For many sports fans, the incredible turnaround for the Chicago Cubs in the fifth game of the World Series was nothing short of a miracle. The Cubs were down to potentially their last game. Historically, losing the first game, let alone falling behind 3-1, is a record that inevitably results in a World Series defeat.
Then something happened. The Cubs suddenly roared back to win three consecutive games, including back to back on the road — a feat previously accomplished by three teams in the history of baseball, and now four.
Now, you will hear plenty of sports pundits talking about young sluggers such as Addison Russell or golden arms such as that of Jake Arrieta. But they were there when they fell into the 3-1 hole, and it did not seem to make a difference. So what did?
It was no miracle but the determination of a group of fans, not in Cleveland or even Chicago, but in McLean, Va. With the losses in the first, third and fourth games, I finally had enough as a native Chicagoan and life-long Cubs fan.
It was clear the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat would not let us go. In 1945, a cantankerous Greek restaurant owner named Billy Sianis and his odoriferous goat named Murphy were tossed out of Wrigley Field in the fourth game of the World Series. He swore then, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” And we didn’t.
It clearly would take a more personal gesture to overcome the personal slight to Murphy. We had to make amends to the entire species of goats — one goat at a time if necessary.
I enlisted the help of Pony to Go, which happens to have goats and a uniquely good sense of humor. Owner Jennifer Cossette was delighted to play a role in ending this curse and produced four goats for the pandering. With the help of a dozen or so neighborhood kids, we set about giving these goats everything a goat might want. We cherished the goats and supplied an assortment of pleasing features such as goatees and served every available goat cheese to honor the noble Ungulates.
The four goats were rubbed down, feted and pampered. One particularly adorable goat named Neptune was passed around like a goat version of the Adoration of the Magi. When it began to storm, we refused to risk insulting the goats again and brought them into the house. The connections between Cub and goat were so strong that we were told that farm would name the new expected goat Cubbie in celebration.
I have struggled through the years to teach my four kids that being a Cubs fan is character building. It is easy to be a New York Yankees fan and be fed a constant diet of pennants like peanuts. But being a Cubs fan is a test of faith. Indeed, when you spot another Cubs fan, there is an instant bonding. The Cubs stand for the idea that there is something transcendent and liberating in groundless hope. You stand by your team like you stand by your God, your family, your country … in that order.
There is a life lesson beneath all that pain that my kids learned when they wore their Cubs shirts and caps to school. They were ridiculed as lovable losers by friends and taunted as hopeless cases. I would just say, “Don’t worry, this is our year,” as my parents told me — no matter how implausible that statement was at the time.
Now our year has come. The Cubs are World Series champions. A few things have, of course, transpired since 1908, like airplanes, the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the addition of four states to the union. The only constant has been the fans themselves. Complaining about losing seasons was like griping about the weather. Like that subzero wind coming off Lake Michigan, losses did not defeat us. They defined us.
In the end, it is hard to explain what this World Series means to Chicagoans. It is like being told that you are cancer-free after 71 years of chemo. Of course, Joe Maddon and Co. might have defeated the Cleveland Indians, but they will have to forgive my family in claiming the defeat of the curse.
Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s board of contributors, grew up near Wrigley Field, where his 89-year-old mother still resides. Follow him on Twitter: @JonathanTurley