Oh, just the 7th largest gathering of humans in history happened last week.
Five million of the most patient humans in the world — Cubs fans — descended on Chicago’s lakefront last week to celebrate a victory that was against all odds. But win they did, ending the longest World Series drought in baseball history — 108 years — and the lifting of the Billy Goat Curse. Friday’s event was the 7th largest get-together in human history, about a million shy of the 2015 papal visit to the Philippines. The rest of us can keep it simple and get a glimpse of the Cubs on The Tonight Show Monday. The event in Grant Park turned out to be a pretty tame party for Chicago, when you consider the things fans have done over the years to try to lift the curse.
But first, what is the Billy Goat Curse? In 1945, Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis and his goat were ejected from Wrigley Field during Game 4 of the Cubs first World Series since 1908. Apparently the goat’s odor was offensive, Sianis was offended and enraged, and legend has it that he declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost the game that day and haven’t even been a contender in another World Series, let alone champions, in the 108 years since. Until last week.
Actual Things People Did — and Ate — To Lift the Curse
As the century passed without a win, younger generations sought to “reverse the curse.” Here’s a few notable attempts from just the last ten years:
- Hanging a butchered goat on the statue of beloved Cubs sports announcer, the late Harry Caray, famous for his hearty rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Passionate move, folks, but gross.
- Tried a kinder, gentler approach and had a priest bless the dugout. Nope.
- Went back to goat butchering, this time hanging just the severed head of the goat on the Harry Caray statue. Chicago minimalism.
- Five fans calling themselves “Crack the Curse” traveled with a goat named Wrigley from Arizona to Wrigley field on foot in 2012. Nice try, and how did the goat like it?
- Not to be deterred, butcher-prone fans again went with the severed goat’s head in 2013 but this time delivering it the Cubs owner. Very theatrical, but no dice. Also bad manners.
- Last year, in possibly the most ardent show of the curse-lifting lengths of disgust that Chicago fans will go to, five of them consumed a 40 lb. goat at Chicago’s “Taco in a Bag” Restaurant in 13 minutes. It is not known how it tasted or if it was in a bag or why the venue was chosen. But it makes good copy, doesn’t it?
- In 2016, vegetarian restaurant “The Chicago Diner” teamed up with farm animal advocates Farm Sanctuary to “reverse the curse” courageously urging Chicago, famous for its hot dogs and other encased meats, and known as the “hog butcher to the world,” to go meat-free. Maybe the baseball gods were just looking for a little tenderness — not ousting the goat from Wrigley, dismembering it, or forcing it on a cross-country march. Be kind to animals, eat healthy, and boom! Curse lifted!
FiveThirtyEight gave the Cubs a 15% chance of winning the World Series — they give Trump a 33% chance of winning the presidency — your vote matters
Unlike the election, the World Series featured two well-matched, equally qualified sides and was a contest I could safely watch with my 13 year old daughter. Our two presidential candidates are more like the Bad News Bears. No, the Worst News Bears. Actually, the Most Unbelievably Insane and Armageddon-like News Bears in History. If baseball is America’s game, then politics has become America’s tedious assembly line job working 15-hour shifts in an un-air-conditioned factory with no hope of change.
The Cubs had a 15% chance of winning the 2016 World Series, according to revered data journalists FiveThirtyEight, who currently give Donald Trump 33% for the presidency. 40 million people watched the Cubs win Game 7 against those odds — about a third of 2012’s voter turnout.
Like our current election, the World Series was a study of extremes — firsts, mosts, and worsts.
In an election where Wikileaks has inserted itself in the role of instant replay, the Cubs victory is our real-world example that anything can happen on November 8th. Who could predict that 22-year old Cubs infielder Addison Russell would go out dressed as a turtle on Halloween night, then hit a crucial grand slam in Game 5 the next day? No one could foresee Game 7 going into extra innings with a tie at the bottom of the 9th. What will we be saying we didn’t foresee about the election?
It should serve as a lesson to us all to get out and vote, no matter what the polls say. Both history and conventional wisdom said the Cubs couldn’t win after being down two games. In fact, press bias against them from Fox Sports World Series announcer Joe Buck was so severe, that his first post-game on-camera commentary after the Cubs historic and heart attack-inducing Game 7 victory, was to talk about how great the Cleveland Indians were. (Twitter noticed btw.)
“A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings.” ~Earl Wilson
Even the weather was a factor, when a brief rain delay-turned cliffhanger before the 10th and final inning inspired the Cubs veteran right fielder Jason Heyward to gather his teammates for what became a game-changing meeting that, as ESPN described it, “was a win-one-for-the-Gipper speech that will resonate through Cubs history. And it impacted his teammates, even in the moment.” They proceeded to close the chapter on the curse in what ESPN senior writer Jayson Stark called, “the greatest World Series Game 7 ever played.” Fate turns on a dime in both baseball and politics. Vote.
Superlatives, Synchronicities, and Superstitions
Winning the 2016 World Series was literally the best thing for Chicago since sliced bread, which had not yet been invented in 1908. Cubs fans are not only famous for their cult-like superstition, but for their hopeful patience. People didn’t even have radios in their homes in 1908 — the technology was just making its way into the world. That’s where the Cubs victory slogan “Fly the W” comes from: before radio and TV, the only way to tell the city the Cubs won the game, until the papers came out the next day, was to fly a flag emblazoned with “W” for “Win” high above Wrigley Field so people all over the city could see it — OK, the north side at least. Though now TV, Twitter and instant replay give us up to the second updates, the practice of flying the W flag after a Cubs win remains a beloved tradition.
Though #FlytheW brought us into a new era as a victory hashtag for the Cubs, they have been the butt of over a century of jokes for their losses, Some standout observations on what life was like the #LastTimeCubsWonWorldSeries:
- Germany was led by a Kaiser
- Women couldn’t vote
- Neither World War had started yet
- The Titanic hadn’t been built yet
- Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Oklahoma and New Mexico were not states yet.
- The last time the Cubs won, Anthony Weiner was sending dick sketches via carrier pigeon.
- The government wasn’t owned by JP Morgan the bank; just JP Morgan, the guy
- Those boots every hipster wears were seen on conestoga wagon drivers
Cursed by the owner of one Chicago restaurant, The Billy Goat Tavern, a place whose limited menu choices was unforgettably memorialized by SNL, it took another Chicago restaurant, The Chicago Diner, whose slogan is “meat-free since ’83,” to lift the curse. If you’re the superstitious type, you might consider the following:
- Last week, Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow posted an interview with Back to the Future II’s writer, who based the 2015 version of Bif — a casino-owner-turned-president — on Donald Trump. Another prediction in the 1985 movie: Cubs are the World Series champs. OK, one year off, but still.
- In celebration of the Cubs’ victory, the city dyed the Chicago River blue and…
- …blue is the color Illinois has been on the electoral map for the past 24 years (before they assigned colors, actually)
- Cancer survivor Anthony Rizzo tagged the game-winning out that won the Series
- Donald Trump tweeted (surprise) a threatening and negative comment about the Cubs owners earlier this year, saying, “I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”
- Hillary Clinton was born five miles from Wrigley Field and identifies as a Cubs fan.
- Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello appeared in a video that aired right before a crucial game seeming pretty damn confident that they’d win. They did.
- Lifelong Cubs fan Bill Murray, who appeared in skits about the Billy Goat Tavern on SNL in the 1970s, was at all seven Cubs World Series games. He was trained at The Second City — once Chicago’s nickname before L.A. took its place.
- In 1993, a high school student named Michael Lee predicted the Cubs would win the 2016 World Series, adding under his yearbook photo, “You heard it here first.”
- 108 year drought; 108 seams in a baseball.
What will November 9th’s #1 hashtag be? We’ll see. But, remember, #AnythingCanHappen.
“No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined.” — Paul Gallico
Chicago Cubs Rally at Grant Park
2016 World Series Game 7 in 30 Minutes