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Past potential

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff September 2, 2008 09:16 AM

Who kicked in the time machine and brought us all back to 2003?

All summer long, we've been inundated with talk about this ďdream matchupĒ World Series that in a baseball season just past Labor Day and hurtling toward October, still remains a very viable possibility.

But youíll have to excuse me if Iím not all aflutter about a Red Sox-Cubs showdown.

Five years ago? If it werenít for Bartman and Boone, we would have had the most anticipated World Series in history, with 160-plus combined years of anguish and heartache all coming to a halt for one, yet continuing for the other. In terms of baseball history, it wouldn't have been any bigger than that, one team ending its drought while prolonging the other's.

A year later, the Red Sox won, and have done so twice since the dark days and nights of October, í03. There are no more daily mentions of Buckner or blisters. No mayoral cookies are crumbling on Yawkey Way. Babe Ruth's granddaughter hasn't been heard from in some time, and the only curses around the park these days are the ones from Josh Beckett's mouth.

Everything has changed since we were on the doorstep to Cubs-Red Sox in 2003. In 2008, exactly whatís compelling about it?

Do we really need, or want, a World Series surrounded by curses of billy goats and Babes, particularly when the latter has been exorcised and put away into the great mythological hall? The Cubs havenít even been to the Fall Classic since 1945. The Red Sox lost Game 7s in 1986, í75, í67, and í46. Thatís a totally different kind of heartbreak, one Cubs fans simply can never fathom.

None of it matters now, those demons slain in 2004, and then again for good measure in í07. Itís nothing but good times now at the Fens, where an amusement park atmosphere fills the air on a nightly basis, hope and confidence no longer fighting each other.

In 2003, it would have been the ultimate. Today, how is a Red Sox-Cubs World Series really any different than Red Sox-Diamondbacks? Why is it any more compelling than a Red Sox-Mets rematch, 22 years later, or Red Sox-Dodgers, complete with Manny, Nomar, Lowe, and Torre? Now, in my mind, thatís a compelling draw. From a Chicago perspective, why would it be any more anticipated than Cubs-White Sox?

ďIt's the matchup everybody wants to see,Ē writes Peter Schmuck in a debate with colleague Dan Connolly in the Baltimore Sun, ďand there are certain karmic forces at work to make sure everybody gets to see it.Ē

Are those the same karmic forces that donít seem to want to stop the Tampa Bay Rays from winning? Just checking.

What fun it would be for Bostonians, inundated with talk of baseball voodoo even in an age when we scoff at such a ridiculed past. Few baseball teams are as blessed with rich Ė albeit not always great Ė history like Chicago and Boston. And yes, it would be a good World Series matchup, at least on paper. But you know thatís not the reason most everyone wants to see it.

They want what we didnít get five years ago, which is a little like trying to rediscover your youth. Itís not coming back. Itís by the boards. Never happened. A Hollywood script that got the ax at the last moment.

Unless youíre a 100-year-old Cubs fan still holding a grudge over that 1918 World Series loss, a Red Sox-Cubs World Series is nothing more than a good matchup for October, no matter what sort of paranormal forces the folks at Fox or ESPN will want to lead you to believe. But that, of course, will be the focus of the TV execs, wanting to latch onto the ratings bonanza that would have been the í03 World Series, rewarded instead with the Miami market.

As much of a sucker punch as you could imagine that was, you were probably dealing with a few other things in a post-Boone winter. One October later, none of it mattered any longer.

Neither does Cubs-Red Sox. Great World Series potential, but letís get over the fact that it should be the most anticipated matchup. In terms of history and any lingering demons, Red Sox-Mets gives us more to work with. In terms of story lines, Red Sox-Dodgers is a media memberís dream.

In terms of baseballís best two ballparks on display, well, you got me there.

Other than that, if karmic forces really are at work, then letís hope they get Mannyís bat working down the stretch, because nothing can be more a more compelling prospect that watching that showdown just short of two months from now.

7 comments so far...
  1. Still, it would be pretty funny to see how upset Cubs fans get if the Sox beat them in the World Series.

    Posted by J-bone September 2, 08 01:02 PM
  1. A Red Sox - Cubs World Series in 2003 might have been the biggest sporting event in history, most certainly in American professional sports history. It would have been an event probably beyond imagination. Of course, they probably would have found a way to tie ;-) Now the storyline would be all about the Cubs trying to end their curse, personally I'd rather not see it, as opposed to J-bone, if the Cubs make it to the World Series, I'd like to root for them and their fans, I would against anyone but the Sox. If it's not Sox-Cubs, Angels-Cubs would be very exciting

    One correction to the article also: It's not Bartman and Boone, it's the dynamic duo of Bartman and Robbin' (because we were robbed by Robbin'...a.k.a Grady)

    Posted by Matt September 2, 08 02:31 PM
  1. I agree. As unlikely as it is, A Red Sox-Dodgers World Series would be great. People would be glued to their televisions waiting to see if Manny would beat his former team or vice versa.

    Posted by elccpa24 September 2, 08 02:50 PM
  1. Would anyone watch if it was Diamondbacks/Rays? I can't believe the Rays are still in 1st place. Can they start their losing streak already? Can they be this years Mets? Please!!!!!

    Cubs/Red Sox would have been a great match in 2003. Between the goat and Babe and the lunar eclipse, Fox wouldn't have had time to show the actual game. It would have been all about the curses.

    Posted by Debbie September 2, 08 03:39 PM
  1. Obviously I want the Red Sox to be involved in any World Series matchup (and I agree that Sox-Dodgers would be the best for the reasons Eric lists above). Failing the Red Sox getting in I think a White Sox -Cubs World Series would be all kinds of fun. Just Ozzie Guillen and Lou Pinella should be enough to keep everyone interested in what they might say next. The whole North Side/South Side dynamic would make for some great drama - I know I would be glued to my TV.

    Posted by Capn Ho September 2, 08 04:31 PM
  1. Just imagine in your worst nightmare that it turns out to be "somebodys" like Minnesota against Arizona? Now, dear friends, THAT would get me watching Animal Planet. Still, for a RSN member it doesn't matter who "we" play. does it? And this comes a member down in Charleston SOUTH Carolina!!!!!

    Posted by Bob Karrer September 3, 08 11:40 AM
  1. Cubs - White Sox would be far more entertaining.

    I wanna live long enough to see Bartman get the full Buckner treatment as well.

    Coulda been any one of us.

    Posted by Harryb September 3, 08 06:35 PM
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