With a trip to the National League Championships Series and a roster that is firing on all cylinders, the Chicago Cubs seem poised to reach the World Series for the first time since 1945. Young stars and fierce pitching make them arguably the most talented team left in the field, and their flair for the dramatic makes them definitively the most exciting. Yet a part of me deep down in my core knows they won’t win it all.
The Cubs are cursed. During the team’s last trip to the World Series, the owner of a local Chicago eatery called the Billy Goat Tavern brought his goat mascot to Game 4 but was asked to leave when the animal’s stench bothered other fans. Outraged, he declared that the Cubs would lose the series and any others that followed. Fulfilling his prophecy, the Cubs tanked, blowing their lead and ultimately losing to the Detroit Tigers.
So yes, the Chicago Cubs, a professional baseball team, has not been able to win because one man felt his goat was insulted 71 years ago. Yes, there is zero evidence for any sort of cause and effect relationship between these two things. And yes, the “curse” sounds crazy. But is it?
Every time in the last 75 years that the Cubs have had any kind of momentum, something unusual comes along to ruin it. In 1969, a promising Cubs team was swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS after a black cat crossed the field. In 2003, Chicago was a few outs away from winning the NLCS and advancing to the World Series when a fan disrupted a player’s catch of a foul ball, granting the opposing Florida Marlins a second chance at the plate. The Marlins scored eight straight runs and steamrolled their way past the Cubs to an eventual championship. Last year, after a strong regular season and a divisional series upset, the Cubs were again swept by the Mets, a team they’d beaten in all seven of their meetings during the 2015 season.
I am not a superstitious person; I don’t have much faith in luck, fate or destiny, and I am not even particularly religious. However, in the world of sports, emotion trumps logic. Sports are based on intimate emotional attachments to teams of players we do not know and games we likely will not attend in cities we may not even call home. Sports fandoms breaks apart from the logical bedrock on which we base the rest of our lives.
It follows that sports have a weird way of making us believe in things that might otherwise be considered ridiculous. We cross our fingers when a field goal leaves a kicker’s foot. We have special “lucky shirts” for watching games from the comfort of our couch. We incessantly knock on the wood counters of sports bars. And I unwaveringly believe that Wrigley Field has not housed a World Series champion in decades due to its 1945 policy on farm animal attendees.
In all likelihood, these antics have no actual bearing on how our teams perform. But in times of trouble, we sports fans look for something, anything, to connect us to our team and contribute in any way possible. All it takes is one time for a wacky tradition to coincide with something extraordinary for us to feel like we made a difference.
As a seven-year-old Yankees fan, I experienced the power of the extraordinary in a way I wish I could forget. My beloved Yanks faced off against our bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox, victims of the infamous Curse of the Bambino, in the 2004 American League Championships Series. After the Yankees jumped out to a 3–0 lead, I had faith in the power of The Curse to take care of the rest. But then a pitcher threw seven commanding innings with a bleeding ankle, players were caught in a strange controversy on the base path from home plate to first, and two straight games were won in extra innings. With an unprecedented, supernatural comeback, the Red Sox managed to eliminate the Yankees in seven games and clinch the title shortly after, breaking both their curse and my heart. Free from their oppressive hex, the Sox won two more championships in the following decade.
The 2004 Red Sox proved that even seemingly unbreakable curses can be overcome with help from some higher power. For the so-called “Lovable Losers” in Chicago, it may be time for a reversal of fortune. Though its fans on the north side haven’t won a World Series since 1908, the city of Chicago has its hopes up. This season, the Cubs finished with the best record in Major League Baseball and broke 100 wins for the first time in decades. Last week, the team rallied in the top of the ninth inning to stun the San Francisco Giants, a team that won the championship in every even-numbered year since 2010, in Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series. And Saturday night, I watched backup catcher Miguel Montero, the unlikeliest of Cubs heroes, crush a grand slam deep into the right field bleachers to capture Game 1 of the NLCS at Wrigley. It was a storybook ending. It was the kind of moment kids dream about when they fantasize about a future as a professional athlete. It was too good to be true.
If this magical run continues, and the Cubs keep it together, then maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that the Chicago Cubs overcome the spite of a man with a pet goat.
Garrett Gile is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact him at email@example.com .