Monday, June 14, 2010

Curse of Cubs Fans: We're Jinxing Them

World's Greatest Fans = World's Worst Luck
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly stood atop the rain-soaked Wrigley Field mound Sunday night with a chance of realizing every pitcher's dream: a no-hitter. During any no-no, pressure mounts for the pitcher, all the players, and the fans with every passing out. But this one carried a unique flair as both starting pitchers stretched their hitless performances into inning number seven. At least for this fan watching and tweeting from the comfort of his living room couch and referring to himself in the third person, the pressure of seeing Lilly preserve his chance at history was greatly reduced by Gavin Floyd's pursuit of his own historicity.

The double bid seemed to cancel out the cardinal rule of superstitious baseball etiquette: don't jinx the no-no.

Now, one might think that recording 27 outs without allowing a single hit is impossibly rare, not due to the speech patterns of observing fans, but because of just how easy it is for a professional baseball player to get a hit, especially given almost 30 opportunities to do so. I mean, think about that for a minute. If an individual player slides into an 0-27 slump, fans would boo him mercilessly. Aramis Ramirez, as bad as this year has been for him, never went 27 at bats without a hit (though he did reach an 0-20 hole). Aaron Miles's colossal failfest in 2010 topped out at 20 consecutive hitless at bats. As bad as that looked, Miles never took a personal no-hit streak past the theoretical seventh inning.

So if it's that rare for a hitter at his worst to make 27 outs before recording a single hit, shouldn't we attribute the fall of a no-hitter to the overwhelming improbability of a pitcher retiring 27 batters without allowing even a remote base knock? Do we really need to add to the improbability by expecting all of humanity to refrain from saying, "no-hitter," until it's over?

Yes, maybe we do. A lot of people mentioned the no hitter, and it didn't happen for either guy. Obviously we screwed it up. I mean, come on, what are the chances that the no-hitters would be broken up by Alfonso Soriano (who had been 1 for his previous 22) and Juan Pierre (0 for his last 11)? That's gotta be roughly the same odds as Lady Gaga blending in . . . anywhere. Fate must have intervened.

Since I'm exploring the various ways in which Cub fans are destroying their own team, I want to look at more than just the disintegration of the no-hitter. What if the jinx goes beyond single-game probabilities? What if Cub fans are jinxing this team's World Series chances because we can't stop talking about 1908?

Obviously broadcasters aren't playing along. You can't go past the third inning of a nationally broadcast Cubs game (or, for that matter, an hour into any broadcast of any game in any sport in which either team is or has a chance of becoming the reigning world champion) without hearing a reference to the Cubs' championship drought. But broadcasters have a job to do and time to fill. You can't really expect them to shut up about it.

The fans are even worse, and I might be the chief among sinners. This entire blog is a shrine to the neverending chronicle of winlessness. Is it possible that every time I mention the (at least) 102-year span between championship celebrations, I lower the already infinitesimal probability that the Cubs might actually win it all?

Of course it's possible. You could say it's bordering on undeniable fact. All we have to do to ensure the Cubs end the curse of the billy goat (which is stupid and doesn't exist and every sensible person knows this beyond a shadow of a doubt) is to go an entire year without any of us saying anything about a World Series or 1908 or 100+ years or any of that. Because every time we do, we are angering the baseball gods. And, if you haven't noticed, the baseball gods are already pretty ticked off at the Cubs. If the Cubs were Ferris Bueller, the baseball gods would be Edward Rooney. But the Cubs aren't Ferris Bueller. They're Cameron Frye. They could be Abe flipping Froman, but it still wouldn't change the fact that they have to bum trophies off of people.

But look, I can't tell you what to do. Mention 1908. Don't mention 1908. Just know that by doing so, we're all jinxing the Cubs on a daily basis and we are killing this team's chances at a World Series. When you sit there scratching your head, yelling at your TV, or trying to suffocate yourself with a 1945 commemorative pillow wondering how this team could play so badly, just remind yourself that it's our fault. We're jinxing it with every passing mention of the legacy of futility and the for baseball absolution that comprises the anguish and unrequited anticipation that is Cub fandom.


  1. I was amazed that the ESPN people were talking about both sides having a no hitter - I was sitting there watching, thinking, "are you kidding me? Now neither of them will do it!" - because really. That's just bad style. And then I hopped onto twitter & facebook and it was everywhere, too. But I agree with you - bad job, Cubs fans!


  2. It's funny, Libby, I don't even know if I agree with me. I mean, this series is going to be almost entirely tongue-in-cheek, and this post falls in line with that. In my head, I know it's silly to think you can jinx a team. But that doesn't stop me from doing a million superstitious things to try to affect the outcome of games. If being a fan were strictly a function of rational thought, Wrigley would probably be near empty on a daily basis.


Spill it.

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