Our story begins on Sheffield Avenue in Chicago. A young woman writes with chalk on the brick wall of Wrigley Field: “We believe.” The opening credits roll as the camera pulls back and we see more writing on the wall: “This is the year” and “Go Cubs!”
The Chicago Cubs, a movie title card explains, have not won the World Series since 1908. They are America’s “lovable losers.”
Our story cuts to a ballpark in Cleveland. Thirty-eight thousand fans wearing Cleveland Indians red and Chicago Cubs blue sing the “National Anthem.” Midwestern wholesomeness. The scoreboard says it all: Seventh game of the World Series, winner take all.
Rearing back on the mound is Indians ace pitcher Corey Kluber, who has humbled the Cubs twice already in this World Series. But wait! The very first Cub up to bat, Dexter Fowler, slams a home run.
Cut to a man in black glasses in the Cubs’ dugout, manager Joe Maddon. We’re thinking Jeff Bridges. As Fowler circles the bases, Maddon says to himself, “You go, we go, Dexter. You go, we go.”
The Cubs keep hammering. They score two more times in the fourth inning. Cut to shots of happy wives in sky boxes. Cut to shots of nervous celebrities. Think Bill Murray, if he’ll do a cameo.
But wait again! It gets better. An amazing young player, Javier Baez, breaks out of a slump in the fifth inning to slam a home run that sends Kluber packing, head hanging.
Cut to delirious Cubs fans in Chicago bars. Cut to a man sitting in a dark cemetery in Greenwood, Indiana. His name is Wayne Williams and he is listening to the game on a radio beside the grave of his father, Wayne Williams Sr. “We’re winning, Dad,” the son says.
Schmaltzy? Maybe. But it’ll work.
Back to the ballpark. A young Cubs star with the biggest smile in baseball, Anthony Rizzo, leans over a rail next to a seen-it-all veteran, David Ross. Everybody calls him “Grandpa.”
The dialogue goes just like this:
Ross: Talk to me.
Rizzo: I can’t control myself right now. I’m trying my best.
Ross: It’s understandably so, buddy.
Rizzo: I’m emotional.
Ross: I hear you.
Rizzo: I’m an emotional wreck.
Ross: It’s only going to get worse. Just continue to breathe. That’s all you can do, buddy. That’s all you can do.
But back on the field, all is not well, not for a movie called “Cubs Win!” The Indians rally, cutting the Cubs’ lead to two.
Cut to a famous celebrity looking pensive. Maybe Murray again, if he’ll work for scale.
But no worries. This movie’s got a Superman. The music swells. Legendary Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, the fastest pitcher on the planet, enters the game to shut down the no-good Tribe. Game over, right?
Except…except…Aroldis is out of gas. Too much pitching on short rest. Maddon’s questionable handling of pitchers could make for an excellent subplot. Aroldis gives up a double and a homer and the score is tied and …. it’s raining.
No, man, not metaphorically. It’s really raining. The umps call a rain delay.
But now, folks, this is where the movie gets really good. Because here’s what happens: While the Indians use the rain break to go to the bathroom, the Cubs call a meeting. And not just a meeting, but a players-only meeting — no manager or coaches – in a little room. It’s a real soul-searching thing.
Jason Heyward, an outfielder who has struggled, takes the floor. Think Michael B. Jordan. He sees the downcast faces. He sees a hint of doubt. But Heyward won’t have any of it. He gives the big speech.
“You guys should all look in the mirror and understand we can get this done,” he says, with a little anger and a lot of love. “I don’t care who it is. … Just be happy in this moment, in this situation, because you can come through.”
Fist bumps now, and nodding heads and slaps on the back. Can you see it?
The rain lets up. Of course it does. And the Cubs roar back. Of course they do. This is a movie.
Power hitter Kyle Schwarber, who has the best backstory in the whole movie, goes up to bat. He sat out the whole season with a knee injury. But now he smacks a base hit to start a rally. Rizzo takes an intentional walk and Ben Zobrist, another one of those guys in the movies who’s been around, slaps a double. Before the inning is over, the Cubs have scored twice!
There’s a little more to go, but you get it. Cubs win, right? The loser jinx pops like a balloon. Rizzo toes first base for the last Indians out and everybody goes nuts. They jump all over the field.
Cut to the Chicago bars. Fans are screaming. Cut to the big celebrity. Is he crying? Cut to the cemetery. “We won, Dad,” says Wayne Williams Jr.
Cut to Chicago, two days later. The closing film credits roll over a massive victory parade. Everybody’s singing this song, “Go, Cubs, Go!”
What do you say? Can you see it? Lovable bunch of guys, great baseball, dramatic rain delay, pivotal team meeting, history slayed?
Yeah, maybe you’re right. Forget it. Nobody would believe it.
Tom McNamee is Editorial Page Editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow McNamee on Twitter: @McNamee54
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