Cubs seem like inevitable champions this time

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Kris Bryant

It’s going to happen.

I’ve resigned myself to its inevitability.

It’s coming and there’s nothing I can do about it.

The Chicago Cubs are going to go to the World Series. And they’re going to win it.

This year.

Ugh.

There are few things we can count on in life, but one thing we have always been able to depend on is that the Cubs wouldn’t go to the World Series.

The swallows stopped returning to Capistrano.

The Berlin Wall came down.

But the Cubs kept losing.

The Curse of the Billy Goat was as dependable as things get.

You remember the billy goat. His owner also owned the Billy Goat Tavern and legend has it he tried to bring his goat with him into Wrigley Field for Game 4 of the 1945 World Series but the goat was denied entrance even though he had a ticket, reportedly because he was “smelly”.

If this happened nowadays the owner would have filed a lawsuit claiming discrimination and the goat would have gotten season tickets in a suite for life as part of an out-of-court settlement.

But in 1945 the dismayed owner simply put a curse on the Cubs and said they would never again play in the World Series — and they haven’t. In fact they wound up losing that Series, in which they had a 2-1 lead on the Detroit Tigers before the curse.

Since then the Cubs have had good teams, very good teams, gone to the playoffs, won playoff games, even seemed headed to the World Series (Google: “Bartman, Steve”). But somehow, some way, they always failed.

Some might say the Cubs were cursed before the billy goat was turned away because they hadn’t — and, of course, still haven’t — won a World Series since 1908.

In 1969 they had a nine-game lead in the NL East in mid-August and blew it to the “Amazin’ Mets”.

In 1984 they had a 2-0 lead then lost three straight games to the San Diego Padres in the NL playoffs.

In 2003, well, you know, Bartman.

But that’s all history and — I fear — so too is the curse.

Now you might be thinking: “Les, you’re a Reds fan. Don’t you have enough to worry about without concerning yourself with whether the Cubs finally win a World Series?”

That’s a valid point, but I can’t help myself. The Cubs’ reliable failures always have been a source of comfort. Even when the Reds weren’t winning I could always find solace in the fact that at least they weren’t the Cubs.

When I was growing up, baseball on TV was pretty much the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week. The Cubs seemed to show up on the Game of the Week far more often than their won-lost record would justify. We were constantly told about the quaintness of Wrigley Field and its Bleacher Bums even when the team they were following had a few bum-like qualities themselves. That stuck in my craw.

When cable television became commonplace in the early 1980s we got to see a lot more baseball games but unfortunately many of them were Cubs games, courtesy of the WGN super-station.

Even worse, the arrival of cable coincided with improved Cubs teams and suddenly scores of people who hadn’t previously identified themselves as Cubs fans were suddenly — and loudly — proclaiming themselves as such.

There are far too many Chicagoans and diasporic Cubs fans who were loyal to the team from the Windy City’s North Side through decades of futility for us to tolerate bandwagon jumpers whose loyalty dated only to the installation of cable TV in their homes.

The nouveau riche Cubs fans made it impossible for me to embrace their team even as I understood the attraction to Harry Carey and the whole Cubbie phenomenon. Sorry, but even sentimentalism has its limits.

So I admit to experiencing some schadenfreude when that ground ball went between Leon Durham’s legs and when the Marlins batters and the Cubs pitchers and fielders made Bartman a household name.

But all good things must come to an end.

The Red Sox beat The Curse of the Bambino and overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees and go on to win the 2004 World Series, their first title since trading Babe Ruth after winning the 1918 World Series. They even won the Series again in 2007 and again in 2013.

In 2005 the White Sox proved that practically any team from Chicago could win a modern-day World Series when they ended an 88-year drought.

Heck, just a few months ago the Cavaliers won the NBA championship, ending Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought.

I’ve even seen the New Orleans Saints win a Super Bowl for crying out loud.

Now the Cubs had to go out and hire a top-flight GM (Theo Epstein) and a top-flight manager (Joe Maddon) and acquire a lot of really good players, young ones, ones that can hit, ones that pitch, ones that, darn it, know how to win.

Even while operating under the Curse of the Billy Goat the Cubs, who put the loser in the term “lovable losers”, have had good managers (Leo Durocher, Lou Piniella) and Hall of Fame players (Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg). But never before have they put it all together as they have in 2016.

So here we sit in the waning days of the baseball regular season and the Cubs already have clinched the NL Central title. Did it a week ago.

The postseason looms as it never has before in more than a half a century — with the Cubs looking like the team to beat.

Yeah, there are two series to win in the NL playoffs and the uncharted territory of a World Series to navigate.

But I look at the 2016 Cubs and I’m reminded of those 2009 Super Bowl Saints.

They’ve got everything they need to win a championship and I’m afraid the Billy Goat finally has met his match.

So I’m going on record right now and repeating it: the Chicago Cubs are going to win the 2016 World Series.

And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Unless this column jinxes them.

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Les East

Les East

SportsNOLA/WHNO-TV/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renown freelance journalist. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

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