When it finally happened — and oh, how nobody expected it to actually happen — one man pulled his friend in close, kissed him on the cheek and they embraced each other as the booze sprayed throughout the bar, drenching all of those crying in relief.
Each phone was ready with its flash on to record. Each boyfriend was ready to kiss a girlfriend and share this moment. Each arm was around a friend as “Go, Cubs, Go” played throughout the street.
In this moment, in Bloomington, Indiana, Kilroys on Kirwood felt like little Chicago on the outskirts of the IU campus. The Chicago Cubs had won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.
Twenty-year-old Josh Thomas wasn’t old enough to enter the bar and cherish this victory with peers. So he and two friends stood on the corner of Kirkwood and Dunn, as close as possible to Kilroys, and cheered everyone who passed by.
“Twenty years of pain and disappointment is finally gone,” the South Bend native yelled.
The bar was plenty full when third baseman Kris Bryant made the throw for the final out to Anthony Rizzo. But within four or five minutes from that fateful moment, the line to enter was out around the corner. Cars were honking up and down the street. “W” flags were hoisted from windows.
Chicago is upwards of a four-hour drive from Bloomington. Yet the campus is littered with Cubs fans. There are those from the city or the suburbs surrounding it. There are those from South Bend or Fort Wayne, Indiana. There are those from Indianapolis who adopted the Cubs since there is no local team.
Regardless of how or why, there remains no shortage of Cubs fans in this Indiana college town. And because of that, there remained no shortage of pain from the years of losing — and embarrassing losing at that.
That pain could be seen throughout the first nine innings at Nick’s English Hut. Like when a wild pitch allowed two Cleveland Indian runs, and the scene could be summed up with one fan shoving and spilling his beer and several sounds of glasses being shattered in the distance.
There seemed to be a constant understanding throughout the room that this would end badly, that this couldn’t end well. When reliever Aroldis Chapman gave up his first run of the eighth inning, the room wasn’t full of anger but fear.
When he allowed the two-run Rajai Davis home run to give up the lead, one fan threw his head into the edge of the bar. He turned around in a crouched position with his hat covering his face and didn’t turn around for the rest of the inning.
Another young man began yelling at a photographer who was trying to capture reactions, yelling, “Can you not go somewhere else? Can you not leave us alone?”
The optimism that seemed to finally be reaching the hearts of Cubs fans who waited so long to see a championship was fading. By the top of the ninth, it was almost as if the game was over. Despite a tie score, the room was occupied by a defeatist anger.
Then came the delay.
And fittingly — oh so fittingly — the fan base that waited 108 years to finally see victory had to sit through a 17-minute rain delay before extra innings resumed. But they were able to say they saw the Ben Zobrist RBI double to take the lead. They were able to say they saw the Miguel Montero RBI single that put the game out of reach.
They were able to see the Cubs win the World Series.
And Kilroys and Nick’s and just about every bar on campus was filled to the brim with celebration. Fans were using words like “Euphoria” and “Indescribable.” Groups of girls sprinted to the bar for a row of shots. Former IU basketball standout Max Bielfeldt was jumping up and down in his Addison Russell jersey.
Then there was 21-year-old Jake Carlyle from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has been a Cubs fans since he was 5. He and his brother, Nate, would watch games together whenever possible.
As the final out was made, Jake called Nate and didn’t say a word. He just held his phone up and let Kilroy’s do the talking.
It finally happened.