cubscoverGrade: A-/B+
Entire family: Yes
2016, 90 min., Color
Shout! Factory
Not rated (would be G)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Trailer
Amazon link

Every year, Major League Baseball comes out with a World Series Champions clip-show for fans to relive the series highlights, and this year it should appeal to an even bigger audience than usual. It features the two teams that had gone the longest without a title: the Cleveland Indians of Major League fame and the Chicago Cubs, the lovable losers from the Windy City’s North Side who play in their “ivy-covered burial ground,” as singer-songwriter Steve Goodman (“Go Cubs Go”) joked in a song titled “The Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.”

Goodman, whose ashes are reportedly buried under home plate, never lived to see the biggest win in Chicago sports history, and neither did a lot of fans. The Cubs last played in a World Series in 1945 and last won a world series in 1908, while the Cleveland Indians haven’t won it all since 1948. This documentary makes clear how generational being a Cubs or Indians fan has been, and the impact a win would have on either city. You couldn’t have written a better script than to have the two teams with the longest droughts squaring off against each other and needing seven games for the winner to finally emerge. The Cubs, who led the majors with 103 wins, went down 3 games to 1, and only four teams had come back from that deficit to win the World Series: the 1925 Pirates, 1958 Yankees, 1968 Tigers, and 1985 Royals. Throw in a rain delay at the end of regulation with Game 7 tied, and you’ve got high drama to rival any sports screenplay to come out of Hollywood.

Curiously, this Blu-ray/DVD combo is titled Cubs: 2016 World Series Champions, but at first the focus is evenly divided between the Indians and the Cubs, giving an abbreviated backstory cubsscreen2for the Cubs’ and Indians’ title droughts. Without going into any detail—Chicago fans, for example, are expected to know the story of Steve Bartman and the Billy Goat Curse—the film editors cut in plenty of visual cues to remind (or confound?) you as they combine vintage footage over the years with shots of 2016 fans. There’s not much in the way of analysis, though. There’s no mention of Kyle Schwarber’s miraculous return from injury and his medical clearance to be a designated hitter but not play any position, or how Cleveland’s home-field advantage actually turned into a Cubs advantage because of the DH rule. But this documentary does provide a nice retrospective of how the Cubs finally won the big one, with slickly edited game highlights, miked players, interviews with club personnel, fan reactions (taken from all angles of the ballpark), and, in the case of Chicago, shots of fans outside Wrigley Field and popular watering holes like Murphy’s Bleachers and Harry Caray’s downtown.

Just as curiously, though, the dual focus on Chicago and Cleveland dissipates, so that by the end of Game 7 we don’t get interviews from the losing locker room when maybe unbiased fans might want to hear from both sides. Instead, the focus shifts to Chicago’s celebration and the parade that drew an estimated five million people—making it one of the largest gatherings of humans in history.

Fandom 250 rated Chicago Cubs fans #1 worldwide, and the TV ratings and that massive gathering all but prove it. This Blu-ray is a nice way for fans to pinch themselves and prove that it actually did happen: the Cubs are 2016 World Series Champions. It’s too bad, though, that some of the individual stories aren’t covered more. We see Grandpa Rossy, as the Cubs affectionately called catcher David Ross, being hoisted onto the team’s shoulders at the end of Game 7, but it will take a while for non-Chicagoans to realize that this was Ross’s final year before retirement. We see Bryant stroke two home runs, but there’s no mention of Bryzzo (the Bryant-Rizzo friendship/partnership and friendly competition for MVP), or the phenomenal play of Baez in the postseason. There’s also no subtitle to let you know you’re hearing Cubs’ radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes calling part of the action in addition to Cub-hater Joe Buck, who in Game 7 was already drawing up a list of previous Cubs’ “choke” moments after Cleveland started coming back. Fans need to know all of this on their own.

Still, it’s a nicely put-together documentary that doesn’t feel as slapdash and profit-minded as these too often do. It’s a nice way to relive the experience, and to prove to a generation to follow that the Cubs did indeed walk away with the Commissioner’s Trophy. It’s squeaky clean, too, with no foul language spoken or even discernable on the lips. The bonus features aren’t nearly as extensive as you might wish, but if you’re a diehard Cub fan and you want more, there’s always the full-game Blu-ray that features all seven complete games plus the Cubs’ win over the Dodgers that put them in the Series.

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