Photo Essay: Cubs throw a party for the ages

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The Chicago skyline had a touch of encouragement for their city's newest champions such as the Prudential building's "World Champs" display.

Cubs throw a party for the ages Nov. 4, 2016 will forever go down as the day the Cubs held the largest gathering in U.S. history.  In fact, it's reported that over 5 million observers lined the streets of Chicago to witness this once-in-a-lifetime experience. By now, everyone, even those who don't rigorously follow sports, knows that the Chicago Cubs broke the longest championship drought in professional sports history this past week with their seven-game thrill ride win against the Cleveland Indians.  This created an epic response of Cubs fans, baseball fans and party fans alike as the city of Chicago became ground zero of "celebration station." As per the usual for most championship-winning teams, the city of Chicago followed this roller coaster of a Series by throwing a celebration for the Cubs, complete with an epic parade and championship recap/rally presentation in Chicago's Grant Park.  The parade commenced with nothing but the absolute best forecast possible, nothing but blue skies and a comfortable temperature of 60 degrees. My day into Chicago began quite early as I hopped on the 3:20 a.m. train into the city.  I arrived in Chi-town with barely-open eyelids and jittery chilled hands, warmed by my morning coffee, just a tad after 5:30 a.m.  To my amazement, there were already hundreds to thousands of Cubs fans lined up near the entrance gate into the parade zone, located near Chicago's Congress hotel.  Just as I began to question my madness, for I knew that there would most likely be at least three hours of wait prior to the 9 a.m. opening of the gates, I was jolted awake by a ruckus of a scream!  And then another....and another!  Though they were low on sleep, these fans were most certainly not low on energy as the chorus of the famed Cubs fight song, "Go Cubs Go," rang loud and clear among the gathering.  This is one aspect of the day that would become nearly second nature, as I would take part in the familiar ballad perhaps 100 times before the day was through. When the gates finally opened, the thousands of fans, who had gathered at the crack of dawn to secure their spot in this historical event, were slowly but aggressively passed through the opened gates like cattle.  My best description of the fans' demeanor: think of 5 million Black Friday shoppers rushing to collect the one 99-percent-off television that lay in Grant Park.  Yeah, it was hectic to say the least. When I finally made it through bag security, which was run very smoothly and efficiently, I raced off to my spot on the parade route.  I was lucky enough to have been able to secure a spot right in front of the Buckingham Fountain portion of the parade route.  I was even so lucky as to be able to be upon the gate itself, which lined the vacant Columbus drive.  Locked in for the long haul, I, you guessed it, waited again for the moment of truth.  This is when things started to really feel extremely surreal. As I (more or less) patiently waited for my team's victorious players to finally make their way down the parade route, I took in the various sights and sounds of all that surrounded me.  And let me tell you, there were some sights to say the least. I could tell all about the "brave"/"stupid" fans who risked it all for the glory of ascending any phone poll in sight, each one trying ever so hard to get a little bit higher up than the person before him/her.  To be honest, I feel as though I may have been more nervous for the people climbing on top of things than those who were risking it all for....well... whatever it was they were hoping to prove. I could tell you about the fans who brought tennis balls and played catch with random strangers...all the way on the other side of the road.  They'd heave the balls back and forth and back again, until a less-than-stellar throw left the ball tragically abandoned in the middle of the road.  But just as the innocent fans' time-expediting game of catch seemed to be coming to an end, the heroes in blue stepped in on the fun.  The police men and women, who lined the street to protect all the innocent fans present, even joined in on the fun by helping the fans retrieve the balls that were unable to make it back to the side of the road. But what caught my eye more than anything else was this: When the World Series champions made their way down the road and could just barely be seen from almost a mile away, every face, ranging from 3 to over 103 was filled with joy.  Pure, unaltered, fully-savoring joy.  I could talk about the over 5 million people that I saw in Chicago on that day, but instead I choose to remember the over 5 million smiling faces.  Faces that tell millions of sports fans' lifetimes devoted to a ball club that finally gets to let their victorious battle chorus of "Go Cubs Go" ring a little louder.  Only this time, the chorus sounds a little different.  "Hey Chicago, What do ya say? The Cubs are the World Champs today!"
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