The Cubs' Billy Goat curse may have died along with Giants' even-year magic
As long as people need a fairy tale, the Cubs may have just given us one
So let's pick our jaws back up off the floor after that Cubs-Giants NLDS, particularly Games 3 and 4. What amazing baseball and drama.
As the dust settles, I can't help but think about so many of us need some sort of mythical element to our sports. Items like "Yankee Mystique" when they kept coming back during the dynasty years come to mind. This, of course, rings particularly true in that Cubs-Giants series.
On one side, you've got legions of people obsessed with the year 1908 and the idea that there's some sort of Billy Goat curse on the Cubs. So these Cubs can't possibly win the World Series, right? They are cursed, after all.
On the other side was a team that is the perfect one to topple the mighty, 103-win Cubs. The San Francisco Giants playing in the postseason in an even year. Their even-year magic in the Bochy-Bumgarner-Posey Dynasty -- yes, I'm still calling them a dynasty with three titles in five years -- had previously never been stopped. They won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
It was Even Year Magic.
After the Cubs took Games 1 and 2, the non-baseball nonsense kind of went to dust. But after the Giants' improbable comeback in an insane Game 3, the Cubs were already stuck answering questions about goats before Game 4. Mind you, this was the best team in baseball still leading the best-of-five series, two games to one.
It doesn't matter, though. Some people love folklore and mythology. When it looked like the Giants were going to force a Game 5 -- with a rested Johnny Cueto and a surely-ready Madison Bumgarner waiting in the wings -- the chatter started to intensify. When Conor Gillaspie, of all players, is getting "M-V-P" chants, the Even Year Magic is certainly in full swing.
Then the monstrosity that is the 2016 Cubs showed up, bludgeoning the Giants' bullpen for four runs before Aroldis Chapman summarily shut down any thoughts of Even Year Magic with three straight swinging strikeouts and it was over.
No, the curse of the Billy Goat isn't over for those who believe in it. On that front, it's three wins down, eight to go for the Cubs. The common refrain that we've all heard for years ("so, how are they gonna screw it up this time?") will continue unless or until the final play of the World Series is accompanied with a Cubs celebration.
Was this the symbolic toppling of karma that will satisfy the believers in the storybook of the 2016 baseball season, though?
Think back to that Yankee Mystique and the Curse of the Bambino.
We all know the story. The Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and from that point in 1918, the Red Sox never won the World Series while the Yankees became the most decorate team in professional sports. The "1918 chants" and "Curse of the Bambino" talk would dominate Red Sox's playoff series through the 1990s and 2000s, especially when they played the Yankees.
After the 2004 ALCS concluded with the Red Sox beating those same Yankees. In fact, they stared them down at a 0-3 deficit and made the greatest single series comeback in pro sports history. Consider the demon exorcised.
World Series titles since that series? Red Sox 3, Yankees 1.
This isn't to compare the Cubs-Giants "rivalry" (it isn't even a rivalry) to that one. This isn't the same at all. Nor do I believe that there are such things as curses.
I'm just saying that if someone needs this type of storybook narrative, it seems that a storyline just presented itself, no?
The Giants had been faced with elimination many times before and no one could do it. Not these Giants.
In 2012, the Giants were down 0-2 to the Reds and rattled off three straight wins. In the NLCS, they trailed the Cardinals 3-1 and won three straight before sweeping the Tigers in the World Series. In 2014, they won the wild-card game before slicing through the NL. In the World Series, they won a decisive Game 7. Then counting the wild-card win this season and the Game 3 victory over the Cubs, that made the Giants 10-0 under Bruce Bochy when facing postseason elimination.
They are now 10-1 and home for the winter without a World Series trophy for the first time in an even year since 2008.
The Cubs just toppled the Even Year Magic with some magic of their own. Is the Billy Goat next? You tell me, folktale believers. From where I sit, the Cubs are -- as they were before Game 4 -- still the best team in baseball.
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