As a lifetime New York Yankees fan, it is sometimes difficult to sympathize with fans of other teams when it comes to the agony and ecstasy of losing and winning championships. In my lifetime, the Yankees have appeared in eleven World Series, winning seven and losing four.
The first World Series I have any memory of is the 1976 clash between the Big Red Machine and the newly emergent Yankees. It was the first World Series appearance for the Bombers since 1964, before I was born. Perhaps, in hindsight, I was drawn to the pinstripes at the time for the very reason that so many of my friends are Chicago Cubs fans. They lost the first World Series that ten-year old me would watch, but I was hooked on baseball and the Yankees from then on.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was watching the greatest catcher of all time – Johnny Bench – the greatest second baseman of all time – Joe Morgan – and the eventual hit king – Pete Rose. I just knew that I loved Thurman Munson and Willy Randolph and Craig Nettles. The next year George Steinbrenner added the straw that stirred the drink in Reggie Jackson and, at eleven, I got used to winning
The fifteen-year hiatus between the loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 and the comeback win over the Atlanta Braves in 1996 seemed like an eternity, but college and then grad school kind of filled in the time. I cannot imagine what it must be like for friends and colleagues of my age, who until November 2, 2016 had NEVER tasted the sweet nectar of victory in October – um, November.
As a transplant to Seattle, I’m beginning to get the idea with the Mariners, but even that futility is overshadowed somehow by the success of the Seahawks. Hell, I used to joke with my new Pacific Northwest friends that “the Seahawks have won the Super Bowl EVERY year we’ve lived here.” Or even for another year after that they had BEEN to the Super Bowl every year we’ve lived here.
But a lifetime of never winning? Wow.
I wonder if winning it all will change Cubs fans. It sure has changed Boston Red Sox fans, to the point their team may be more hated than even the Yankees. Or is that just me? Go Bucky Dent! Go Aaron Boone!
But while the Red Sox fans were tortured souls, getting close in 1975 and 1986 only to lose a game seven to the Cincinnati Reds after the high of Carlton Fisk’s epic extra inning walk off over the monster and around that foul pole and to the New York Mets following the nightmare of Bill Buckner, the Cubs only have had Bartman really from 1945 to this week. So, their fans became enamored of the “lovable losers” and drank themselves silly in the friendly confines.
It wasn’t pretty by any means. (I resisted writing a column about how bad Joe Maddon’s decisions in both game six and game seven were from the perspective of win probability. It worked out when it hadn’t worked out in 108 years. Give him a break.) But, it sure was dramatic. From blowing the three run lead to the rain delay to the win in the 10th that almost got away, I’m sure I have peers who now have aged past me by at least a decade.
There are other baseball related stories to write about in the coming months, including the winter meetings and impending free agency. But, no matter who you root for, let’s take a minute to pause.
Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs – 2016 World Series Champions.