How to Reverse the Curse

Billy Goats, the Bambino, and the Charlie Brown in All of Us

According to baseball superstition, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are cursed. The Red Sox curse came in 1920, courtesy of Babe Ruth, the Bambino himself, whom the Sox sold to the Yankees so their owner could fund a theatre. The Sox had always gotten the best of the Yankees before that, but since the sale of Ruth … not so much.

The Cubs’ history is similar. In 1945, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern was prohibited from bringing his goat (believe it or not) to Wrigley Field for the World Series. He then placed a curse on the team saying that “if the goat can’t come to the game then the Cubs will never, ever win the World Series again.”

So far, the Babe and the Goat have the upper hand.

The more things change…..
These two teams don’t just lose, they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Examine the following:

  • 1975: Carlton Fisk hits what could be the most famous home run in World Series history (stay fair, stay fair, off the foul pole-Yes!) in game 6, but the Red Sox still lose Game 7 to the Reds anyway.

  • 1984: An error by Leon Durham completes the collapse of the Cubs who lose to the Padres after being up two games to none in the best of 5 playoff series.

  • 1986: The absolute nadir for Sox fans. Bill Buckner’s now infamous error gives the Mets a comeback win and the momentum to win the World Series.

  • 2003: Both teams lose their championship series after being up three runs with two innings to play. A Cubs fan changes the course of their ballgame by snagging a foul ball out of the glove of Moises Alou. The Marlins score 8 unanswered runs to tie the series and they win it the following night. The Red Sox similarly are up 5-2 in game 7 only to blow the lead and lose in extra innings.

Kicking the Football
These two teams are like the Peanuts character, Charlie Brown, who runs to kick the football only to have Lucy pull the ball away from him. He comes crashing to the ground along with his hopes and dreams.

A lot of us have Charlie Brown moments in their lives. Here are some Charlie Brown moments for me:

  • In college, a girl enthusiastically flirted with me in front of everyone, only for me to find her boyfriend in her dormitory room when I later paid her a visit.

  • The on-air radio job offer I received in Michigan which was later rescinded when the station went belly-up broke.

  • The first three shows I produced in radio all ended quickly with “the talent” being fired.

After repeated Charlie Brown moments in earlier days, I began to sabotage myself, expecting things not to go my way. I stayed in a job I hated for five years, too afraid to look for something better. I stayed in a horrendous relationship because it was easier than going to find someone new. It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to move beyond my fears that I truly found success and love.

Both success and love, of course, don’t come without overcoming struggles. Just as the Cross transformed Christ’s death to new life, our crosses do the same for us in smaller ways. We rise up from each painful experience with greater confidence. Learning from my past, I am now able to transform pain into something that breeds a new and stronger life.

The comfort of losing
Curses and jinxes are convenient scapegoats. Perhaps we really invent our own fate by having expectations of failure that lead us directly to it.

And perhaps that’s the Cubs and the Red Sox’s problem. They expect to lose. Their fans expect them to lose. Maybe they even enjoy the comfort of losing. If people don’t expect much, there isn’t much room for disappointment.

Expecting more
God expects more of us and we should expect more of ourselves and each other. I hope these teams can move beyond the silliness of the Babe and the Billy Goat and focus on next year. After all, we all have a choice: to sit and cry in our beer, or to get up one more time and try again.