Cubs fans keep faith, ban­ish the curse

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tim Dahlberg AP Sports Colum­nist

They’ll re­live the game for gen­er­a­tions, these Cubs fans, talk­ing about the mag­i­cal night in Cleve­land when the skies opened up and the curse of the Billy Goat was buried once and for all.

They’ll re­live the game for gen­er­a­tions, these Cubs fans, talk­ing about the mag­i­cal night in Cleve­land when the skies opened up and the curse of the Billy Goat was buried once and for all.

Some­where along the way the sto­ries will be em­bel­lished, as if that is even pos­si­ble. Joe Mad­don will be hailed as the great­est man­ager ever, and Aroldis Chap­man will be re­mem­bered more for the W at­tached to his name in the box score than how he ac­tu­ally ended up be­ing the win­ning pitcher of a Game 7 that was as thrilling as it was flawed.

They might even make a movie out of it, though they’ll have to write a new script. The way it all went down was too corny, too im­plau­si­ble for even Hol­ly­wood to be­lieve.

The man­ager who led the Cubs to the promised land seemed to be try­ing his best to ex­tend the curse rather than fi­nally putting it to rest. Not once, but twice, Mad­don took his best pitch­ers out of the game just when they seemed to be cruis­ing and al­most paid for it dearly.

The closer he seem­ingly couldn’t wait to put in ev­ery game of this World Series was ripe for the pick­ing, and that was Mad­don’s fault, too. He didn’t trust his bullpen and was de­ter­mined to ride Chap­man even when he was clearly a thor­ough­bred who had been rid­den too hard.

That it all turned out fine will be all that will be re­mem­bered, not that a pitcher who had never saved a game in his ca­reer was on the mound with the weight of the city of Chicago on his shoul­ders as he tried to get the fi­nal out.

That the Cubs are the World Series cham­pi­ons for the first time in 108 years will be all any­one wants to talk about, not the fact the Cubs were up by three runs and needed only four more outs be­fore Chap­man im­ploded and they seemed cursed yet again.

“An­other team might have folded,” Cleve­land man­ager Terry Fran­cona said. “And they didn’t.”

Give some of the credit to an intervention from above, when the base­ball gods fi­nally de­cided the Cubs had suf­fered enough and in­ter­rupted the game just as it was go­ing into the 10th in­ning. It wasn’t a long rain de­lay, far from it, but just long enough for the play­ers to gather in the strength room and lis­ten to out­fielder Ja­son Hey­ward tell them they had come too far to get too down at this point.

“The best rain de­lay of all time,” An­thony Rizzo said.

Give some credit, too, to Kyle Sch­war­ber cap­ping the most im­prob­a­ble post­sea­son ever by lead­ing off the 10th with a base hit. Don’t for­get Ben Zo­brist, ei­ther, and the dou­ble that would give the Cubs a lead and make him an equally im­prob­a­ble World Series MVP.

But it was the man­ager who en­cour­aged them to dress up in Hal­loween cos­tumes on the flight to Cleve­land who brought them to that point. It was the man­ager who scoffed at the idea of a curse and got his play­ers to be ag­gres­sive early in the de­cid­ing games be­cause he didn’t want to face the Cleve­land bullpen from be­hind.

Yes, the same man­ager who pulled both Kyle Hen­dricks and Jon Lester too early be­cause, well, just be­cause.

Had the In­di­ans man­aged to scratch across the win­ning run in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning, Mad­don would have taken his place in the Cubs’ Hall of Shame, prob­a­bly along­side Steve Bart­man, the un­for­tu­nate Cubs fan who un­til Thurs­day morn­ing had been un­able to shake the blame for the Cubs los­ing in the 2003 play­offs.

In­stead, he’s the first Cubs man­ager in more than a cen­tury to hoist the World Series tro­phy aloft. That’s enough to se­cure his legacy alone, though he’d pre­fer not to go down in base­ball lore as a curse buster.

Like su­per­fan Bill Mur­ray, he ain’t afraid of no goat.

“It has noth­ing to do with curses, su­per­sti­tion,” Mad­don said. “If you want to be­lieve in that kind of stuff, it’s go­ing to hold you back for a long time. I love tra­di­tion. I think tra­di­tion is worth time men­tally and tra­di­tion is worth be­ing up­held. But curses and su­per­sti­tions are not.”

Tell that to long-suf­fer­ing Cubs fans, thou­sands of whom made their way to cheer loudly in Cleve­land, and mil­lions more who jumped on the band­wagon late. The Cubs were such a great story that base­ball got tele­vi­sion rat­ings not seen since be­fore the steroid era for the World Series, and any­one who watched Game 7 in its en­tirety has to be a base­ball fan for life.

It was 108 years in the mak­ing, and it was epic. The Cubs and In­di­ans made a di­vided coun­try feel bet­ter about it­self, and the sight of thou­sands in the streets out­side both ball­parks made a lot of peo­ple feel bet­ter about the game of base­ball.

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