I think last season’s tragedy is the best thing that could have happened to the Cubs.
No, really. I mean it.
And before you run out of town faster than you did Steve Bartman, hear me out.
In so many ways, last year seemed like the Cubs’ year. We had a manager who had made it to the World Series—and triumphed! We had great hitters and pitchers. We could score with the long ball or small-ball. We won 97 games. We sent eight players to the All-Star Team and won the club’s 10,oooth game. We made it to consecutive postseasons since 1906-08.
Even the weather seemed to favor us—Hurricane Ike forced a game at Houston to become a game in Milwaukee, a virtual home-game for the Cubs, which they won thanks to Zambrano’s no-hitter. This was the 100-year anniversary of the last World Series vict—well, I’ll stop there for now.
This was looking more and more like that “next year” that Cubs fans have been waiting on for what feels like forever. But just think of the symbolism involved here. What would it mean for the Cubs to win on the 100th anniversary of the last World Series win? Wouldn’t this portend that the Cubs would only win every 100 years? Wouldn’t we then, like Rip Van Winkle, be cursed to slumber through the next 100 years before yet another World Series? It would become an inescapable fate: winning a World Series every 100 years; no more, no less. Anything we might do between these victories would be, as they were for any number of tragic heroes, in vain. We would end up, cosmically, winning in 1908, 2008, 2108, and beyond no matter how much we fight or trade or pray.
We’ve tried all sorts of ways to overcome the Curse of the Billy Goat. Poor Sam Sianis has been trotted out any number of times to dispel his father’s curse. In 2004, we blew up Bartman’s ball, and it almost worked. Other exorcisms almost worked in other years as well. 2003: we tried to switch the Curse to the Astros by bringing a goat to Houston. 2007: some deranged fan sacrificed a goat and hung it from the statue of Harry Caray. Each attempt has come tantalizingly close to success, as if the baseball gods are amused by these attempts, but not impressed. Indeed, they let the Cubs win a division title here or there, allowing Cubs fans to see that which we desired, only to pull it away. Charlie Brown has had better luck kicking that football of his.
However, maybe it’s time to stop looking at this World Series drought as fate—as it might become had we won last year. The one-hundred year winners. Now that we’ve moved safely beyond that fate (or doom?), it might finally be time to embrace this as destiny.
We have fought and suffered and prayed and cried. Along the way, we have attained a deeper sense of honor, dignity, and pride in bearing up under this burden. Who else has the strength to do so? Whose shoulders, other than Chicago’s, are broad enough? What profit would it be to gain a World Series and give over our soul, as the wheeling-and-dealing Yankees have done? The Marlins can come out of nowhere to win a World Series in their fourth year of existence—but what do people remember: the Marlins’ victory, or the Cubs’ defeat?. No, thank you; we shall earn a World Series victory through sweat and toil; we shall seize our destiny when the time is right.
This is who we are; we should embrace it. Sure, White Sox fans may revel in their World Series rings, but those rings are false idols. Witness what a ring did to Gollum. Others may taunt us publicly for our suffering, but we can know that, if secretly, they envy and admire us. We are, and might always be, the grizzled, war-tested veterans who have seen and been through it all; we are the guy at the end of the bar about whom everyone else murmurs knowingly, buying us a drink with a humble nod. And when we finally drink from that promised cup, the taste of victory will be sweeter than any other nectar the gods can concoct.