, city, and state, which helped push the Indians forward into the playoffs, something no one had anticipated. It was endearing to watch over the course of our stay. The evening that they clenched progression into the World Series was an exciting one, with folks from sports bars spilling out into the streets and drivers honking horns in celebration. One local jokingly said, “You know, we are just overdue in this city for a championship; I mean, it has been four months already since the NBA playoffs.” To say that Cleveland was electric is an understatement.
The city simultaneously geared up to host the first game of the World Series and the Cavaliers NBA season opener at the arena just across the street, on the same day, at the same time. Outdoor stages were going into place for a large free concert in the plaza in between the stadium and the arena, and 20 or so trailers were being set up all along the street to support the massive media coverage required of these two concurrent events. I walked Maggie early on the morning of our departure, the day before the onslaught. The film and concert stagehands were arriving to the job site, shaking hands with guys that they know but haven’t seen in awhile, all of them happy to be called in to work an event of such stature. (Our own line of work helps me know that handshake and smile well.) The sports and entertainment worlds must intertwine, and sports casters are absolutely dependent on these guys to pipe out the game to the masses watching at home, as well as manage the sound and lights that make that concert happen. But as exciting as it was, I was glad that we were rolling out of town. Cleveland was about to get real rowdy.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, there was a huge celebration happening as well, as the Cubs had just broken the 108 year curse. But the Cubs struggled at the beginning of the series, seemingly not able to match the enthusiasm of the Indians, working themselves into a 3-1 conundrum. Momentum picked up in game 5, though, and the Cubs kicked it into gear. Upon arrival in Chicago, the local news was all Cubs, all the time. Of course they would be! They just couldn’t contain themselves; the city was wide-eyed with anticipation. Some claimed that bars were removing the Cleveland based Great Lakes Brewing Company taps and replacing them with Chicago microbrews. There were stories of Cubs fans driving the quick 5 hour I-90 trek between the two cities, with reporters stationed at rest stops talking to fans. And of course the favorite story to report was the one about people leaving green apples at the foot of the famed Cubs radio announcer Harry Carey statue at Wrigley Field, as well as at his gravesite, because of his famous statement in 1991, “Sure as God made green apples, someday, the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series.” It seems as though there is a “W” flag (standing for “win”) flying in every other window. This place was primed for a comeback win with unwavering faith.
The hubby and I were able to watch game 6 in Chicago at a prominent sports pub downtown. The bar exploded when Addison Russell hit the grand slam, catapulting the Cubs into a large lead, essentially sealing the fate that there would indeed be a game 7. The energy in the room was overwhelming and contagious. In that moment, it was as though I became a local Chicagoan and instant Cubs fan. But that moment also goes along with tour life: when you are in a city, you live in and enjoy all that that city has to offer. Tour people are inherently nomadic, and we know how to quickly adapt to our new surroundings. This chameleon like state creates an interesting version of a faux local. Hubby worked a show during the start of game 7, but we were able to make it out by the sixth inning. Being right in the thick of it, the streets were pulsing with electricity. The Cubs were winning, the pubs were at capacity, and there were cops stationed at every corner. Chicago was busting at its seams, bracing itself for the inevitable party that was to come in the near hour. We finally found a sports bar, actually back by the hotel, that let us in, and we were one of the last. When the Indians tied the game in the 8th inning, there was a hush that came across the crowd, but never a fear. People sat still, staring at the televisions. The cops outside seemed to change their demeanor as they realized the night could take a different turn. But after a strange rain delay that seemed to not only calm the players, but also the crowd, the Cubs pulled it out for the win in the 10th inning. The bar, the streets, everyone leapt with adrenaline that came from the tips of our toes all the way up through our limbs, lifting them weightlessly into the air as we screamed in shock and awe. Bartenders sprayed champagne. People danced and kissed in the streets. Celebratory honking chorused through the night. It was a novelty, almost surreal.
The next day everyone was smiling, and the city had a lightness that it carried through the oddly sunny, warm day. It was Thursday, and locals talked of a possible three-day weekend with the parade being set for Friday. The city prepared for the large amount of humans coming their way the next day. As someone who is trying to live and work here, though, that is when the energy shifted for us. It is rumored that approximately 5 million people were downtown on Friday and they all seemed to stay for the weekend. Though we live in hotels, we do walk to work on these streets, find our favorite restaurants within days, and usually have made quick friends with a bartender. This is why we loved and enjoyed being in Chicago during such an amazingly exciting time, happy to participate in the street celebration and dance in the champagne. It was an awesome feeling. However, it is that very feeling of being local-like that has led to the end of this week not being so fun. The city has been swarmed with tourist and travelers who all decided to make a weekend out of it. We fight our way down the street to work. Walking Maggie has become exhaustingly annoying. The tourists are not used to city streets, bumping into me multiple times as they try to figure out where they are going. They would trip over Maggie’s leash, causing her to yelp and pull away, because they aren’t paying attention. They step into streets and block bridge sidewalks to take selfies with the river or buildings. Our frustration grew and we just buckled down to get to Sunday.
Last night, as we walked back to the hotel from the theatre, the streets were sleepy. It was as though the city took a sigh of relief and a quick nap to catch its breath. We strolled calmly with Maggie Dog on her evening walk, and she finally had a smile on her face again. The hotel was quiet. There were no sirens, no honking. After having been around the World Series hype in both cities since the beginning of October, we took our own breath of fresh air and walked an extra block or two. We are grateful for this unique experience, but I must agree with Maggie Dog. I’m looking forward to a fireworks free existence for a bit.
*Photo credit goes to hubby.