White Cover Magazine
The Chicago Cubs are good. Very good. But we already knew that.
And obviously, they knew that. That was their problem. For the team and their fans, who somehow after 108 years of absolute, crushing, equator-reseting failure treated a World Series berth like the last hurdle before an inevitable win. We all remember what it was like watching the ’04 Red Sox come back down 0-3 to beat the Yankees in that ALCS – the very act of getting to the final dance was done with such era-defining fashion, you just knew Boston would win the real thing. There was no way they couldn’t. And sure enough, only four games later, Kevin Foulke’s final out swept the Cardinals and ended the most cursed drought in sports history.
But the Cubs aren’t the Red Sox. Whether you believe in curses or not, you had to acknowledge the phrase with Boston. There was some very real, something very astronomical about their story. The trade of Babe Ruth had forever altered the trajectory of the game’s two greatest franchises, casting the Sox as the game’s all-time biggest losers – and whether it was Bucky, Buckner or Boone, their losses never failed to be humiliating or cementing.
But the Cubs? I mean, the Bartman thing sucked. And sure, I’ve heard of some so-called goat curse. But didn’t that just seem like something Cubs fans made up to soften the blow of being shit? Like, they couldn’t just speak the truth – that they’d always lost because they weren’t good enough to win. Instead, they needed something to put them on level with Boston –”Oh, you have a curse? Right. Oh, we have a curse, too. Yup. Biiiiiiiig curse over here.”
And so, this World Series started and looked like it would end out of Chicago’s hands – both geographically and on the scoreboard. When the series shifted slightly west to Cleveland, the Indians were up 3-2 – after once leading 3-1, too – and heading home to end their own drought. Not as long, perhaps, but equally tragic.
68 years is a long time. It’s not 108, but you try telling the Cleve to feel bad for Chicago. At least the Cubs’ losing streak makes them loveable. The Indians hardly ever are. They’re just a red-faced racist logo’d franchise with a forgotten struggle, their failure buried behind sexier stories dogging the Cubs, Red Sox and White (Black) Sox.
But here’s the thing… this Indians team is excellent.
They were excellent coming into the playoffs, although few believed they could get by Boston so hobbled. Then they faced the Blue Jays, with a Monstar-ish power lineup that had finally started clicking, and they suffocated them like a hockey sock in the exhaust.
Once they hit the World Series, I mean, you had to be a moron to think they couldn’t keep it going. It’s the final round – after 162 regular season games and a gruelling postseason gauntlet, so why not finish off one more upset? Baseball’s postseason is short and narrowed-down, sure, but there’s never an easy out – there may only be a final four, but it’s a final four. Only your League’s best.
So much of this Indians team reminds me of the Marlins team that Bartman’d Chicago in 2003. They never stop hitting. They never stop running. Their pitching puts its foot on your throat. There’s a lot to love here – and if it wasn’t for the opponent, most would see that. Like that Florida team from 13 years ago, we’ll look back on this Indians lineup sometime down the road and say, “Jesus, they were stacked.”
They’re an admirable foe. An inspirational bunch. And they’re the perfect foil for a Cubs team that could shed its identity with one more win on Wednesday night.
Either way, one of these franchises is going to overturn a whole ton of time spent waiting.
And at least for the loser, it’s something they’re used to.
And for us, the audience… well, who didn’t want Game 7?
*The photo at the top of this post is from Wikimedia Commons, user Arturo Pardavila III.