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DECATUR -- When Kris Bryant picked off a grounder off the bat of the Cleveland Indians’ Mike Martinez and threw it to Anthony Rizzo for the final out, the Chicago Cubs had their first World Series title since 1908, and Aric Lee’s life was changed forever.

Lee was gathered with around 30 Cubs fan friends at Locals 101 for Wednesday’s Game 7, which ended in an 8-7 10-inning victory for the Cubs, who completed a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

When the final out was recorded, Lee leaned against the balcony railing and put his head down, then raised it up and smiled. Fellow Cub fans Jeff Rounds and Josh “Donut” Mahon embraced while beer sprayed everywhere.

Lee became a Cubs fan because of his mom, Tina Kramer, and his grandfather, Richard Lee Sr., better known as “Beef.” Beef died 19 years ago, but he was fresh in Lee’s memory while he leaned his head down in silence following the win.

“A lot of it is just relief,” said Lee, tears in his eyes. “I had family members live their whole life without seeing this. This is way bigger than a baseball game or a baseball team. It’s way bigger than a sport.

“It’s been gut-wrenching, but we’re finally in the club. We’re no longer the joke.”

For Mahon, the Cubs win ranked high among the greatest moments of his life.

“This is the second-greatest day I’ve ever had,” Mahon said. “There was getting married, the birth of my first child … oh wait. Maybe third. Either way, it’s indescribable.”

It wasn’t just Cubs fans who were happy with the win. Troy Hayes is a Kansas City Royals fan, but is friends with several Cubs fans and was getting caught up in the moment when the Cubs took a 6-3 lead in the sixth inning. He left and went to Kroger to buy champagne. When he got back and the game was tied, Hayes was devastated.

“Now that I bought champagne, I’m invested,” said Hayes, who left the champagne outside the door, fearing he’d be blamed for the Indians’ comeback.

When the Cubs won, Hayes popped the champagne, sprayed it everywhere and passed around the bottle.

Life as a Cubs fan will be forever changed. They’re no longer the “lovable losers.”

“That was all hilarious to everyone else, and we played along for so many years,” Lee said. “But it hurt. It hurt a lot.”

Mahon and Rounds took turns spraying the crowd with champagne and taking a swig. Then Rounds, who complained the entire game about Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s decision-making, turned to Mahon and said, “Donut, let’s go have a shot and a beer -- Joe Maddon-style.”

Mahon agreed: “Let’s go,” he said, as “Go Cubs Go” blared in the background.


Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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