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The Cubs Are Winning – Or Are They?
My husband Barry has been a Chicago Cubs fan since he heard his first baseball game on the car radio in 1945 during a car trip with his parents. The Cubs were playing and he decided to become a Cub fan because the cubs were so cute. . He was ten years old and that was the beginning of a lifelong love of baseball.
He grew up in Danville, Illinois, 120 miles south of Chicago and slightly out of reach of a radio station that broadcast Cubs games. He found that he could solve this problem by holding his finger on the antenna button on the back of the radio. However, he is forever grateful that there have been no local thunderstorms during the Games since he made itwithelf lightning rod.
The Cubs reached the 1945 World Series because their players were older and all the best players from other teams had been drafted during World War II. Despite this advantage, the Cubs lost the series four games to three to the Detroit Tigers, and Barry was devastated. The only saving grace was that baseball great Hank Greenberg played third base for Detroit. Although he was too old to be drafted, he was still a superhero, especially to Jewish boys, since Greenberg was also Jewish. This was unusual in major league baseball because sportsmanship was not associated with Jewish culture. But he remembers that Greenberg was subjected to the same kind of abuse that Jackie Robinson, the first African/American player, experienced.
Barry was in high school before he saw his first baseball game at Wrigley Field, and he still remembers the thrill of being there. “Before the game, I thought the snapping sound I heard on the radio after the ball hit the home goal was the ball hitting the net. I even argued with a classmate about it,” he said. “I learned at the game that the woosh sound was made by the fans and it was a tradition.
He attended college in Chicago and could easily get to Wrigley Field on the El, Chicago’s part-elevated, part-underground subway system. At the time, Wrigley Field had no lights, so all games were in the afternoon. One spring quarter, he was enrolled in a political science course that was well known to have irrelevant lectures and tests based only on the book. He spent the afternoon in the left field bleachers. “The Cubs were particularly bad that year, but it didn’t matter,” he said. “Cubs fans were used to bad teams. I only attended one lecture and for the first time the final political science exam was based entirely on lectures. Ouch!”
Wherever we lived, Barry remained a Cubs fan, which is true of most fans who continue to root for the Cubs in all the other teams’ clubhouses. It’s strange why so many men remain loyal to a team that hasn’t reached the World Series in 71 years and has broken their hearts so many times. In 1984, the San Diego Padres took a two-games-to-none lead in the five-game National League Championship Series, but lost three in a row. In 2003, they were one win away from advancing to the World Series again. When they were leading in the 8th inning of Game 3, a fan gave them a catchable foul. The Miami Marlins rallied, winning that game and the next two to eliminate the Cubs. The human incarnation of “The Curse” became an unfortunate fan. He had to leave Chicago and remained in hiding.
Barry is convinced there is a curse. In the 1945 World Series, Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave the fourth game of the World Series at the Cubs’ home field, Wrigley Field. He bought two tickets, as he had many times before, one for himself and one for his goat Murphy. This time he was asked to leave as fans complained of a strong smell coming from his goat. He was outraged and declared, “Those cubs, they’re not going to win anymore.” This curse meant that the Cubs would never be at Wrigley Field in another World Series game, and the Cubs, who had not won a World Series since 1908, have not been there since.
There have been many bizarre attempts to remove the “Curse of the Goat”. For example, a Greek Orthodox priest tried to end the curse during the 2008 playoffs by sprinkling holy water in and around the Cubs’ dugout. In 2013, the owner of the Cubs was delivered a severed goat’s head in an attempt to break the curse. In 2014, four men consumed a 40-pound goat in thirteen minutes and twenty-two seconds at a “Taco in a Bag” restaurant in Chicago. None of the attempts worked. At away games, home team fans often wear a goat mask
It’s not just “The Curse of the Goat,” Barry explained. In 1969, the Cubs were leading their division heading into the end of the season. The Black Cat visited the dugout and the Cubs lost that game, and a long losing streak ensued.
Cubs fans even have their own folktale. Barry told the following story: “Two Cubs fans were so frustrated after watching the last game of another losing season that they drank too much, crashed into a tree, and ended up in Hell. The Devil came to see them and found them grilling hot dogs and the Devil he asked them, “How can you be happy in this miserable place?” They replied, “That’s all right, we’re used to it; we’re Cub fans.” The devil turned off the heat to make them suffer even more. He came to check on them and found them surrounded by ice and giggling and dancing. He said, “How can you be any happier in this freezing winter?” They said, “We’ve never been happier. We’re going to the World Series! Hell has frozen over.”
This year, the Cubs have the best record in Major League Baseball and were the first team to qualify for the playoffs that would lead to the World Series. They won the first two games of a five-game playoff series with San Francisco and lost the third game. They played their fourth game a few days ago and were down 5-2 in the bottom of the 8th inning of the fourth game. Barry turned off the TV and went to bed, sure it was happening again. He said he dreamed of Billy Goats.
He learned in the morning that the Cubs had scored four times in the 9th inning to win the series. They still have to win the divisional playoffs to play in the World Series. But he is convinced that the curse will end it again.
“Just as Moses led the Jews through the desert to the edge of the promised land but died before entering it, we will be taken to the brink of baseball glory only to be told again, ‘wait until next year,'” he told me. “But that’s okay. I’m sure many of us Cub fans couldn’t handle the shock of making it to the World Series, let alone winning it. We benefit from rooting for the perennial underdog. We get satisfaction from loving the losers.” We are baseball masochists. I’m going to see a psychiatrist and try to understand what’s wrong with Cub fans.”
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