Why all the love for the Cubs’ fail­ure?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By Ge­orge F. Will Ge­orge Will Colum­nist Ge­orge Will’s email ad­dress is georgewill@wash­post.com.

The good news, a com­mod­ity in short sup­ply, is that Amer­i­cans are about to get a re­spite from the in­un­dat­ing Niagara of can­di­dates’ blather. The bad news is that the re­spite will be a tsunami of Cubs Gush, which will slosh from sea to shin­ing sea. So, brace your­self for a sur­feit of du­bi­ous so­ci­ol­ogy and worse meta­physics. There is some­thing about base­ball, and espe­cially about the Chicago Na­tional League Ball Club, that trig­gers -- con­sider this col­umn a trig­ger warn­ing -- in­con­ti­nent rhap­sodiz­ing and non­sen­si­cal the­o­riz­ing by oth­er­wise sen­si­ble ci­ti­zens.

The mes­mer­iz­ing arith­metic of the mo­ment is that the Cubs last won the World Se­ries in 1908, when Teddy Roo­sevelt was pres­i­dent. To­day the na­tion that is se­lect­ing its 45th pres­i­dent is as dis­tant from 1908 as that year was from the sec­ond pres­i­dency, that of John Adams.

In the sport of the long sea­son, after play­ing 162 games in 183 days, a team is what its record says it is, and the Cubs have base­ball’s best record. This year’s team is vastly more talented than the team that made the Cubs’ last ap­pear­ance in the World Se­ries, in 1945, when many of the ma­jor league’s best play­ers were still wear­ing mil­i­tary uni­forms. (The Tigers had enough of them to de­feat the Cubs in seven games.) From 1946 through 2014, just be­fore to­day’s team ma­te­ri­al­ized, the Cubs were 714 games — al­most four and a half 162-game sea­sons — un­der .500 (5,095 wins, 5,809 losses).

Ethi­cists say los­ing builds char­ac­ter. Cub fans, who are mostly scar tis­sue, say they al­ready have quite enough char­ac­ter, thank you. Dime-store an­thro­pol­o­gists brood about how a Se­ries win might punc­ture the mys­tique of the “lov­able losers.” But what is lov­able about con­sis­tent fail­ure? For that, Amer­i­cans have govern­ment.

Some Cub fans, lux­u­ri­at­ing in los­ing, have taken a per­verse pride in their team’s col­or­ful fail­ures, such as third base­man Don Hoak strik­ing out six times in a 17-in­ning game. Or sec­ond base­man Glenn Beck­ert strand­ing 12 run­ners in a nine-in­ning game. Or Lou “The Mad Rus­sian” Novikoff try­ing to steal third base — with the bases loaded. (He ex­plained that he got “a good jump on the pitcher.”) Or short­stop Len­nie Merullo mak­ing four er­rors in one in­ning. (He had a son born that day who was nick­named Boots.) Or pitcher Dickie Noles be­ing traded for him­self. (Sent to the Tigers for a player to be named later, he promptly sur­ren­dered a bases-loaded triple, so the Tigers des­ig­nated him the player named later and shipped him back to Chicago.)

Some Cub fans seem to relish the­o­ries about how curses or karma have des­tined the Cubs for fail­ure. Wrigley’s bleach­ers be­came the best sin­gles bar on the North Side, and the ball­park be­came a health re­sort for vis­it­ing teams. Then, in 2009, the Rick­etts fam­ily, which did not make enough money to buy the Cubs by be­ing in­dif­fer­ent to ex­cel­lence, turned the team over to son Tom, who met his wife in Wrigley’s bleach­ers but who is agree­ably un­sen­ti­men­tal about the cult of fu­til­ity.

So, all you pur­vey­ors of Cubs Gush, lis­ten up. Re­fer­ring to Wrigley Field as a “base­ball cathe­dral” should be a flog­ging of­fense. It is just a nice lit­tle place on the North Side where men (call­ing ma­jor lea­guers “boys of sum­mer” should be pun­ish­able by keel­haul­ing) work hard at a de­mand­ing and dan­ger­ous craft.

And Cub fans, loyal through thin and thin, you must re­mem­ber this: Your team at least won the Cold War. For years, it held spring train­ing on Catalina Is­land near Los An­ge­les. So, when a Des Moines ra­dio sports­caster named “Dutch” Rea­gan went to re­port on them he stopped in Hollywood for a screen test, and the Soviet Union was doomed. So there.

In the sport of the long sea­son, after play­ing 162 games in 183 days, a team is what its record says it is, and the Cubs have base­ball’s best record.

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