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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | Mike Penner / SOUND AND VISION

Are Cubs and Red Sox on a Collision Curse?

October 01, 2003|Mike Penner

But "The Curse of the Racist Team That Was Too Mired in Self-Pity to Notice That the Real Problem Here Just Might Be Itself" is hard to squeeze onto the cover of a paperback. And though HBO might be edgy as TV networks go, that kind of title wasn't going to fly when there's footage to be aired of Father Guido Sarducci performing a Fenway exorcism and divers scouring the bottom of a New England lake searching for the remains of Babe Ruth's piano.

HBO has yet to check in on the Cubs, but Cub fans are a determined group. Not wanting to slip behind the Red Sox in the all-important curse publicity standings, a trio of Cub fans brought a goat to Houston's Minute Maid Park on Sept. 22 in a calculated attempt to reverse the Billy Goat curse.

With television camera crews and newspaper photographers looking on, three Cub fans and a goat tried to enter the Astros' ballpark. History repeated itself: The goat was denied at the door.

The Cub fans immediately declared they were passing the curse onto the Astros and read aloud the following incantation:

Two years shy of 60 cursed,

For all this time, the Cubs were worst.

Armed with goat and mystic verse,

We hereby reverse the Curse!

You had your chance to let him in,

But now no more will the Astros win.

We'll take our goat and leave this place,

Along with your hopes in this pennant race!

The Astros lost to the Cubs that night, blowing the game in the ninth inning, and wound up finishing a game behind Chicago in the National League Central standings.

The Astros, by the way, haven't won a pennant during their 42 years of existence, were the first to inflict the scourge of AstroTurf upon the major leagues and initially named their new ballpark after Enron. As far as curses and cosmic comeuppances go, the Astros didn't need any additional kindling.

If fans of the Cubs and the Red Sox truly want to get to the bottom of this curse business, why haven't they look more closely at the famous ivy crawling up the outfield walls of Wrigley Park?

Those ivy vines were planted by Bill Veeck in 1937. Veeck started out with 350 Japanese bittersweet plants and 200 Boston ivy plants.

Bittersweet. Boston.

And then Veeck went on to run the Cleveland Indians, who last won the World Series in 1948, and the Chicago White Sox, who last won the World Series in 1917.

Explains a lot, don't you think?

So the Cubs and the Red Sox are ready for another October up against it. To get to the World Series this time, the Cubs will have to weed through the gnarled karma of the Atlanta Braves, who bear the curse of grandiose underachievement, and then, probably, the San Francisco Giants, who last won the World Series in 1954, when they were called the New York Giants.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, appear doomed already.

Do you know who narrated "The Curse of the Bambino?"

Ben Affleck.

That's right. "The Curse of Gigli" does "The Curse of the Bambino."

If HBO thought it was helping the cause of the Red Sox fan, it didn't do its homework. Now the Red Sox curse has been doubly cursed. And we with it. Because we are the ones who will have to hear about it, over and over, for the next 85 years.

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