Maybe deep heartache takes Being Mad the nearly impossible to cure because, having lost hope, the only remedy is for it to be replenished by what feels too much like a miracle to ignore.
Maybe these kinds of baseball demons — those that have lasted 108 years in Chicago, that have taken form in the Never Say Die Mets and the San Diego Padres and poor Steve Bartman — get exorcised only in the most grueling and unlikely of trials.
Because suddenly, after the Cubs’ 9-3 shellacking of a Cleveland Indians team that seemed to have this World Series matchup in hand, the Cubs could end up doing the impossible in the most improbable of ways: winning the World Series by mounting a comeback from a 3-1 series hole to take the crown, change the very meaning of the Chicago Cubs and deliver one of the greatest and most riveting sports stories of all time.
Make no mistake. That is what’s at stake Wednesday in a Game 7 that, regardless of the outcome or how it comes about, will be one of the most captivating sports stories any of us have had the pleasure to watch.
Sometimes we lose track that sports, for all the headiness and brainpower that now go into managing and making sense of them, are at their best emotional catalysts. When they move us to tears, to joy, to ebullience, to uncertainty and captivation and heartache and, most importantly, to awe — that is when they rise above some silly game and become something deeper and richer. Something truly lasting.
Whatever happens here at Progressive Field on Wednesday, it will be one gut-wrenching, awe-inspiring, visceral thing to behold. It should be baseball at its best.
The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948, and their fans have a deep and emotional claim to why winning that game would mean so much. Think of the utter joy — the shock and dancing and tears and awe — that would descend on this city if it goes from winning the NBA championship in June to clinching a World Series in November right here in Cleveland. After all those years of being a sports punchline.
And then there’s the Cubs and the days that stretch back generations since they last won this thing. That’s a long time, 108 years, and it’s a story that has the power and potential to be one of the most incredible sports stories ever.
The Cubs winning this series in, say, five games would have been captivating for most sports fans, a thing to see, an I-was-here-when-it-happened moment. But trying to come back after being down 3-1? With one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time still waiting to close the door on this crazy run? A Game 7 for it all between the two-longest suffering fan bases out there? That is the stuff of greatness, of sports at its best, whatever happens.
If the Cubs pull that off, I’m not sure anything in sports I ever witness in person could possibly top it.
Let’s put it in perspective. As my colleague Dayn Perry pointed out in his excellent piece, only six teams in MLB history have managed to turn a 3-1 postseason series deficit into victory when having to win the final two games on the road, as the Cubs are trying to do. That’s a very optimism-damping 13.6 percent of those who faced that situation.
Only three teams in the World Series itself — most recently the 1979 Pirates — have mounted such a reversal of fortunes when having to win the final two games on the road.
Hard to do? Yes. Unlikely? Of course.
And that’s before we even begin to discuss Corey Kluber.
Indians in Game 7. USATSI
In 30 1/3 innings pitched in this, his only postseason experience, Kluber has surrendered a meager three earned runs. His 0.89 ERA, 35 strikeouts over that time and growing presence as an unbeatable figure with a series or game on the line is the ultimate challenge for a Cubs team trying to overcome the ultimate, and ingrained, history of failure and heartbreak.
But maybe the biggest curses must be broken in the most grueling and challenging of ways. Maybe, for teams like the Cubs, there are two opponents — the Cleveland Indians, of course, but also all that time and history and angst and pressure weighing on every pressing moment. Maybe curses — really, truly — are out there to be beaten as much as the opponents themselves.
Scoff. Laugh. Throw your smarter-than-you condescension about the fact sports teams and the cities that love them can’t live under curses. That such talk is superstitious stupidity.
But tell that to the Boston Red Sox, and that 3-0 ALCS deficit sparked by Dave Roberts’ stolen base and all that followed — against the Yankees. That’s what they had to do to move past the curse of the Bambino.
Tell that to, yes, the city of Cleveland after its own generations-long championship drought ended in June when the Cavaliers romped out of a 3-1 series hole against a Warriors team that had won 73 regular-season games. LeBron James and his Cavs teammates had to literally mount the greatest comeback in NBA history, against the team that otherwise would have gone down as the greatest NBA team of all time, in order to deliver Cleveland the championship it had for very long believed would never come.
Tell that, if they find a way to win Wednesday in Game 7 of the World Series, to the Chicago Cubs.
They’re the Cubs.
The 1969 Mets happened.
The 1984 collapse against the Padres happened.
Steve Bartman happened, and having been there in person for that, I’ve learned not to scoff at curses.
If the Cubs somehow turn this 3-1 series deficit into a win over Kluber in Game 7, and therefore win the World Series that has eluded them for the lifetime of almost every person on Earth, we may all have just watched the most incredible sports story of all time.
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