It isn’t the same.
And here’s why. It can’t be.
The atmosphere around Wrigley Field, the passion and desire of the fans, the players, the coaches, the ushers, the parking-lot guys, the street folks, people at home watching on TV, listening on the radio, Ronnie Woo-Woo — for god’s sake — it just isn’t the same as 2016.
The Game 3 victory Wednesday night was sweet — two Javy Baez homers and all — but it can’t change reality.
When you win something you’ve only dreamed of winning, that has sailed past you like a tantalizing mirage for decade upon decade, well, when you finally catch it, you can’t possibly want it as much the next time around.
The deed has been done.
Think of it: Every team in Major League Baseball has gone longer without a World Series championship than the Cubs.
The trip to the title last year exhausted all of the fan base’s energy. The fulfilled yearning for success opened a floodgate of joy, tears, thanks, toasts, prayers and quiet communication with loved ones long departed.
Joe Maddon became a legend. Theo Epstein secured himself as a four-star genius. Heroes on the field were everywhere.
Do people want more?
Sure they do.
But you can’t manufacture desperation. You can’t recreate fears of curses and ghosts once they’re slain.
“It’s not as much excitement as last year,” said season-ticket holder Jack Leifel, 66, from Algonquin, as he walked toward Wrigley on this gorgeous night.
“It’s not the same in the park. Some people have sold their tickets and are just waiting for the World Series.”
Might be a long wait.
But such a relaxed attitude was unheard of last year.
Ads on Tuesday announced some tickets were selling below face value. Four hours before game time, a Cubs Twitter post said bleacher seats were still available. Last year, those were gone as gold.
It is an economic principle of behavior that people who want something very badly, and then get it, do not want that thing again nearly as much. You’re starving for a hot dog (let’s use personal experience here), you get one and, yes, you want another — maybe 11 more — but each one after the first is diminished in its desirability. Finally, you swear you’ll throw up if you ever smell a hot dog again.
Ira Levin has been a beer vendor at Wrigley for 54 years. Stationed in the left-field upper deck, he has noticed the change in attitude.
“All I hear from people is, ‘We got ours!’ ”
Braves broadcaster and former Cubs broadcaster Chip Caray has spent plenty of time at Wrigley. His father, the late announcer Skip Caray, often told him, “If you win all the time, people get bored.”
Cubs fans aren’t bored, but they’re partially sated.
“I mean, look,” Caray said. “We never thought we’d live to see it, right? But we did. So does that take away part of the mystique? There was always, ‘Wait until next year.’ ”
Lo and behold, there is good ol’ Ronnie Woo-Woo himself, clad in a Cubs home uniform and cap, exiting Cool Stuff Food & Tobacco on Clark Street just north of the park.
Has Woo-Woo noticed a difference?
“First of all, we’re going to win four,” he said confidently. Then he nods in somber agreement.
“It’s a different generation. They watch Kris Bryant hit a home run and celebrate, then they go watch their TVs. There’s so much you can’t do in the bleachers anymore.”
I want to tell Woo-Woo that a generation is longer than a year. But I know what he means.
When Epstein first came to the Cubs and winning was a fantasy, I asked him how Red Sox fans responded to the World Series titles they won under his reign after an 86-year drought. He assured me they wanted more winning and they enjoyed it as much.
Maybe that day will come for the Cubs, but it’s not here yet.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.