World Series: Can Cubs fans shake off their cursed burden?
CLEVELAND – With one World Series championship, the 2016 Cubs have changed everything.
No more curses. No more lovable losers. No more tales of woe. No more expectations that the norm is to be disappointed, crushed, let down and always have to wait till next year.
“There are no curses,” a champagne-soaked general manager Jed Hoyer said in the victorious clubhouse early Thursday morning. “There never was a curse. It’s about having the best team and playing well over seven games in the World Series. We did that. The Cubs are no different than any other team. When we are the best team, we can win, and this year we were the best team.”
Got that? Let me play it back for you:
“The Cubs are no different than any other team. When we are the best team, we can win.”
Amazing how that works.
Throughout the playoffs, pretty much every time the Cubs would lose a game – and they lost six times in the 17 games they played – social media and my email and the text function on my phone would load up with variations of the same theme. “Same old Cubs.”
And I kept saying, “No, they’re not.”
The reality is all teams – even the best ones – face disappointment. If the Cubs have faced more than their share in the 71 years since their last World Series appearance, or the 108 since they last won a World Series, it’s because they’ve been bad far more often than they’ve been good. So the odds of postseason success were stacked against them.
The reality is that the more often you are good, the better chance you have of occasionally winning a championship.
But there are not guarantees.
Look at the Braves of the 1990s – WINNERS OF >>>> but only one World Series championship.
Look at the hated Cardinals, for crying out loud. Perception is they win all the time – or at least with great frequency. The truth is, they’ve won five World Series in 70 years. That’s all. They’ve played in 10, which means that they have not played in 60.
That’s a lot of failure, if you really want to look at it that way. Seems a recipe for misery, though.
Successful organizations don’t win all the time. They simply put themselves in position to win on a consistent basis, and that’s more than half the battle. Once you reach the playoffs, anything can happen. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad.
A lot of Cubs fans seem to obsess over having a supposedly unfair share of bad luck. Well, it’s time to cease and desist right now.
Manager Joe Maddon decided to address this phenomenon after winning the World Series in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
“I totally respect what’s happened in the past,” Maddon said, “and I totally respect our fan base. But if you just want to carry the burden with you all the time, tonight would never have happened.”
Maddon realized this burden carried by the fans was something that could affect his players in a negative way. We’ve seen that happen in previous years, on rare occasions when the Cubs had a team capable of a World Series. You could see them assume the burden and wilt under the pressure.
So Maddon went to spring training last February with a message for his players: Embrace the target. He wanted them to run towards and embrace the pressure and the expectations, rather than run away.
“Everybody seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Maddon said. “Hey, you’ve got to expect something good to happen.”
You also have to realize that when you get to the playoffs, and you advance to the League Championship Series, and you reach the World Series, the opponent is always good. And here’s more reality: Good teams beat good teams, and good teams lose to good teams.
Losing in this environment does not equate to failure. It’s simply something that happens.
But the Cubs now have flipped their culture on its head. This organization is equipped to win. That doesn’t mean the Cubs will win every year, or even get back to the World Series next year. All it means is they’ve increased their chances of doing so.
“The burden has been lifted,” Maddon said. “It should have never been there in the first place, I don’t think. But now we can move forward. We have an opportunity to be good for a long time.”
— Kirk Wessler is Journal Star sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KirkWessler.