This is part 5 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.
I had a morning flight to Chicago via Phoenix and my friend Janis volunteered to drive me to the airport. The first hitch was that the plane was delayed and I just barely missed my connection in Phoenix. Fortunately they were able to get me on another flight about 90 minutes later.
The next hitch came in Chicago where the Chicago Film Festival folks were supposed to take care of transportation from the airport to the hotel. The greeters informed me that we needed to wait for another person to arrive and then a group of us would be riding together. I looked at the possibility of taking a taxi, but the line looked like it was nearly an hour-long. So, I sat down at the Starbucks at O’Hare and chatted with a Greek filmmaker who was also heading to the festival. One major traffic jam later, I made it to my hotel, hungry and tired. I could now appreciate how easy my earlier trips had been made by taking public transportation.
The next morning I went to the Chicago Film Festival Industry Days conference, where I was scheduled to speak at 1:00. I wanted to sit through the earlier panels in order to be able to respond to whatever was being said. There were two panels–one on distribution and one on marketing, with the overall theme of what’s new, changed, different, in today’s marketplace for art cinema. The panelists were knowledgeable and covered a wide range of issues. My takeaway, which I stated in my session later in the day was, that NOTHING has changed. For all the new technologies and changes in the way we consume cinema these days, I felt like I was watching panels that I could have been on 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago.
My session, which was moderated by film programmer and journalist Anthony Kaufman, began with a nice reel of clips from films that I worked on. The hour-long discussion afterward was a nice stroll down memory lane, and hopefully some useful information for the filmmakers in attendance. One nice bonus is that I ran into Andrea Gronvall, a Northwestern classmate who I haven’t seen in years. She is a film journalist and used to be the producer of “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.”
Now it was time to get to the game…
Game 6, Dodgers at Cubs, Wrigley Field
Richie was driving from Michigan and was planning to park in Chinatown and take the Red Line from there to the park. We each had our tickets so depending on what time he got there, we would either meet up at a bar, or at the seats. As it turns out, there was no way to get into a bar. As of 3:00, the lines to get in to every bar in Wrigleyville were so long, that it was unlikely I would get in anywhere. So I just went in to the ballpark, even though it was almost 3 hours before the game. The good thing about getting into the ballpark that early is that there were no lines at the concession stands, so I grabbed a polish sausage and a frozen margarita ( I don’t do beer) and checked out my seats. We were in the upper deck in the left field corner. I tried to make myself useful by volunteering to take pictures of fans with the Wrigley scoreboard behind them.
Rich arrived with plenty of time to spare. By this time the ballpark was full and the atmosphere was electric. The fans could smell that this would be the night, but being experienced Cubs fans, there was always a bit of trepidation in the backs of our minds. In the lead up to the game, all the media could talk about was Kershaw, Kershaw, Kershaw. The implication was that if the Cubs were going to take the series, they would have to wait for Game 7, since Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was unbeatable.
In the first inning the crowd started taunting Kershaw by chanting his name. The same “Kershaw, Kershaw, Kershaw” that was supposed to be the Cubs downfall, was being thrown back at the man himself. I’m not sure if that was what rattled him, but it sure felt like it. By the end of the inning Kershaw had labored for 30 pitches and the Cubs had scored 2 runs. A missed fly ball in the outfield by the Dodgers didn’t help matters. This was the sort of thing that usually happened to the Cubs.
In the meantime, Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks was masterful. Rich and I were commenting that he was channeling Greg Maddux–painting the corners and fooling hitter after hitter.
The Cubs added runs in the 2nd, 4th and 5th innings, and Kershaw (still being taunted by the fans) was cooked. The Cubs had slayed the unslayable.
As the final innings approached, Wrigley was ready to explode. And that’s exactly was happened. As the final out was recorded, it was a roar unlike any I’d ever heard at the ballpark–and that’s saying something.
Richie & I were dancing and singing with the crowd. I tried to get some video of the celebration, but I couldn’t seem to push the right buttons. The Cubs had won the National League Championship for the first time since 1945.
We (along with everyone else) continued to cheer as the Cubs players ran around the field with “W” banners, and their families and the media joined them. They brought out a stage to the center of the diamond and we continued cheering through the presentation of the championship trophy. They interviewed all of the key players over the PA system and on the jumbotron is left field. There were particularly big cheers for Cubs President Theo Epstein, Cubs Manager Joe Madden, and Cubs Catcher Joe Ross, who had announced he would be retiring after this year. Tears were shed.
By the time the festivities ended, we had been in the ballpark for more than an hour after the game. The crowd sang “Go Cubs Go” one last time, and then we began to file out onto the streets, where a huge party was going on.
One of the first things on my mind was that now that there would be no game 7, I could fly home to NY the next day, a day earlier than originally planned. I attempted to call the airline to change my reservation as we were walking down Sheffield Avenue, looking for a bar to celebrate. Every time I got an agent on the phone, we couldn’t hear each other because there was so much noise on the streets. Not only were people yelling and singing, but passing cars were honking their horns. The cars had their windows open and drivers and passengers were high-fiving the pedestrians as they passed. I gave up on calling, at least until we hit a quieter area.
In the meantime, Peter Gilbert, who was in town that weekend, wanted to meet up with us to celebrate. He was awaiting word on what bar we ended up in. After around an hour, and about a 2 mile walk, we found a German bar on Lincoln Avenue. Rich grabbed a table while I called the airline. I texted Peter and he was on his way. My new flight would be at 6:20 am. I texted the Chicago Film Festival and they arranged a car to pick me up at 4 am. Rich was still planning to drive back to Michigan that night.
Nonetheless, Richie, Peter and I drank and celebrated until we had had our fill. We finally got on the Red Line to head our various ways. Rich went off to get his car, while I returned to the hotel.
I would only get two hours sleep, but the Cubs had won the Pennant!
Part 6 of this series is here.