“Forget curses and droughts; the Cubs have the best combination of hitting, pitching and fielding- period. So the question isn’t whether they will finally win the World Series. It’s how could they not?” -Tom Verducci- Sports Illustrated 10-10-2016
To answer your question, Mr. Verducci, there was one way they could not win. This is a way no team in any sport has ever devised a defense against. What I am about to reveal is more frightening than any Halloween terror or ghost story. There is one thing that can stop the Cubs from finally winning the World Series: a curse. It is not the Babe Ruth called shot in ‘32, or the Billy Goat of ‘45, or the ‘69 black cat. It’s me.
Let me explain. Whatever team I cheer for inevitably loses. Many years and many sports, I have looked at the playoff teams and chosen which matchup I would like to see in the championship and then watched them, one by one, be eliminated until all that is left are teams I am not interested in. Last year in Major League Baseball was a perfect example. I wanted to see an all bird series with the Cardinals vs. the Blue Jays, or relive baseball history and see the Cubs vs. Yankees (actually the Cubs vs. anybody). It was, however, the Royals and the Mets in the World Series. Instead of watching the Series, I gave up and re-read Moby Dick.
In an auto race I saw years ago, I believe Indy Lights, I chose two drivers I would cheer for. The first one crashed on the first lap, and the second one did not finish twenty laps before he had engine trouble. I have never seen my Indiana Hoosier football team win against a team that had a winning record in the BCS. Even in soccer, I started to cheer for the Glasgow Rangers. They immediately entered administration over non-payment of taxes, and were forced to drop out of the Scottish Premier League and forced to play in the lowest tiered league in Scotland. It would be like Alabama forced to play Division III football (Crimson Tide 742- Frostburg State 0)
The record of teams I have wanted to win the Super Bowl is 6-20. My winning percentage record in NCAA bowl games I figured once to be about .386. A list of my favorite teams reads like an Edgar Allen Poe writing…. The Indiana Hoosiers, the Buffalo Bills, the New Orleans Saints, Army Black Knights,……. and the Cubs.
Eventually, I had come to a horrible realization… The San Diego Chargers losing the Freezer Bowl in ‘81, the rain that soaked the field and flooded out my high school football team’s offense to lose in the ‘82 playoffs (Norwell 12, Angola 0), Leon Durham/ Bill Buckner letting the ball go through his legs, Kim Zmeskal in the ‘92 Olympics, Scott Norwood wide right, poor Steve Bartman….. They were all my fault.
I have tried to use this “talent” for financial gain as a kind of sports hit man. For example, two years ago I was attended a weekly men’s prayer breakfast sponsored by my church. Among the regular attendees was with a fanatical Packer fan and a fanatical Seahawks fan. I made the offer… If you would pay me, I would cheer for the other team guaranteeing your team would win. Neither took me up on the offer. In the NFC championship game, I decided to go with the Packers. The unbelievable ending of the game snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and the Packers lost.
The next Friday, the Packer Backer told me, “Man I should have taken you up on your offer, Shawn.” I then turned to the Seahawks fan and warned him the same thing could happen to Seattle. He figured the Seahawks could handle anything my curse could throw at them. So in the Super Bowl, not really being a big fan of the Evil Empire, I cheered for the Seahawks. We all know what happened. In the most important play of the game, it was really the Patriots who could handle anything thrown at them.
So now the Cubs are in the playoffs again, and I have a decision to make.
To cheer, or not to cheer? That is the question.
Could I selfishly root for the Cubs, my favorite baseball team, and possibly to make them suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?
I asked my wife, a lifelong Orioles fan, born in Baltimore, weaned on blue crab, what she thought I should do. When I married her, I started cheering for her favorite team, the Orioles. They began 14 straight years without a winning season. The hardest blow of all was taking her to watch the O’s play the Diamondbacks when we lived in Phoenix, and watched them get creamed.
She said, ”Don’t cheer for the Cubs.”
I then asked the advice of my best friends and best men at my wedding, Steve and Ken. When I revealed to them the truth… the horror… they both advised me to not cheer for the Cubs. Ken and I have been cheering and commiserating over the Cubs for 31 years. He even took me to a Cub Spring training game for my birthday one year. Even he, the most loyal of Cub fans from a family of Cub fans, told me to cheer for the Giants.
So, I made my decision. I will fall on my proverbial sword. I will make the ultimate sacrifice. I must choose John McGraw over Frank Chance, Christie Mathewson over Three Finger Brown, Willie Mays over Ernie Banks, Will Clark over Ryan Sandburg. I will cheer for the Giants.
And when the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years…… I cannot be a part of it. “It is a far, far better thing I do now, than I have ever done before.”
By Shawn Reynolds
Reach Shawn Reynolds at DulcimerShawn@mail.com