Today, millions of people will celebrate what has become a national — if not global — holiday, Super Bowl Sunday.
Unfortunately, after starting the season on a torrid 5-0 pace, my Minnesota Vikings didn’t even sniff the playoffs and look to be in disarray heading into the offseason. Will surefire future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson return to the backfield? When — or will — Teddy Bridgewater reclaim his spot as franchise quarterback after a gruesome knee injury? And what about that offensive line?
But even as I await the Minnesota Vikings’ first Super Bowl victory, I’m still celebrating my Chicago Cubs and their first World Series championship in 108 years.
For Christmas, I received quite the Cubbie haul, and for my upcoming birthday, I’m expecting the last remnants of souvenirs celebrating the historic win, but, with all due respect to my generous family, none of what I received or will receive will come close to what I experienced Monday, Jan. 30, in Iowa City, a day that I will forever remember.
Are you ready? Because this is big.
Be still my beating heart.
I saw the World Series trophy. Up close.
The guest of honor was scheduled to be at the University of Iowa’s Iowa Memorial Union from 5 to 6:30 p.m. that day, so I had to take a day off from work, but it was so worth it.
I asked my wife, dad and mom to come with me, but work obligations kept the first two away, so mom made the trip, although health concerns made it impossible for her to stand in line. So, after dropping me off at the IMU, she went to Coral Ridge Mall in nearby Coralville.
I, however, had a date with history.
As I entered the building, I wondered how long the line was by now at about 4:15 p.m. I eventually found my way to the waiting mass of humanity and followed the line from the beginning.
From what I gathered after finding the end, the first 500 were guaranteed a photo, as shown by their wristbands. I was just a few people behind, no more than No. 510 or so. According to a guy in line, the trophy’s previous stop in Davenport cleared about 700 people, so I felt pretty good about my chances.
There wasn’t much to do while waiting, and I wasn’t going to pass the time with my cellphone. I was paranoid that after standing in line for what could be hours, my phone’s battery would die just before getting my precious photo.
With nothing to do, I people-watched as the line that already had snaked through two floors of the building was making its way outside as the 5 p.m. hour passed and fans were leaving work.
The guy just ahead of me was a college student who ran from a lab session to the IMU as quickly as he could. Feeling the camaraderie of Cubs fans everywhere as it overwhelmed my introversion, we struck up a conversation.
We talked about that magical 2016 season. What was ahead for our Northsiders. We eventually talked about where we were the night of that storied Game 7. He was watching in his dorm. I was in a newsroom.
I told him I laid out my newspaper’s front-page that night, and that’s when we found out we both were from southeast Iowa. Small world indeed.
In fact, the newspaper sold printing plates from that night, and he received one as a gift.
Soon, and quicker than I thought, the moment was at hand. I was just a few feet from history.
I handed my phone to an attendant to snap my photo, and, after a little more than an hour in line, I was standing next to the World Series trophy in awe of what it represented.
One hundred and eight years of curses and patience and wait ’til next year.
My Grandma Johnson, who lived and died having never seen her beloved Cubbies win it all.
All those years spent glued to the TV watching the likes of Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston and Andre Dawson as a kid to watching Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell and Javier Baez as an adult.
The smile on my face didn’t do justice to my feelings of pride and elation as I tried to take it all in.
And then, less than 10 seconds later, it was over. But it was so worth it.
Today, as the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots battle for Super Bowl glory, I’ll still be basking in the glow of that historic World Series championship.
Even as I await an eventual Vikings title.
Just wait ’til next year.