Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Cubs Are Still Winners To Me, Even As the Dodgers or Astros Will Take Their Title

Graphic by Seth Arkin (except for Cubs logo)
Contrary to the Gospel of Gordon Gekko, I don't believe greed is good.

Sure, desire, ambition and wishing for things to go your way are laudable--if devoid of any real detriment to others as a direct correlation--whether in real life or this rather inane sports fandom analogy.

But all too often it seems, we don't contently savor getting what we want--on the occasions that we actually do--without quickly longing for more of it.

Once is Enough for
Happily Ever After
(Though winning again and again is certainly welcome.)

As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I wished that they would win a World Series for literally as long as I can remember. As soon as I knew of the Cubs' nearly-eternal lack of baseball's ultimate success--probably around 1975 or so--I hoped that one day I would see them win it all.

Clearly, I wasn't the only one with this at or near the top of my wishlist. And millions of diehards never saw it come true.

While the Cubs' consistent failure to play even .500 ball in most seasons was hard to take, even more crushing was when they teased us with the possibility that "this could be the year."

I won't count 1969 (being born in 1968) but you might. But I certainly, painfully, recall...

1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2015.

Some Cubs fans might now include 2017 as a rueful year that seemed promising but ended without the ultimate goal achieved.

And though I--seemingly heretically--also consider myself a Chicago White Sox fan, who cheered and celebrated when they won the World Series in 2005 and continue to attend several games each season, I couldn't help but note that some more vitriolic Sox boosters felt the need to demean these Cubs with words such as "quit," "embarrassed" and "losers."

As chronicled in this Chicago Tribune column by forthright Sox fan John Kass, a far south side bar is adorned in a "L" fan, mocking the Fly the "W" banner that has become synonymous with Cubs victories.

But while I don't mean to parallel the gravity of the situations, certain Sox fans (and even some fellow Cubs fans) assuming the North Siders badly bowing out to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS somehow ruins my world seems a bit akin to silly Conservative notions that the vile disgrace of Harvey Weinstein is somehow devastating to me because he has supported some of the same liberal and Democratic candidates & causes I have.

Understanding that I have taken this Cubs consolation piece--not so thematically dissimilar from this one from 2015 and this one from July--in strange directions, let me hopefully be a bit less obtuse.

First, briefly, about Weinstein: I have long perceived him as a smarmy, megalomaniacal creep, and while revelations about the depth of his depravity are shocking, they--sadly--aren't truly not all that surprising.

Truth is, I know wonderful conservatives, Republicans and even Trump voters, and rather wretched liberals and Democrats. And though I voted for Barack Obama (twice) and Hillary Clinton, I'm far from their biggest fans.

That Weinstein donated large amounts of money to their campaigns was nice of him, I guess, but obviously didn't make him a good person or me, ever, an admirer of his. Though clearly not alone in Hollywood or among powerful (and not so powerful) white men, he seems about as vile as they come. He deserves whatever's coming to him, and probably far worse.

Liberal hero, my ass. 

As for the Cubs, I want them to win every game.

But I obviously know that won't happen. And while I predicted at the start of this season that they would win the World Series again--I had correctly picked them in 2016--it was pretty apparent throughout that they weren't playing at the same level.

But every other team that wound up making the 2017 playoffs was positioned to do so on July 3.

That the Cubs were 41-41 and 2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division, makes their ultimate 92-70 record and 6-game besting of the 2nd place Brewers all the more impressive.

Yet even in losing 22 of their last 35 regular season games, the 104-58 Dodgers clearly seemed to be the best team in baseball in 2017, and their trouncing of the Cubs in the NLCS--after the Cubs getting past the Nationals in the NLDS was far from automatic--certainly couldn't be considered shocking.

Yes, it was distressing how badly the Cubs played--they couldn't hit, their pitching (particularly out of the bullpen) was awful, they made some egregious errors and Joe Maddon was largely outmanaged by Dave Roberts--with his decision to use John Lackey late in game 2 particularly dubious--but the Dodgers were clearly the better team.

This just happens in baseball. Many teams that are expected to be dominant heading into a season fail to live up to expectations. Several World Series winners haven't even made the playoffs the following season. And no National League team has won back-to-back World Championships since the Cincinnati Reds in 1975-76.

So that the Cubs made the NLCS three straight years--for the first time ever--is pretty amazing.

Including the regular and postseason, they won 310 games from 2015-2017.

And, of course, they won the friggin' World Series in 2016!

For the first time in 108 years.

Fulfilling my lifelong dream.

And fantasy.

When really, despite being baseball's best team throughout last season, they probably shouldn't have won.

Treachery loomed in the NLDS against the Giants until a 9th inning Game 4 miracle.

The Cubs looked dead in the water against the Dodgers after 3 games of the NLCS, before coming back to life.

They trailed the Cleveland Indians 3 games to 1 in the World Series, with the Indians having home field advantage.

And in Game 7, just when it looked liked the Cubbies had overcome both the Tribe and the curse...

Rajai Fucking Davis.

At which point, I can't say I prayed to any known deity. That isn't my style, particularly about sporting matters.

But like many, I certainly wished for the Cubs to somehow pull out the game...even if it meant karmically--in some Faustian deal--dooming any future chance for success.

And they did.


The World Series.

I haven't forgotten.

And at least internally, I haven't stopped smiling.

Even now.

So while I'm disappointed that they didn't do better this year and that they won't be in a second straight World Series--congratulations and best of luck to both the Dodgers and the Houston Astros--I'm far from distraught.

There will undoubtedly be changes to be made, with pitching coach Chris Bosio already fired and pitchers Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis among those unlikely to back next year.

I have some questions, even trepidations, about other Cubs players, and probably won't agree with everything Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Maddon will and won't do to prepare the team for 2018.

But for now, it's fine.

It's good even.

I'm content.

And even grateful.

Thanks, Cubs.

I truly can't wait 'til next year.

Win or lose.

Go Cubs Go!

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