The Cubs bowed out of the Major League Year-End Tournament last night to the tune of a 9-1 shellacking at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. With that, the title of champion will be passed on to another, not yet known team. Let's hope not the Yankees. Now we can all move on past 2016, finally.
It felt like much of this season for the Cubs was a celebration of 2016, and why not? 108 years is a long time to wait for next year. But at some point the talk of hangovers and recovering in time for brunch made things feel a bit stretched. Even last night as the team met with reporters after the game, the memory of 2016 was invoked, a salve to put on this most recent loss. I'm pretty sure that's the last time it can be used to any great effectiveness. From now on, 2016 is a great memory, but a memory nonetheless.
Sports, as the old saw goes, is a results-driven business. If I envy anything about the current Cubs (and isn't that the defining trait of White Sox fans these days?) it isn't so much the World Series win it's the sustained success of the past three years. Three NL Championship Series, one World Series is a very impressive stretch. Though the Cubs pitching, especially the bullpen, is a bit more shaky than a year ago, I firmly believe the Cubs as an organization will make another playoff run in 2018. Once there, the whole game is set back to zero and another championship is a real possibility.
At least I hope so. For the longest time, the Cubs were the Chicago team dripping in the most saccharine-tinged nostalgia; goats and curses, dead announcers and "wait until next year" as some sort of lovable battle cry. All of that is meaningless now. The front-office and the fans seem to demand more, a normal expectation of an exceptional team. The Cubs sustained success is good for us White Sox fans too (except when dealing with friends, coworkers and the like.) As the crosstown rival succeeds, the pressure is on the White Sox to step up or become even more of an afterthought in the coming years. With each successful Cubs year, I can only hope Rick Hahn and the gang feel a little more pressure to get back to respectability and back into the top of the American League. Can you imagine? Two successful, sustained baseball franchises in the same city? Our city? It seemed close in the early 2000s, but faded quickly. Hopefully it can happen again, for a longer stretch.
There is a little cause for concern though. I'm not sure if it's media driven or just in the cultural make-up of Cubs fans, but the creeping nostalgia monster is still around Wrigley Field. I saw a piece recently lamenting the demise of the Taco Bell (A TACO BELL?!?!) near the ballpark. Have we become so desperate for meaning and memory that we get misty over the demise of a fast food restaurant (and their clean bathrooms?) If that's what Cubs fandom latches on to, David Ross will never be out of a job.