Deep breath, Cubs fans.
OK. Good. Now let it out. Go ahead, let it out … yeah, you can exhale now.
Wait, what are you—hey, are you OK? You’re turning blue. BREATHE. BREATHE, DAMMIT! OH LORD DOES ANYONE KNOW CPR CALL 911 CALL A PARAMEDIC DO THE HEIMLICH GO GET HELP NOW—
If you’ve been living and dying with the Cubs over the years, bouncing from thrilled to numb and back more times than you can count, yes, tonight’s game against the San Francisco Giants is pretty important stuff. It’s either the beginning of the greatest memory you will ever have as a sports fan, or the first step of your worst disappointment yet. There is no in-between. It’s significant sports-wise, Chicago-wise, life-wise. Even for the Sox fans, it’s huge, because … well, you know.
If the Cubs do not win it this year, there will be no “Oh, well, it was a great season.” Certainly no “wait til next year.” Baseball is far too fickle to even think about a team’s long-term success, much less some sort of dynasty. Even if the same nucleus returns to Wrigley in 2017, things have a way of changing. Contracts end. Players get hurt. Magic fades, arms fatigue, chemistry blows up. And the next thing you know you’re 83-79, stuck in third place, and forced to trade your studs.
I understand. All this makes you crazy. This year, that crazy is not expressing itself in the usual garden-variety ways, like wearing the same hat or eating the lucky sandwich. We’re talking pouring out entire cans of Old Style on ancestors’ graves. Seeking out goats at Lincoln Park Zoo to apologize to. Wandering around Wrigleyville dressed like clowns. You can feel the desperation—yes, the hope, but also that nagging fear that the Cubs will fizzle. The fear that, Oh lord, everyone’s watching, and we had all the pieces, the right manager, the perfect mix of veterans and youngsters, and we still couldn’t do it! That means it’ll never happen!
Note to self: If the Cubs lose, don’t leave the car parked in Wrigleyville.
The national media, as it always does, will play up the curses and chokes—1945! 1969! 1984! Lord, 2003!—because that’s what sells. Who can resist the narrative of lovable losers that have suffered for years, almost absurdly so, existing as a cosmic punch line for more than a century? Now it’s all building toward this one moment or redemption. Or failure on a massive scale. You’d be a fool to miss such drama—no, history!—unfolding right before your eyes. So tune in, folks.
We all know the Cubs are the best team in baseball. Few on Earth would disagree with that. But it has been proven over and over again that the best team in baseball does not always win the World Series. Professional Smart Guy Nate Silver, who basically ruins everything with statistics, says the Cubs have only a 1-in-4 chance of doing it.
On the other hand, if the Cubs do win it all, people will finally get to tell Nate Silver where to stick his Excel spreadsheets, the skies will open up over Chicago, and the heavens will do whatever it is that heavens do when a lot of miserable people are suddenly ecstatic.
Note to self: If the Cubs win, don’t leave the car parked in Wrigleyville.
Will 2016 be the year that goes on the banner, on the T-shirts and statues, and in the history books forever? Or perhaps it will be another excruciating signifier, the worst yet of a horrible, awful, irrefutable truth: That the Chicago Cubs, as long as you live, will never win the World Series.
So, you know, no pressure.