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Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015 10:13 am

Cubs going to the World Series?

One word: Fuhgeddaboudit

There has been much talk lately about the Chicago Cubs. How things are different now. How they’re young and on the cusp of dynasty-dom. How Bartman can now get on his billy goat and ride into the sunset.

Brave talk for fans of a team that hasn’t done, well, anything.

When the Cubs finish above .500, their fans declare the season a success, a sign that great things are on the horizon. If the Cubs had been beaten in the usual fashion -- say, three games to one -- by the Cardinals in the contest to decide which team would advance to the league championship series, fans would have gone home happy and dreamed sweet dreams of next year. Nowhere is the tried-and-true destination of Cubs fans, who have become even more adept at losing than the team for which they root.

Which makes what is about to happen even more delicious.

The pratfall is always best when Lucy holds the football just a smidgeon longer than she did before, and the Cubs will, unquestionably, end up on their backsides by the time this is over, most likely in spectacular fashion. How it will happen and exactly when, only the gods of baseball know. But it will happen, just as surely as baseballs dribble between Buckner’s legs.

Sure, sure – if the Red Sox could win a World Series after an ungodly long drought, so, too, can the Cubs become champions of major league baseball. That’s what Cubs fans, even sober ones, are saying these days. Well, I knew the Red Sox. The Red Sox were friends of mine. And you, Chicago Cubs, are no Boston Red Sox.

Or, perhaps, they are. Consider the Red Sox. A fine franchise that has had the misfortune of playing in the same league as the New York Yankees. But for that, they might well have won a championship or two long before they finally hoisted the trophy in 2004. Really, the Cubs have little in common with the Red Sox, at least the pre-2004 Red Sox, save a history of losing so long as to be epic. And what was the common denominator of these teams’ wretched history of haplessness for all those years?

The New York Mets, the straw that stirs the drink of baseball curses.

The Red Sox met their Bartman in the 1986 World Series against the Mets, when the infamous Mookie ball got past Buckner, a play – and scapegoats -- so legendary that full names are superfluous. It should be no surprise, really, that Buckner, an ex-Cubbie, was wearing a Cubs batting glove under his mitt when he made the muff. He had reportedly, inexplicably, worn the batting glove for luck.

Is it any coincidence that the Red Sox, which had last won a World Series in 1918, then went (19)18 years before finally winning another in 2004, exactly (19)86 years after they had last won the World Series? And which team did the Red Sox beat in the waning days of World War I? You guessed it: the Cubs.

Numbers don’t lie, and this is the sort of mathematical and historical hex that now dooms the Cubs. Still, there will be see-no-evil Cubs fans who say that such irrefutable proof of the upcoming collapse means nothing, that curses and hexes are just plain silly. Such assertions are so much whistling past the graveyard. 

Speaking of graveyards, let’s talk about 1969. That would be the year that the Cubs were so far out front in the waning days of the season that there was no way they wouldn’t make the playoffs. Then they went 8-17 en route to an October of golf. Really, it was all over on Sept. 9 that year, when a black cat ran around Ron Santo in the on-deck circle, then vanished under the stands, never to be seen again. In Shea Stadium. Against the Mets, who were in the midst of a tear and ended up winning the division by nine games after trailing the Cubs by 9 ½ games in mid-August.

That was the year that the words “amazing” and “miracle” were attached to the Mets. But it wasn’t amazing or miraculous at all. It was destiny, same as this year.

The author is a fan of the New York Mets, which have been in existence since 1963 and gone 2-2 in World Series.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


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