A vengeful billy goat, an eerie black cat, and a vilified fan; 108 years of painful, patient waiting. Everyone thought it couldn’t be done, but on November 2, 2016, the city of Chicago came together and embarked on an emotional roller coaster as they watched their beloved Cubs do the inconceivable: take home the win against the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the World Series.
It’s been a bumpy road for the Cubs. The team’s never-ending losing streak had become standard in the world of baseball. Before this year, the Cubs had not won the World Series title since 1908, and last made it to the Series in 1945. For 20 seasons, beginning in 1947, the Cubbies finished no better than fifth in the 10-team National League. Twice, in both 62’ and 66’, Chicago set a franchise record for losses, finishing 59-103. Additionally, 1962 marked the Cubs’ failed “college of coaches” strategy in which a new coach was routinely hired to manage the team.
The team’s unwavering drought has become such a fixed part of our culture, and has endured as science fiction’s reality check. Countless books and movies throughout the years have featured a fictitious scenario where the Cubs win the world series. For instance, in Back to the Future II, a 1989 film, the main character Marty McFly appears utterly shocked when he notices a hologram announcing the Cubs have swept the World Series in the year 2015. Similarly in the bestselling novel The Martian, Mark Watney, stranded on Mars, keeps a journal in which on the eleventh day he writes, “I wonder how the Cubs are doing.” Author Andy Weir says he included the Cubs in his book not because he is a Cubs fan but because it made Watney’s pitiful story even more pathetic – the man is fending for his life on Mars and his favorite baseball team cannot even make him happy and win a World Series. These famous examples reinforce the idea that the Cubs winning a World Series is such a preposterous, impractical idea, it might as well be considered something of legend.
But it is a legend no more, as 2016 marks the year the Cubs proved to the world that anything is possible. Under the brilliant guidance of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the Cubs’ newly inaugurated president of baseball operations and general manager, respectively, the Cubs rebuilt their team and became National League Champions, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in their pursuit of the World Series. down 3-1 to the Cleveland Indians, Chicago came back strong, winning three straight games to clinch the title of world champions. A special thanks goes to Jason Heyward, a member of the World Series-winning Cubs and also born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, as he motivated the team to clinch the title during the Game 7 rain delay: “I told them I love them. I told them I’m proud of the way they overcame everything together. I told them everyone has to look in the mirror, and know everyone contributed to this season and to where we are at this point. I said, ‘I don’t know how it’s going to happen, how we’re going to do it, but let’s go out and try to get a W.'”
Those who do not consider themselves avid baseball fans may see the Cubs’ remarkable story as trivial in the grand scheme of life, and in some regards, you may be right; the fate of our nation or the world did not depend on the outcome. Still, we can all learn something from this adored underdog. Watching teams like the Cubs and Indians, both of which are infamous for their long-standing losing streaks (Cleveland has not won a World Series since 1948), give it their all, battle it out until Game 7 all the way into extra innings, teaches us about perseverance and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Many Cubs fans over the years have unknowingly created psychological barriers, using alleged curses as a way of understanding their team’s drought. They ingrained in their minds that their team was doomed to failure, that the streak could never be broken.
The Cubs’ unbelievable 2016 transformation however has uplifted this “curse”. Their unflagging perseverance and seemingly impossible success should inspire us all to face obstacles, both as a nation and as individuals, with a steadfast attitude.
Graphics: Jessica Chang