The universe had to let it happen. It finally had no choice. Even after a rain delay before the beginning of the tenth inning to postpone the inevitable, one team had to win the 2016 World Series. Two teams, both defined by hardship and misfortune, squared off to win a championship. One of them was destined for victory, save for time and space opening up and swallowing itself whole, a scenario I thought was completely possible if the universe just couldn’t decide after nine innings. Down three games to one, the Chicago Cubs made the Cleveland Indians pay the piper in an instant classic of a game, winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years.
Perhaps it was karma of the cruelest kind for Cleveland. The city witnessed its NBA team, the Cavaliers, come back from a three games to one hole against the Golden State Warriors to win the championship just a few short months ago. Now, Cleveland knows that sinking low just as much as that ultimate high of coming back from seemingly insurmountable odds within the same year. Perhaps, the cosmos was just evening things out in the most gut wrenching, time consuming manner possible.
For the Cubs: gone is the curse, gone is the label of lovable losers, gone is the identity that has defined this team for over a century. Last night’s moment of zen should not be forgotten, nor undersold in its historic importance. There are very few things we get to witness that previously happened over 100 yeas ago. Haley’s Comet comes around more often than a Cubs World Series title. However, the Cubs must now embark on a new chapter in their storied history. No longer the target for other teams to break losing streaks, the Cubs are now just a target, just as the Boston Red Sox were when they broke their own curse in 2004.
The Red Sox went from lovable losers of the American League to quickly being compared to that evil empire from the state of New York. After their second championship in 2007, the Red Sox had firmly crossed the line from America’s favorite team of goofballs to a team nobody wanted to see in the World Series again outside of Boston. America loves an underdog story. But once you shed that underdog label, we quickly move on to the next sad sack story and begin to hate on the former, now more successful, team.
The way the Cubs are constructed, that same fate of oncoming resentment may await the city of Chicago. They are loaded and young. Multiple appearances in the World Series is not out of the realm of possibility, if they can remain healthy. They are stacked offensively, as they showed in the last two games of the World Series. They have a loaded group of young arms ready to take the mound. In fact, I’m already tired of the Cubs as I ponder how good they could be and for how long. Let the hating commence!
For the Indians, their next chapter is easy. They stand alone as the only accursed, lovable losers left in baseball. Their drought of winning a World Series now marches on to year 69. Good job Indians, only 40 more years to go before you reach peak level of Cubs futility. While the Cubs will now stand to defend their title, the Indians will continue their quest for that elusive World Series ring. The Indians are officially the new Cubs.
Chicago should, and will, embrace this new chapter. They may no longer be the team everyone is rooting for to win, since that was soooo yesterday, but they are baseball at its finest right now. The Cubs are fun group to watch even as baseball tries its hardest to suppress any joy from the league. They hit. They pitch. And now, they win. It’s up to this group of newly minted champions to define who the Cubs will be from here on out.
The Cubs prevailed 8-7 at the end of a 10-inning marathon, where every conceivable high and low was condensed into a single ball game. After Kris Bryant scooped up a slow grounder to make the final out for the Cubs, gone were the curses, punchlines, bad luck, and spiritual weight of every Cubs team since 1908; a century of tears and sorrow lifted away into the Cleveland night. The slate is now clean.
In the closing minutes of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after the heroine defeats her enemies in a final and climatic showdown, someone asks her, “What are we going to do now?” She responds by just smiling, knowing that the weight of the world is now off her shoulders. It’s a question she has never even bothered to ask herself before. The Cubs, after 108 years of battling their own demons, can finally ask the same question. They should give the same answer.