Two years ago, facing a 3-0 hole in the NLCS against the New York Mets, the 2015 Chicago Cubs were on the verge of ending what had been an especially fun and magical season.
I wondered today what I wrote that morning. The title was “This Season Can’t End Today, Right?,” and it was wholly appropriate for what was to come:
Among the many reasons why sports are an elegant vessel for life lessons: things don’t always play out like the storybook tells you they should.
Sure, sometimes they do – the Red Sox beating the Yankees after being down 3-0 in 2004 is the one you’ll keep hearing about – but most of the time, sports happen the way they happen, and then we tell the stories afterwards.
I don’t know how tonight’s game will go. Recent evidence notwithstanding, the Chicago Cubs can beat the New York Mets. Maybe that’s what happens tonight. And it certainly feels like the Cubs should win at least one game in this series, doesn’t it? How do the fates allow a season like this – “it’s magic” – to end with such a total and complete shrug?
And, of course, if that’s what happens, then we’ll come up with stories to tell. We’ll talk about how incredible the season was on the whole (it really was), and about how anything can happen in a playoff series (it really can), and about how the playoffs aren’t really a reflection of what came before (they really aren’t). I’m not sure it’ll make anyone feel better, but it’s what we’ll do.
Still, I’m not ready to do it, myself. The gods of sport will laugh in my face for saying it, but this season just can’t end like this tonight. It just can’t. There has to be some other twist, some other moment to remember. Maybe it’s not a series win, but maybe it’s the Cubs saying eff you to a sweep with a blowout tonight. Maybe it’s a monster home run in the 9th inning to walk it off. Maybe it’s a no-hitter. Something. Something to hold onto. And then, for tomorrow, hey, who knows what happens.
Maybe I’m already telling myself stories.
The differences in the 2015 and 2017 seasons are so numerous as to escape concise description here, but you lived it, so you know. If the word for the 2015 was “magic,” the word for 2017 was “grind.” The one thing the two seasons have in common was the pleasant surprise of reaching the NLCS, but I can assure you, this time around, it very much “feels” like the Cubs’ season can end today.
Hey, maybe that’s the secret sauce to pulling off a thrilling 3-0 comeback, eh? Eh? Eh.
In truth, I think most of us said our goodbyes to the 2017 season right around the time the Cubs started giving insurance runs to the Dodgers last night on bases loaded walks to the pitcher and passed ball strikeouts.
However. Baseball is weird and unpredictable by nature, so anyone who tells you for certain that the season is over as we sit here right now is selling you the same brand of magic beans as anyone who tells you the Cubs will definitely come back. Extremely potent and likely-to-grow magic beans, but magic beans nonetheless.
We don’t know how tonight’s game will go, or whether the series extends into tomorrow.
But I woke up this morning knowing that the 2017 Cubs’ season can end today, and there was nothing jarring in that realization.