Before we embark on a third-straight playoff appearance for the Chicago Cubs, I’d like to take a moment to fully realize where we’re at with this Cubs team.
For the first time in Cubs’ fans lives, we do not have to worry about this being “the year.” Let that set in for a second…
Every time the Cubs would go to the playoffs, we’d always ask the same question: “Is this year FINALLY the year?” It was a question most of us thought would never have a positive answer to. It became harder to stay optimistic after continual heartbreak, especially after those 2003 and 2008 campaigns.
But now, we don’t have to ask ourselves that question anymore. Because finally, after so much anguish, frustration, and shortcomings, the Cubs finally answered that question with a resounding “Yes!” The 2016 Chicago Cubs was the most magical sports team I have ever witnessed, and that game 7 against Cleveland will always be the best sporting event I’ve ever watched.
What that victory did, though, was leave Cubs fans in a state they’ve never been in: “normal.” The Cubs are no longer a unique team. The constant losing and curses made the Cubs standout and earn that “lovable loser” status. Now, they’re just like every other team who is searching to add another trophy to the trophy case.
Let me be clear about one thing: I love being “normal.” There’s no greater feeling than normal (at least in this situation). Normal means that 108 years of curses cease to exist anymore. I’m sure Red Sox fans would agree with me as well that normal is awesome. They’ve won three titles now since 2004, which is a number I hope the Cubs can match in the following years.
So now, as the NLDS gets set to start in approximately 24 hours of this writing, the Cubs enter a playoff with no added pressure of breaking the curse. It’s a weird feeling for Cubs fans because, simply put, we’ve never experienced what it’s like to go to the playoffs without a curse looming over our heads.
Last year, I remember feeling anxious, excited, nervous, and just an overall mess for the entire playoff run. The Cubs were THE BEST team all year. If they weren’t going to win it last year, then they probably would never win it in my lifetime.
This year, I go in feeling almost relaxed. I’m sure my nerves will flocculate with every game, but that same sense of anxiousness is no longer there. It’s as if a burden has been lifted off the collective shoulders of Cubs fans.
For the first time ever, the pressure isn’t on the Cubs to win. The way they played throughout the first half almost helped them in a way, as the target was taken off their back early on. Now, teams like Los Angeles, Washington, Cleveland and Houston are the ones feeling the pressure of ending title droughts in their respective cities. The last title amongst those four teams was the Dodgers in 1988.
The Cubs may get bounced in the NLDS this year, and that’s okay. They don’t HAVE to win anymore. That burden is gone. On top of that, this team is set up to contend for the next decade, regardless of what happens this postseason. It took the Red Sox three years to get back to the top of the mountain after 2004. I’m confident the Cubs will be hoisting another World Series title in the future, even if that future isn’t this year.
So, embrace the “normal.” It’s fun to be a good team, competing for championships on a yearly basis. It’s fun to have a World Series trophy sitting at the corner of Clark and Addison. And it’s fun knowing that, no matter what happens, you’ll never have to ask yourself if this is the year the Cubs finally get over the hump. Because no matter what, we’ll always have 2016.
Welcome to a whole new world, Cubs fans.