Thursday, October 20, 2016

Amen: The Cubs Restore My Faith, Whatever Happens Now (or So I'd Like to Believe)

What a difference a day makes.

If you're a fellow Chicago Cubs fan, you obviously well understand the importance, in a baseball context, of the Cubs' 10-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday night to even up the National League Championship Series at 2 games apiece.

Going down 3 games to 1 in a Best of 7 series is never promising, especially with Game 5 to be played tonight in Los Angeles.

But I'm probably not the only one who considers last night's sizable victory even more important from a psychological standpoint.

For while I obviously want the Cubs to win, the pennant for the first time since 1945 and a World Series for the first time since 1908--and believe this year's team is entirely talented enough to do so--if they don't I will be alright with it.

I will still cherish the 103 regular season games they won this year, as clearly the best team in baseball from wire-to-wire. I will still be a Cubs fan and root for them the rest of my life. I will wait, as I always have, 'til next year.

But unless they should happen to lose in extraordinarily confounding fashion--and believe me, I know that's a possibility--thanks to last night's win, which saw the team and especially stars like Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell truly hit for the first time in the postseason, I won't be left to wonder why the Cubs didn't show up or how they managed to blow up.

Methinks this is a first.

And while jubilation is the ultimate goal, a sense of pride is the next best thing and feels pretty darn

Forget all the seasons of absolute suckage and misery. Forget about goats and Gatorade soaked gloves and the guy in the stands who doesn't deserve to have his name forever cursed.

What really has had me vexed as a lifelong Cubs fan is the number of times they ended a promising season especially meekly or utterly disastrously.

1969 (the year after I was born so I don't remember it much). 1984. 1989. 1998. 2003. (read this) 2004. 2007. 2008. 2015.

Cubs fans know all too well to what I'm referring so I don't need to spell out every instance, but the litany of low includes choking to miss the playoffs, blowing 2-0 and 3-1 series leads, getting repeatedly swept in the NLDS and, even in an otherwise expectation-exceeding 2015, getting swepts by the Mets in the NLCS after beating the Cardinals in the division series and being established as betting favorites to win it all. (This was a piece I wrote upon last season's conclusion.)

Not all cases were the same; sometimes the Cubs were clearly overmatched. There were series in which they played rather well but still got beat soundly. But all too often, even when the team was really good--and 2016 marks their 5th postseason appearance this century; only 4 other teams who've made that many playoffs since 2000 have failed to reach a World Series--the Cubs have frustratingly gone down without much of a fight.

Or, as in 1984 and 2003, they managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory in the most excruciating fashion.

At NLCS Game 2; I also attended Game 2 of the NLDS
But although this year's Cubs beat the Giants in the NLCS--thanks to a Game 4 miracle that staved off a gut-wrenching Game 5 after a 2-game lead was at risk of completely evaporating--and won Game 1 of the NLCS, then lost understandably to the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw), it was a feeble 6-0 Game 3 loss in L.A. to soft throwing journeyman ex-Cub Rich Hill, in which most of the Cubs' powerful lineup continued their dreadful slump, that had me fearing not just another disappointing end to the season, but an anemic embarrassment that would seem statistically incomprehensible.

Yet again.

But thanks to Russell and Rizzo and even Jason Heyward, who all managed to crack 20-year-old Dodger pitcher Julio Urias after blowing some early chances, that didn't happen.

And all is well with the world.

At least for now.

So no matter what happens tonight or in the days ahead, it at least feels great--especially when compared to the ever present past for Chicago's north side baseball team--to know joy in Cubville.

Go Cubs Go!
Some may enjoy this Spotify playlist I made for my drive to work this morning.

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