Zubeneschamali (zubeneschamali) wrote,

No joy in Mudville

I was nine years old when the Cubs won the World Series.

At least, in the alternate universe where the Cubs won the 1984 World Series.

You see, I grew up in a bi-team houshold: Dad cheered for the Cubs, Mom for the White Sox. I preferred the Cubs, but the White Sox were the team that gave discounted tickets to Chicagoland grade schoolers who got straight As or perfect attendance. My mom grew up in Michigan, so that side of the family is all Tigers fans. My aunt came down early in the 1984 season to see a Tigers vs. White Sox game with us. She was the cool, young, single aunt I adored, and going to a baseball game with her was the most awesome thing I could think of.

Except Jack Morris pitched a no-hitter for the Tigers. So yes, I've seen a no-hitter happen live, but all I remember is the humiliation of my team not getting a single hit, while trying to rein in that embarrassment and be happy for my aunt, who was seeing her team do something incredible. It was probably the first time I encountered that weird phenomenon where the thing that makes someone you love happy makes you miserable at the same time.

By the end of the season, though, it was the Cubs who were doing awesome. They won the division, which hadn't happened since my dad was four years old. Back then, there was no wildcard: there were only two divisions in the American League and the National League, so the best team from each division played each other best-of-five, and the winners of each League met in the World Series. The Tigers were also in the playoffs, and they were phenomenal. So my aunt and I were all ready for our beloved teams to meet each other in the World Series. It was going to be awesome. The Cubs won the first two games at Wrigley, and we were convinced this was it, they only had to win one more, this was going to be so exciting, bring on the Tigers!

And then San Diego won a game. And then another. The way I remember it, the Cubs just fell apart. Stupid mistakes, improbable misfortunes, all sorts of things that made people say it's the curse. (Because a guy with a pet goat was told to leave Wrigley Field in 1945, and he cursed the Cubs to never win a World Series again.) And nine-year-old me had her heart absolutely broken when San Diego came back all the way to defeat the Cubs and go on to the World Series. I was so mad, I considered their name a curse word and refered to the San Diego Padres as the "bleep bleep bleeps" for the next several years. My aunt drew up a menu of the San Diego players, listing such athletes as "Roast 'Goose' Gossage' and "Steve Garvey Gravy." (Awfully bloodthirsty for such a nice conservative Christian woman, come to think of it.) I cheered for the Tigers and felt better when they crushed the Padres, but the ghost of that disappointment has been with me all these years.

In 2003, the Cubs were not only leading the division series 3-1, they were five outs away from winning and advancing to the World Series. There was a fly ball to left field, and as the Cubs outfielder reached into the stands to catch it, a fan reached out for it instead. The outfielder couldn't catch it, so there were still five outs to go, and then the Marlins scored eight runs in that inning to win the game. They went on to win the next two, and that was another clear sign of the curse raising its ugly head.

So this year, I perversely feel good about how the Cubs lost, because it was just a simple failure to play good enough baseball. I was thrilled when they beat the Cardinals in the first round, because there's nothing like taking down the lifelong rival who's actually maybe a little bit better than you (see also, 2004 Red Sox vs. Yankees). I knew it wasn't a good sign that practically all of the Cubs runs had come on home runs, because that's not a very sustainable way to win, but hey, it got them past the Cardinals. But the Mets' pitching must have been better, and the Mets baserunning was certainly better, and the Cubs just looked like they had used it all up getting past St. Louis. And you could tell there are a lot of rookies on the team, because they made some fielding choices/mistakes that more experienced players probably wouldn't. It's disappointing, and I was so grumpy last night you have no idea, but I'm okay with it this morning. Because it wasn't the curse. It was identifiable mistakes and inexperience that they can fix and improve upon, and next season is going to be great.

That said, go Jays or Royals. I hope you kick the Mets' ass.

Tags: baseball, personal
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