Baseball season is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: Chicago Cubs fans like myself have already begun to fabricate excuses that will allow us to live through yet another year without winning a World Series. If you're a follower of the team from the North Side, you start preparing your "wait until next year" speeches right about the time they break training camp. It has been more than one hundred years since the Cubs have won a World Series, and haven't played in one since 1945, or as Steve Goodman recalls, "the year we dropped the bomb on Japan."
To suggest that Cub fans are a miserable lot is to miss the point: There are so very many other choices. It does require a certain amount of self-loathing mixed with a wondrous amount of optimism. It is with this odd confluence that I read an article explaining how, back in 1918, members of the Chicago Cubs conspired to their shot at the championship of the world. Eddie Cicotte, one of the infamous Black Sox from the south side of town who was banned from baseball after their tainted World Series against Cincinnati swore n a 1920 court deposition that "the boys on the club" talked about how a Cub or a number of Cubs were offered ten thousand dollars to throw the 1918 Series. Conspiring or not, they lost four games to two to the Boston Red Sox.
And so it gives me pause. As a kid my father took me to see the Cubs play in spring training, and years later when I was in college we watched them play an exhibition with the Denver Zephyrs, who were then the farm team for the Cubs. He got it from his father, who lived in a major-league free Kansas, back in the day. I learned about Ernie Banks and watched Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe. I tolerated Harry Caray's drunken enthusiasm from the broadcast booth. I knew that it would only be a matter of time. Those hapless football also-rans the Denver Broncos managed to win not one but two Super Bowls. The Boston Red Sox managed throw off their own much-ballyhooed curse and win a Series or two. Even the neophyte Colorado Rockies managed to appear in a World Series in the post-war era. I know, I know: which war, right? There have been a few since the last time the Cubbies landed in the big show. But it's spring, and there is hope in the air. Maybe this time someone will pay them to win a World Series.