Cubs and Indians fans might have some soul-searching to do in the next week.
On Wednesday night, the Cubs tied up the World Series at one game apiece after an impressive 5-1 victory. Similar to the breakout performance of last Wednesday, the Cubs’ stellar postseason play reminded everyone of how they got to the playoffs in the first place.
Wednesday was a complete role reversal of Tuesday night, in which Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber and his supporting cast shut out the Cubs while Cavaliers fans celebrated their first National Basketball Association Finals title across the street.
And now that both teams have proven their ability to both dominate and fail in the World Series, a very important question is looming on the horizon for both of these fan bases: What will be the team’s legacy it does win the World Series?
The stories are everywhere: The Chicago Tribune has probably printed the number “108” more during this postseason than any month in its history. And Cleveland was the punchline of almost all professional sports jokes, until the Cavaliers artfully extricated themselves from that narrative.
Both Indians and Cubs fans are accustomed to the “it has been a long time” story. The “Curse of the Billy Goat,” though supposedly lifted, is one of the first baseball legends young fans learn. Supposedly, the Indians have a curse of their own: the curse of Rocky Colavito. The curses, the statistics and the frustration — all of these factors make for a great underdog story.
But in this World Series, as Fox Sports has so frequently pointed out, both teams are underdogs. Sure, the Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, but that is only 78 years — add 30, and you will understand the acute pain of being a Cubs fan, right?
Not so much.
The truth is, in the next week or so, one fan base is going to have to drop the “we are a tortured fan base” narrative.
Take it from a Saints fan: In 2009, my father dropped to his knees in front of the television when the game clock hit 0:00, as an entire lifetime of suffering as a fan of the “Ain’ts” finally came to an end. And as Saints fans, we were ready to embrace a culture of winning — to shed our sad history and become an NFL powerhouse.
The point is that we have come to a crossroads in the World Series where both teams have “first time in the World Series” records, where both relief pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller have proven their World Series nerves of steel and that Anthony Rizzo is hitting, that fan-favorite Mike Napoli went 2 for 3 last night, despite the Indians’ loss.
In other words, we have reached a point where both teams actually have a chance.
The loser of this series will then be warranted in wallowing, in pushing the “cursed” narrative onto news outlets and opposing team’s fans alike. But the winners will need to drop their underdog narrative.
In fact, whoever drops the underdog narrative during the series might end up winning it all; the self-fulfilling prophecy is a powerful phenomenon. And yes, we all understand. If the Cubs win, the next morning’s headlines will most likely say “The 108-yea long wait is over!” The Indians’ headlines might say, “Second Miracle on the Mistake by the Lake of the Year!”
While it is important to acknowledge the weight of a World Series win for each of these fan bases, both groups of fans and their media outlets should drop the idea that winning, for them, is a novelty.
Both fan bases should take on the attitude of the Cubs’ own Kyle Schwarber, who defied all odds by not only playing in the World Series in the same year as a presumed season-ending injury but becoming who USA Today is calling “the Cubs’ most dangerous hitter.”
And while Schwarber’s story is incredible, Schwarber himself does not seem to be looking back. He is focusing on every at-bat. He went 2 for 4 Wednesday night. He is conscious of his rehab-laden season, but his focus is on “riding the wave,” as he said in a post-game interview Wednesday night.
Schwarber is embracing a winning mindset.
The sooner the Cubs or Indians fan bases do the same, the better.
Amanda Christovich is a sophomore in the College. The Analyst appears every Friday.
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