Story by: Kyle Graham
At exactly 12:47 a.m. on November 4th, 2016, the whole landscape of the Chicago Cubs franchise was changed forever. Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself right now, “Here we go again… another article about the Cubs winning the World Series. This guy is so original”. I hear you peeps so I won’t bore you with another recap on the amazing comeback of the 2016 World Series (*cough* Cleveland blew a 3-1 lead *cough*). Instead, I’m going to tell you how the Cubs transitioned from being the “Cursed” to World Champions through one epic season and my own personal memoirs as a fan.
The term “Next Year” was a common saying year after year for the Chicago Cubs franchise. In fact, the whole community embodied that phrase and made it their identity. We were coined by others as the “Lovable Losers” which made total sense because we were a team that is comprised of fans all around the country despite not winning the World Series since 1908. It didn’t matter if they weren’t the best team because regardless of the outcome of the game we were still going to have one hell of a time with each other at the Friendly Confines or with our families at home. And when we did win, we would all gather around and sing our song “Go Cubs Go!”.
We’re loved by the baseball community and ridiculed by some because no matter how hard it got for us, we never ever lost hope… even when Rajai Davis hits a game-tying home run off your flame-throwing closer in Game 7 (My goodness that was rough).
How did the curse begin, you might ask? Well get a load of this crap:
When something is not going quite as planned, we as humans like to find a scapegoat to explain the “unexplainable”. For the Chicago Cubs, the scapegoat happened to be a billy-goat named Billy (Oh the irony). If it wasn’t the Billy Goat Curse to blame, which occurred in the 1945 World Series, then it had to be the black cat that ran across the field during the collapse of the 1969 season. Or it had to be the bizarre error by Leon Durham during the 1984 NLCS, right? Nope, I got it. It was the Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 NLCS that has held back the Cubs from winning the almighty World Series championship again.
Before the Cubs won the World Series last season, this was the baggage that was pinned on them. Whenever the playoffs were mentioned in the same sentence as the Cubs, these incidents were never left out of the conversation.
Thankfully, I didn’t really immerse myself in the Cubs until about 2006 so I didn’t quite feel the pain of the 2003 (Steve Bartman) incident because I was too young to understand it. However, I still went through my fair share of losing seasons.
From 2010-2014 the Cubs averaged almost 93 losses per season, with 101 losses in the 2012 season being the most. Those five years were rough to watch, but I’m glad that I sat through and watched every moment of it because it made winning the World Series so much sweeter (I’m also a Buffalo Bills fan so the struggle was real).
Even though we’ve had our fair share of losing points during my lifetime, I always remember the positive things. One of my favorite memories of the Cubs growing up was watching the slugging Sammy Sosa clobber home runs to all directions of the field.
I still vividly remember imitating his mannerisms and his swing everywhere I went. I would grab my Little League Slugger bat and go in my backyard and scream out “Coming up to the plate, number 21, Saaaaaaammmmmmy Sooooooossssaaaa!”. Pretty sure my neighbors hated me, but oh well.
On a very serious note, the things that I cherish the most was spending time with my father. I cherish the moments like sitting side-by-side on the couch with every Sunday (The Cubs used to always have a day game broadcasted on WGN on Sundays) learning from him about the game of baseball and all the times he drove me down to Miami to watch the Cubs take on the Florida/Miami Marlins.
However, the defining moment of it all was when we finally won it all. When Kris Bryant completed the throw to first and Game 7 was finally over, he hugged me and told me with tears in his eyes, “We finally did it!”. These moments are just simply impossible to forget.
THE TURN AROUND
Enough with the sappy crap, this is where everything came together. Theo Epstein being hired as the Cubs’ GM in 2011 was the first step in the process of breaking the “curse”. Coming from the Boston Red Sox, Theo was known for having a knack for breaking curses (He broke the Boston Red Sox’s drought World Series of 86 years in 2004 at an astounding age of 30 years old) so I was rather confident that he was going to steer our team in the right direction.
To this very day, I still can’t believe how he transformed the franchise he inherited into World Champions. Trading for a superstar in the making in Anthony Rizzo was the first core player that he acquired and he didn’t stop there. Transforming Jake Arrieta from a top-prospect bust to a Cy Young winner and drafting an MVP in Kris Bryant and other key contributors like Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez are just a small list of things that he did and that alone should send him to the Hall of Fame.
Of course, you can’t forget the signings of free agents like Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and most importantly Joe Maddon as our manager (Who is cooler than any manager in the history of baseball don’t @ me).
The 2016 season was one for the record books. In a season that ended with a 3-1 comeback in the World Series, it was like something written in a story book. The whole season the Cubs were the best team in the league, ending the year with 103 wins.
They led the league in E.R.A., defense efficiency, and scoring runners in scoring position to go along with having two starting pitchers (Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks) in the top 3 for Cy Young award votes and also having the NL MVP (Kris Bryant).
It had everything you could ask for and more, like Kyle Schwarber tearing his ACL in the second game of the season and miraculously being cleared right as the World Series began. It will always be my favorite season throughout my lifetime and nothing will ever change that.
I truly love every aspect of my beloved team. All the highs and lows made last year so special and it allowed our fandom to be in the direct spotlight. From the two legendary broadcasters, Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray, who captured the hearts of so many and allowed people from all across the country to tune in to the game and become Cubs fans (which is how my father became a fan at the age of 12) to Ernie Banks (Mr. Cub) who holds the major-league record for most games played without a postseason appearance (2,528) and gave his very all to this franchise. They helped make this organization unlike any other in sports, and I know for sure they were all looking down on the Cubs from heaven smiling.
Thank you to everyone who teased me growing up for being a fan of this team. It just really puts it into perspective how much things change when suddenly you see that everyone around you is claiming to be a fan of the Chicago Cubs. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to hop on the bandwagon and stay there because we’re going to be a team that’s talked about for a long time! Oh… and one more thing… #FLYTHEW
Featured picture for this post courtesy of Cleveland.com