Thursday, November 3, 2016

The End of an Era

of the lovable losers. The Chicago Cubs are now World Champions; they beat the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven 8-7 in ten innings.

The city of Chicago is giddy, planning a parade for the ages.

The curse (or curses) is/are vanquished.

As I watched the game last night, I re-read an essay that I wrote in 2013, Curses, Foiled Again.  

I need to revise and update it--not just for the Cubs triumph. Two consecutive winning seasons by the Mets suggest my theory of a Bill Shea curse is wrong. (Jeff suggested the existence of Shea Bridge deflected such a curse.)

I also heard a CBS Sports Minute that theorized that the Washington Nationals are cursed because of shutting down pitcher Stephen Strasburg in 2012. The Nationals ended up losing the Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.

Here's the original essay:

Storytelling and myth-making must be deeply embedded in human DNA. Ancient cultures used myths to explain how the world came to be and other mysteries. Modern subcultures use storytelling and myth-making to explain their own mysteries—why does our team suck?
For years, citizens of Red Sox Nation blamed their team’s World Series drought on the Curse of the Bambino. The Red Sox had won five of the first fifteen World Series. That stopped when the team sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Despite reaching the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986, the Sox always fell short: in 1986, they were only a strike away from winning it all. It took 86 years before a memorable team of idiots cowboyed up after losing the first three games of the American League Championship Series to their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees. They won four straight to advance to the World Series and sweep the St. Louis Cardinals (Sox rivals in the ’46 and ’67 World Series—more payback) to finally reverse the curse.

Philadelphia teams had to contend with the Curse of Billy Penn. In the 1980s, the city decided to allow skyscrapers to be built higher than the William Penn statue on City Hall. After the first of these buildings opened, Philadelphia teams stopped winning titles. In an attempt to set things right, in 2007 construction workers put a statue of Penn on a beam in the Comcast Tower, the city’s tallest building. The following year the Phillies won the World Series. Coincidence?

Then there are the Cubs. They last won the World Series in 1908. In their last series appearance in 1945, they were stricken with the curse of the Billy Goat. Billy Goat tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field when his pet goat and tavern mascot proved a bit too much for the other fans. Outraged, he said the Cubs wouldn’t win anymore.

But for the poor Cubs, it didn’t end there. In early September of 1969, the Cubs were leading their then division rivals the Mets by seven games. As the Cubs lost eight consecutive games, the Mets enjoyed a 10-game winning streak. In one of those games between the Cubs and the Mets, a black cat crossed the path of Cubbie captain Ron Santos as he was in the on-deck circle at Shea. Could the black cat be the reincarnation of the billy goat? Even Steve Bartman was suspect—he was photo shopped into a goat, after he reached for a foul ball and deflected it in Game Six of the 2003 National League Championship Series. The Cubs opponents, the Florida Marlins went on to win it all that year.

Full disclosure: I’m a Mets fan. The Mets possibly partially benefited from two of these curses in their only World Series wins of 1969 and 1986. The Mets won National League Championships in 1973 and 2000. In 2006, it looked as if the Mets would once again reach the World Series, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS. (Why didn’t anyone put a curse on Yadier Molina who hit the game-winning home run for the Cards?)

In both 2007 and 2008, the Mets lost leads in the National League East in the last days of those seasons. From 2009 through 2014, the Mets have losing records.

In November 2006, it was announced that the Mets new stadium would be named Citi Field. Hmm, the Mets have had losing seasons after their stadium was named for a corporation rather than the man who brought National League baseball back to New York City.

Maybe the Mets have been stricken with the curse of Bill Shea

Hey, it makes more sense than a Billy goat.

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