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If Cubs ever win it all, they would lose their essential nature

Bernie Lincicome
Chicago Tribune
In an uncertain world, the Cubs remain reliable.

Not to beat a dead Cub, but …

The Cubs do not need autopsies. Inquests are for serious sins. The Cubs are what they are. No fingers need to be pointed, though a couple of Cubs outfielders might use a few more. I once accused the Cubs of choking, but that was early on and I didn't understand.

I have never bought into curses or fate or doom designed by some malevolent force lurking in the shadows or in the front row down the left-field line.

Not statistics nor logic nor all the metrics in the hemisphere apply. Reason is as irrelevant as alibis.

Are the Mets better than the Cubs? They certainly seemed to be, at this time, in two places, proved where it must be, on the mound, at the plate, in the field. The Mets got their chance; they took their chance. The Cubs did not. It is ever so.

And good luck to the lot of them. We need pay attention no longer. The Mets will get what's coming to them, good or bad.

As for the Cubs, well done. Baby steps, and why not since the steps were taken by, speaking metaphorically, virtual toddlers. Too soon? That's one way to look at it. Wait till next year? No need to dive into the stewpot of stale cliches.

Except for this one, the true one, the dependable one. This is what the Cubs do. This what they have always done. This is what they will do again.

This is what separates the Cubs from normal losers. It is the difference between art and craft. Manager Joe Maddon will learn. His attempt to understand or ignore or modify the Cubs culture was a quality try, like Miguel Montero scrambling to gather in a third strike. The start of something? Isn't it always?

The famous sports cliche about not winning or losing but playing the game applies as if the Cubs had written it. The Olympic ideal of the taking part rather than the victory might have been meant for Frenchmen, but it is the pillow upon which the Cubs rest.

What Maddon will come to understand is this is the greater purpose of the Cubs, to be a symbol of the taking part and the playing of the game, while making it seem decent and fine.

This is a very delicate and precarious balance, and Maddon is fresh enough to think he can ruin it with his easy, happy Geppetto style or his petting zoo or his music for the mood. The Cubs did not get to where they are by violating the rules of their nature with predictable excellence.

If Maddon's mad maneuverings or Theo Epstein's roster stacking carry the Cubs to greater success from this point, they will ruin everything. The world needs the Cubs as they are, needs them in their place, failing, gladly and regularly, not big ugly failures, not irrelevant, neglected failures, but warm and tender failures, the kind that makes the rest of us feel better.

Maddon may continue to add his personal touch to the consistent imperfection of the Cubs, but he cannot change anything essential. Self-pity is the fuel that carries Cubs fans from one season to the next; it is the morning juice and the evening wine.

The precious morsels of Cubs culture are touches other teams can only sigh after: doggedly day baseball, the off-key seventh-inning stretch howl-a-long, the hand-turned scoreboard, the iconic marquee, the throwing back of home run balls. Even the new whiz-a-trons, or whatever those giant video boards are called, can't dent the Cubs' elemental nature. In a chaotic and uncertain world, the Cubs remain reliable.

What Maddon will come to know is that no baseball season is a disappointment to a Cubs fan. It is either a happy surprise or a standing ritual.

Would Cubs fans trade any other team's World Series dividends for what the Cubs are? They may think so, but the Cubs would then be just another log on the woodpile, another slice from the same stale loaf.

Makes you sorry for the rest, really.

Bernie Lincicome is a special contributor to the Chicago Tribune.

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