Next year is here.
At exactly 11:47 local time, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series that has eluded them for 108 years. Fans who packed bars to watch the games on television near Wrigley Field - neither of which existed back in 1908 - erupted in cheers before swarming onto the streets just before midnight Wednesday to celebrate in the shadows of the statues of Cubs greats Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and legendary announcer Harry Caray.
As the game ended, the roar from inside the bars and the throng of fans on the street was deafening, before the crowds both inside and out sang “go Cubs go” at the top of their lungs.
“This was torture,” said Mike Delmanowski, a lifelong Cubs fan who flew to Chicago from California just to be surrounded by other Cubs fans. “I would not have missed it for anything.
“I am so proud to be a part of it,” said his wife, Sue, who was crying off and on from the fifth inning. “
Mike Dillon said all he could think about was his father, who died without ever seeing what Dillon witnessed.
“I came here by myself, but I'm not alone at all,” said Mike Dillon, 57, of Joliet.
The 8-6 extra-inning victory over the Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland came after the emptiness and bitterness of years past when the Cubs found spectacular and sometimes downright strange ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Every Cubs fan knows those stories, starting with the 1969 team loaded with Hall of Famers that amassed a 9 1/2-game lead in mid-August before they started losing game after game in such numbers that the Miracle Mets not only caught them but ended up winning the National League East by 8 games.
Then came 1984. After taking the first two games of the National League Divisional Series against the Padres at Wrigley, the Cubs needed just one win in San Diego to advance to the NLCS. They were swept in three games on the West Coast.
There were other playoff losses but none as painful as in 2003 when in a where-were-you-when-it-happened moment that Cubs fans still have trouble comprehending, Steve Bartman deflected a ball that seemed destined for Moises Alou's glove with the Cubs just five outs from reaching the World Series.
Fans watched in horror as the Cubs fell apart, and few who left the park that night believed the team would win game seven the next night. They didn't.
But that was all in the past as Cubs fans throughout Chicago celebrated into the early hours of Thursday.