Yesterday, I was prepared to tackle the immediacy of the LCS in great detail. But the big, black dog of sports despair crept into my living room and growled at me until I backed off from my computer and diligently stole away to the bike trail to outride the shaggy beast once again. By the time I returned, the beast was gone, but the cold beer was nearby, so it garnered my attention for an hour or two and then the solitude of my retired activity was interrupted by life. The kids were home from school. So my writing was put on hold for a day. Whew…

This morning, the LCS still looms before those of us who have worshipped at the alter of Harry Caray. For the sake of clarity, I’m not referring to the LCS many of you are probably nodding your heads to in tacit understanding. No…I’m not writing about the League Championship Series…at least not directly. My LCS, the one the big black dog recognizes and growls life into is the Lamenting Cub Syndrome. Hello, my name is BillyBobb, and I’m a lamenting Cubs fan. You may remember me sitting on a bar stool next to you that one time. I look differently to different people, but no matter how I appear on the outside, I’m always one deep drive (…way back…way back) to right from crumpling up and dropping into the outfielders glove as the prevailing winds at Wrigley switch direction and begin to blow in from Lake Michigan. I don’t have a chance.

Back in the early  80’s, my friend Sully invited me into a world of fantastic buffoonery and formidable despair. I have yet to forgive him. He introduced me to the boys of Moline, Tea Bags, Lopey, Weebs and they various legends they and their ilk had been creating for years. Sully brought me to Chicago to meet and foolishly fall in love with the Chicago Cubs. Of course, alcohol was involved. Isn’t it always when you want to make a good first impression? I went to the windy city gawking in wide-eyed-wonder and like a big, old crack head…I was hooked.

Although the relationship was nothing more than a long-distance flirtation for the glamorous Cubs…I only went to the home opener, nothing else…it was more than that to me. I fell head over heels in love at the first sight of the friendly confines. Just like my college sweetheart, the Cubs didn’t have to tell me they loved me, they only had allow me to pour my heart and soul into them. The result, in both situations, were strikingly similar. My heart, broken in sloppy wet chunks on the ground. My college girlfriend, at least, had the decency to break up and move on with her life. The Cubs, bastards that they are, slapped a spiked collar on my neck and continue to drag my sorry ass from season to season…and I don’t even go to the home opener any more.

So naturally, when the Cubs started turning the corner by making good hires like Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon, then started winning games in a very un-Cubs like manner, my anxiety about how to handle this began to grow. It is now culminating as the Cubs took off games two and three of the Championship Series, but forgot to tell the Dodgers. Last night, after my daughter asked to listen to the game on XM radio coming home from faith formation, I gave in and we turned it on long enough to hear Anthony Rizzo strike out for the four-hundredth time in the post season. Off went the radio. With the apocalyptic demise of this magical season at hand, I was forced to put away my Bill Murray shirt and stop wearing my Ernie Banks jersey and make myself watch the Presidential debate instead of the game. And just as predictably, when I’m not there to suffer, they Cubs soar to great heights. Somehow, the 10-2 win, which ties the series at two games apiece, brought little satisfaction, knowing that once again…if my favorite team has any chance of winning, it starts with me being removed from the equation.

You see, I’ve got a history with this. My whole sports world hangs by a thread no matter what season it might be. If this history should happen to carry over into politics…Lord help us. We’re all going to hell in a hand-basket, as my dad once loved to tell me. The Cubs are famous for the curse of the billy goat…1945…fan brings goat to game…Cubs refuse goat…Cubs lose…and lose…and lose…and, well, you see where I’m going. Curses…and goats are NOT to be trifled with. Nothing good comes from trifling with a cursed goat. But you see, long before I became a Cubs fan, I got schooled in the world of the “crying shames” as far as that goes with sports teams. George Will once famously wrote that “Cubs fans are ninety percent scar tissue.” He knows what he’s talking about. My worshiping of the Cubs and the resulting pain, comes with one of those multipliers you can buy to increase your winnings should you hit the numbers in the lottery. However, my odds of winning seem unfathomable. My psychological scar tissue transcends baseball, I’m afraid. It permeates the very air I breathe and in turn, I tend to spread it to those teams I love the most.

From an early age, I have been able to pick the loser at every turn. It started with my conversion from being an LA Rams (pre-St. Louis) to a Bobby Douglass-era Chicago Bears fan. Just in time for what we Bears fans refer to as “the dark ages.” Because my mother had a twin sister, we both became Minnesota Twins fans. While perennially not great, they proved almost unworthy by winning a couple of division and World Series titles in their history, but came roaring back this year with the worst record in major league baseball. I fooled the NBA gods into thinking I was rooting for the Warriors in last years championship against the Cavaliers, when in reality (as you can probably guess) I have a secret love affair with the whole city of Cleveland. And of course, I spent five of my favorite years attending Iowa State University of Science and Technology. The Cyclones have long been the red-headed stepchild in this state, while their arch-enemy prodigal sons, Iowa Hawkeyes drink from the golden cup of all things popular and successful.

So now you understand. The Cubs won’t win. They can’t win. At least they can’t win if I insist on joining them in their success. Why not? Because it’s still there. It’s right there, lingering over my shoulder wherever I go. No longer a dog…big, black and furry. No, it’s now morphed into a goat..and damned if ain’t stuck right smack dab in the middle of my machine.

One thought on “The Goat in the Machine

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