Many sports fans surely have a story about the lengths to which they went to make sure they could watch their favorite team win a championship. Perhaps birthday parties or anniversary celebrations were arranged around the Super Bowl. Weddings were scheduled to avoid March Madness, or maybe the NBA and NHL playoffs. How about holding off that special trip until after the World Series?

Delaying or rescheduling special occasions or vacation trips is one thing. But what about something truly important, like open-heart surgery? That’s the decision writer and Chicago Cubs fan Wayne Drehs was faced with when doctors gave him a troubling diagnosis earlier this fall.

“But a sobering thing happened before these playoffs even began. I was at the gym when I took the call. The words on the other end were numbing. Open heart surgery. Sooner rather than later. A little less than a year earlier, doctors had discovered an aneurysm on my aorta, the same ailment that killed actor John Ritter. They told me I probably would need surgery at some point in my life. But a cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, the same one who saved the life of NBA forward Jeff Green, had reviewed my case. He didn’t think I should wait. He told me I had a month. Maybe two.”

Despite receiving news that would compel most anyone to make a quick decision and put every other concern or enjoyment aside in favor of an important medical procedure, Drehs had his eyes on a prize he and his father had anticipated for 32 years.

Perhaps it would have been different if the Cubs had been something of a surprise during the 2016 MLB season, emerging as a postseason contender and championship hopeful. But the Cubs have been viewed as a favorite since last winter. Actually, probably before that, when Theo Epstein was hired as team president and Joe Maddon was brought aboard as manager.

Sure, the Cubs and their fans have been waiting for a World Series title since 1908. But 2016 was supposed to be the year, and Drehs’ doctors were suddenly telling him that he might not be able to see it. When he insisted on holding off the surgery until after the World Series, pointing to Nov, 7, the doctors were all right with that. Even if waiting was somewhat risky.

“And so did most everyone who knows me well. They got it. Yes, technically, I was walking around with a ticking time bomb in my chest. The aneurysm could rupture at any point — a potentially fatal occurrence. But the odds were small. One friend texted me, ‘Forget the World Series. Forget the Cubs. This is the World Series of life.'”

How many sports fans would make a similar decision? How many, along with family and friends, would have suddenly decided that sports are only so important in the bigger picture of life?

But as many Cubs fans would tell you, this was a special circumstance. It was especially meaningful for Drehs and his family. Yet as that month before surgery progressed, he became more anxious about postponing surgery. Would he suffer a serious medical episode during a game at Wrigley Field, as his grandfather had? As a result, Drehs made sure that he watched each Cubs postseason game with his family, not with colleagues at Wrigley. But what if he took this chance and the Cubs didn’t win?

We now know that Drehs got the payoff for which he was hoping. He did not miss Kris Bryant’s throw across the diamond to Anthony Rizzo for the final out of the 2016 World Series and a long-awaited championship for the Cubs. Drehs will finally have that open-heart surgery or will have already undergone that life-saving procedure, depending on when you read this. Obviously, everyone hopes for the best. But at least Drehs will have one fewer regret when going into that operating room.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.

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