I honestly feel like crying all over again right now
I think we here have all reached some sort of concensus on the Steve Bartman Issue, but in case you haven't:
Yes, Will Leitch is a gatdam Cardinal fan, and as such, this excerpt from his new book has a bit o' smug condescension about it. But seven years later, this still sticks me in the gut, just as wrenching as it ever has. And if this is not your logical process on how to interpret the Bartman Incident, then you just don't want to know, and probably you are one of the johnny-come-lately bleacher yahoos Leitch was talking about.
What's my point?
The 2003 Cubs were perhaps the best team in baseball that year, and even as superior as we were, we did not win a pennant, let alone a World Series. The 2008 Cubs were inarguably the best team in baseball that year, and we didn't even win a single lousy game in the NLDS.
When it comes to the Chicago Cubs, and I will repeat this until the day I die, and it will even be on my tombstone, I'm afraid:
At this point in time, after everything that has happened to this franchise, it is not simply enough to be competitive. It is not simply enough to be ONE of the best teams. It is not simply enough to be THE best team by a small margin. There is too much psychic clutter to work through; too large of a karmic mountain to climb, that simply being "good enough" can conquer. Hell, we were "good enough" in 1969, 1970, 1984, 2003 and 2008, talent wise, to win a pennant. You could make a case for 1971 and 2007, too.
I dare say - any other franchise would have five mother-trumping pennants that read 1969, 1970, 1984, 2003 and 2008.
For comparison: those of you who were around for the 1985 Bears - that team had some serious karmic baggage to overcome, too, some of it their own, but most of it due to simply being a Chicago team. Back then, we were the "city of Losers". Just being "good enough" wasn't going to cut it for them.
That team, kids, wasn't simply "good enough". It wasn't simply "the best team". The 1985 Bears had the single...most...destructive defense in professional sports history. I am absolutely serious, swear on the lives of my children, that every week, I was honestly afraid that the 1985 Bears Defense was going to literally KILL an opposing QB or WR. I honestly feared for Marc Wilson's very life; for Joe Ferguson's very life; and for Steve Grogan's very life. The 1985 Bears were literally 200% better than every other team they faced on a given day. Yes, they lost to Miami, but they had one off night. Nothing you have seen in the NFL the past 20 years even comes close to comparing. Five times more deadly than the Ray Lewis Ravens who won it a few years back, for example.
I don't know how else I can express it. Since then, of course, they did win, and the Michael Jordans won all their titles, the Hawks have been in a Finals or two, and even the Comiskey MethLab hosted a championship. So the monkey is off Chicago's back as being a City of Losers. It's simply a Cub thing now.
The only way the Chicago Cubs are ever going to win a World Series is to become two, three, five TIMES better than every other team in a given year. Otherwise, no.
We can blame all the goats and black cats and Bull Durhams and Bartmans we want. They are simply symptoms of the dread. Bartman was not aware of his surroundings; Moises Alou was a spaz; Alex Gonzalez was a loser; Mark Prior wore Tampax; and Dusty Baker smoked dope. They did not realize it, but they were all sub-consciously caught up in the "dread" that Leitch cites; it brought out the very worst in all of them in a most crucial time.
That "dread" is never going away; not until a team staffed with a super-human level of testicular fortitude can manage to rise above it. And that doesn't just happen, you have to be really, exceptionally superior to your opponents day in, day out to own THAT kind of swagga. We have to have 25 of the Most Interesting Men in the World to win this thing.
Not a bunch of pansies who lose to Pittsburgh.