Oct 14, 2008

Cubs Curse

by Drew Menard

Tales of ghosts, vampires and hexes are sure to be passed along in the spirit of Halloween. Though a few shivers may dart across some unsuspecting spines, there can always be comfort found in the highly-accepted fact that ghost stories are not real, there are no vampires and curses are a hoax. As much as it kills me to say this, there is a century old hex involving a goat, a black cat and a hundred years of playoff infertility that has me convinced of the contrary. Curses are real, my friends, and the Chicago Cubs are living proof.

Being a Cubs fan is not easy. It has been a hundred years since the Cubs have won the World Series. The titleless century easily gives the club the crown for the longest championship drought in sports, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. To put this in perspective, the baseball team that holds the second-longest World Series drought, the Cleveland Indians, have not won a World Series since 1948, according to ESPN. The Tribe’s 60 year streak falls 40 years short of the Cubs. The first National Basketball Association Championship was in 1947, according to NBA.com/history, one year prior to the Indians last World Series crown, and the National Football League (NFL) only held its first Superbowl 43 years ago. I think it is safe to say that the Cubs have bragging rights when it comes to championship starvation in the professional circle.

As is tradition in the quite superstitious realm of sports, a curse has been concluded to be the cause of the Cubs’ troubles. I had always been a skeptic of such nonsense, however, after approximately 10 agonizing hours, two cases of Mountain Dew, three days of wearing the same blue and red jersey and a sleep-deprived weekend, I have concluded that “the curse” (as us Chicagoans so cleverly call it) is alive and well.

This year the Cubs had their best record since 1945. As a life-long Cubs fan, I was stoked (to say the least) at the prospect of my team contending for the World Series title after a 100 year drought. Going 97-64 in the regular season (the ’48 Cubs were only one game better) the North Siders had NL home field advantage and appeared poised to break the curse.

Only a cursed team could fail to break a curse and in three excruciating games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs did just that.
In their 2008 NL Division series with the Dodgers, the Cubs held the lead for only two innings and were outscored 20-6 in the series. In game two the Cubs tied the record for most errors in a Division Series game with four, two of which were on routine infield plays with two outs to go in the second inning.

I watched in utter dismay as my team let “its year” roll slowly (very slowly) past its outstretched gloves at home to the Dodgers, who in any other NL division would have finished in fourth place and not have even been mentioned in the Wild Card race. As a loyal and supportive fan, I suffered through each and every tormenting inning desperately clinging on to the hope that maybe, just maybe, my Cubbies would pull off a ninth inning rally. There would be no such relief to my dismay. The only anecdote that prevented me from smashing my television to smithereens was Frank Caliendo’s hilarious John Madden, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Clinton and George Bush impersonations during commercial breaks promoting new episodes of his sketch comedy on TBS.

For the sixth time since 1945 the Cubs were successfully unsuccessful in the playoffs. As I reviewed the events of the series and the Cubs disappointing history with my head buried in my pillow, I concluded that the curse had to exist.

The curse is believed to have begun in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner William “Billy Goat” Sianis and his pet goat Murphy were asked to leave Wrigley field during the seventh inning of the 1945 World Series. Sianis and his pet were excused by Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley himself because of the animals offensive odor, according to cubbiesbaseball.com.

Sianis, a die hard Cubs fan, was so enraged by the dismissal that he yelled “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more. The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field.” He later sent a telegram to Wrigley that read “Who stinks now? ” after the Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games.

Since the 1945 World Series it has been one bad rap after the other for Chicago’s North Side club and the Cubs have not been able to reach the World Series.

In 1969 the Cubs had a nine and a half game lead over the Mets and what ESPN said to be one of the greatest Cubs rosters of all time. On Sept. 9, 1969 during a series at Shea Stadium in New York against the Mets, a black cat strolled across the field, faced the Cubs dugout and ran a few circles around Chicago’s Ron Santo in the on-deck circle before disappearing beneath the stands. The Cubs lost the series to the Mets and went on to lose 17 out of 25 games in September. The Mets went on to beat the Cubs for the division title by eight games.

In 1984 the Cubs had their sights set on the World Series with a two-game lead on the San Diego Padres in a best-of-five NL Championship series. After the Padres tied the series at two games a piece, the Cubs jumped out to an early lead in game five. As the Padres closed in on the Cubs lead, Chicago first baseman Leon Durham had a ground ball roll between his legs with one out in the seventh inning. The error allowed the Padres to tie the game. San Diego claimed the lead later in the inning and went on to win the game.

Chicago’s most recent claim to shame has been nine straight playoff losses since the turn of the century.

The 2003 NL championship began the streak after the Cubs led the Florida Marlins three games to one. Florida came back to beat the Cubs in three straight games. They were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks last year and fell short (way short) to the Dodgers last weekend.

The belief that the hex was placed on the Cubs in 1954 is flawed because it leaves out 46 years of Cubs’ underachievement. In 1908, the Cubbies took down the Detroit Tigers four games to one claiming their second straight World Series title over the Tigers, according to the Associated Press. Since then, Wrigleyville has seen seven more World Series, all of which the club lost and the most recent in 1945. Say what you will about curses but I sense some deep-rooted voodoo pre-dating Sianis’ goat. Seven straight World Series losses may have been where the Cubs’ luck ran out. Traditionally seven is both a sacred digit and a lucky one. Losing seven titles certainly implies that the Cubs are both pagan and unlucky. Perhaps the Lord God himself allowed the Cubs seven chances to win and upon their final failure allowed the curse of Sianis’ goat to fall upon Wrigley.

Whatever the cause may be, I am certain that the Cubs lineup is too talented to go without winning a title. I agree with ESPN’s Rick Reilly, who said that many of them will win a World Series, with another team.

As for us Cubs fans, we can still take comfort in the fact that another season is only six months away and this year’s troubles will be just another chapter in the history books. The curse cannot last forever. After all, there is always next… century.

 


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