Past potential

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

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

But you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not all aflutter about a Red Sox-Cubs showdown.

Five years ago? If it weren’t 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, ’03. 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 what’s 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 haven’t even been to the Fall Classic since 1945. The Red Sox lost Game 7s in 1986, ’75, ’67, and ’46. That’s 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 ’07. It’s 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, that’s a compelling draw. From a Chicago perspective, why would it be any more anticipated than Cubs-White Sox?
“It’s the matchup everybody wants to see,” writes Peter Schmuck in a debate with colleague Dan Connolly in the Baltimore Sun, “and there are certain karmic forces at work to make sure everybody gets to see it.”
Are those the same karmic forces that don’t 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 – albeit not always great – history like Chicago and Boston. And yes, it would be a good World Series matchup, at least on paper. But you know that’s not the reason most everyone wants to see it.
They want what we didn’t get five years ago, which is a little like trying to rediscover your youth. It’s not coming back. It’s by the boards. Never happened. A Hollywood script that got the ax at the last moment.
Unless you’re 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 ’03 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 let’s 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 member’s dream.
In terms of baseball’s best two ballparks on display, well, you got me there.
Other than that, if karmic forces really are at work, then let’s hope they get Manny’s 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.

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