By Kallie Culbertson
The air outside Wrigley Field had a distinct smell on October 13, 2015. A strange combination of beer, sweat and that unmistakable stench of victory. The Cubs had just beaten the Cardinals to advance to the National League Championship Series, and I stood on Clark Street in awe of what was happening around me.
People jumped on cars and climbed up street poles, waving “W” flags that I presume they had just pulled down from their frat-star Wrigleyville apartment walls. It was debauchery at its finest, and I was ecstatic to be a part of it.
Only I hadn’t actually been a part of it. I was working late that night at my job as a PR associate and decided to walk home from my office to get some fresh air. I checked Twitter for the score a few times and heard some cheers out of bar windows as I walked by. As I got to my door, I refreshed my Twitter feed and saw the breaking news that they had won. I entered my apartment to my screaming roommate who was throwing on her Cubs gear.
“Let’s get out there! We have to be out there!” I threw on my Cubs fleece and followed happily out the door into the crowded streets. She was right. We had to be there.
“During the common pleasantries and small talk at parties, we talk about our jobs and say things like, ‘The people are great, and I’m learning so much,’ which is not a lie but certainly leaves out the harsh details we all know to be true of adjusting to real, adult life.”
And that’s when we saw the goat. Some brave (or others might say cruel) man dared to bring a pet goat with him to the celebration — a definitive symbol of the curse that the Cubs were so hoping to leave behind them that fall. The Billy Goat Curse goes back to game four of the 1945 World Series when the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern was kicked out of the ballpark because of his smelly goat, damning the Cubs to never win another series. And, as most people probably know, they haven’t.
We followed the goat up the street and eventually got the owner’s attention to take a picture. My roommate sent it to her parents. I immediately put it on Instagram, as if to say, “I’m a Cubs fan, and I’m going to prove it. I was here when they won. I’m winning.”
Only I wasn’t.
These first few years out of college, a lot of people (myself included) focus on trying to make it seem like we’re still winning in the same way we were in the college glory days. During the common pleasantries and small talk at parties, we talk about our jobs and say things like, “The people are great, and I’m learning so much,” which is not a lie but certainly leaves out the harsh details we all know to be true of adjusting to real, adult life.
We post pictures of birthday parties, concerts and Cubs victories, proving we’re still fun, a task which seems slightly more daunting but also more urgent than it did in previous years. Like a pack of hungry Cubs fans, we hold onto the wins and hope we can convince ourselves that this will, once again, be our year.
“Maybe that fear is a blessing in disguise. It forces us to plan for upcoming wins, to string together the moments when we forget about the stress and the rent and the new life we were pushed into.”
At the time when I posted this picture, I didn’t feel fearful at all. I was excited and by all accounts happy. There was nothing to be fearful of other than the looming possibility of someone falling from a lamppost onto my head. But I also knew that a large part of me was only there because I wanted to say I was there. I wanted to be amongst the myriad other “winners” of that night who were sharing stories of how they were there, how they witnessed history (hopefully) in the making.
Seven months later and two days after the next season’s Opening Day, things feel slightly different.
The classmates I graduated with seem a little more comfortable and a little more honest about their losses. As college days get further away, we start to compare our new experiences less to them.
The Cubs are off to a solid start, and I’m trying to actually pay attention and earn my right to be at the victory parties. But I also can’t stop thinking about that goat. The new season brings a new air of excitement but also a little bit of fear. The fear of that stupid goat. The fear of not winning. The fear of not being in the right place if they win.
But maybe that fear is a blessing in disguise. It forces us to plan for upcoming wins, to string together the moments when we forget about the stress and the rent and the new life we were pushed into. And soon, the wins we were forcing will start to feel more natural and frequent.
We’ll accept that sometimes wins are just hard to come by. And we’ll remind ourselves that, hey, even if things aren’t going our way now, just remember, there’s always next year.
Kallie Culbertson is a healthcare account associate at Golin, a public relations firm in Chicago. She lives in Wrigleyville and plans on attending as many Cubs games as possible this year.