Cubs

Curses are contagious?

Curses are contagious?

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Upon moving to Chicago some 19 years ago, one of the first things I became acutely aware of was the curse that had befallen the beloved, at least on the Northside, Cubs. Of course if you know me, you know what my reaction was: Laughter. This city obviously doesnt know anything about a jinx in spite of what Uncle Lou dubbed Cubby occurrences. 104 years? Whatever! I have almost half that with my football team alone! Although I will admit some weird things happen to them, Bartman comes right to mind, but most of what I have witnessed with the Cubs seems self-inflicted. When I think of a curse, I think of weird stuff happening out of nowhere, on a repeated, relentless basis. Like what happens to guys who wear a red bow tie for a living.

Currently Im in the middle of a stretch in my life where I just cant seem to get out of my own way, I mean at least more than usual. Speaking of which, out of nowhere on Tuesday, at six in the morning, I was startled out of my once a week eight-hour slumber by my wife who said that my presence was needed on the front porch: IMMEDIATELY! What now? A headless rabbit, thats what. Honestly?! How does something like that happen? Im really asking myself this? The real surprise is that it took this long! I mean, everyone finds severed animal carcasses on their doorsteps in the morning, right? Thats normal.

Thats also one unlucky rabbit. I should have kept his feet.

As I was trying to get back to sleep, with the vision of the disposal running through my head, I amused myself by wondering who I had ticked off to cost the poor bunny its life. Then it occurred to me that I had recently done something that I never thought I would ever do: I had publicly denounced one of my hometown teams, the Sixers, in favor of the Bulls in last years playoffs. Well you know how that turned out: D-Rose promptly blew out his knee in the first game. And for good measure Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng were injured during the hard-fought series to ensure the Bulls demise.

Oops.

I guess I angered the basketball gods. Sorry Bulls fans. My bad.

But that should have been the end of it right?

I still follow my Fightin Phils with a psychotic passion, but I did check out on them kind of early this year when I saw where things were headed. I think that was in April. What can I say? I can only beat my head against a wall so many times and most of them are used up with my family. Give me a reason to believe, not Ty Wiggington!

So during the summer I turned most of my attention to the White Sox, and for most of the season that was a fun thing. Then the bottom fell out. Wait a second. That sounds eerily familiar. Compete all season long, to the point where even the non-believers get on board, then gag. Hold on here. Thats the Frankie O Philly team curse. You know, the one where a team is thisclose to winning and then doesnt, often losing in spectacular fashion.

Almost good enough.

And in some instances a coach is given 14 chances to torture. What is the definition of insanity again?

But the Sox thing got me thinking. But that must have been a coincidence, right? Theres no way that I could have brought my luck here is there? I couldnt have opened some weird Philly-Chicago portal like the one in the Malkovich movie could I? The Sox season could have happened anywhere, my being here was just an unfortunate happenstance.
It would have to happen more than once for someone to think this is real.

I had no effect on the Cubs. They shot themselves. Again and again. They wanted to be awful. They never allowed the fan connection that is required to rip your heart out, at least with the sober ones.

And Im not happy that there wont be a hockey season, but at least I cant be held captive by a lost-in-the-woods crazy Russian astronomergoalie. My hockey heartbreak already occurred over the summer when the Flyers offered all-star defenseman Shea Weber the second largest contract in NHL history and gave visions to Flyers fans of Claude Giroux manning the front line and Weber manning the blue line for years to come. Two all-world talents on one team. NOT! The cash-strapped Nashville Predators matched the contract offer right before they locked him out. Even when theres no season, I suffer! Whatever!

So I guess a good barometer for the Frankie O effect would be the 2012 Monsters of the Midway.

Lets see. Theyre coming off a devastating season in which Jay Cutler had led the team to a 7-3 record, but suffered a season-ending injury in the seventh win. Then without a quarterback they then lost the next five games in every conceivable fashion to shatter their once sure playoff hopes. (One could say without a competent QB they had their heads cut off. Sorry, its late.)

That kind of season can happen to anyone though. Besides, did anyone think they had a chance without a big-time receiver? I didnt think so. In a way, Bears fans were spared the agony of getting bounced within a whiff of the final prize with a fatally-flawed team. Remember 2010? That hurts worse.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Bears went out and got the wide receiver they have wanted for generations. They would finally be on par offensively with all the big boys. It was a master stroke. Brandon Marshall didnt come without risk, but hes well worth it. This could be the start of something special. Uh-oh. Of course it all depends on how an aging defense can hold up, but theres hope. Where have I heard this before?

The life I have led has taught me there is nothing worse than having the football team you root for get you close then not be able reach the summit of Mt. Lombardi. Getting there must be great. It happened here once and I hear about it every day, 27 years later. But I digress.

To be truly cursed, you need to be set up for success and then have the bottom fall out, say in consecutive years, in much different ways.

How did this years 7-1 sound? A month ago it sounded great.

Now, there are some realists here that have understood the issues of the offensive line, but 7-1? With a defense that can seemingly take away the ball from an opponent at will? This is a team that can go places, so hop on board! Ive really heard this one before and my stomach is starting to get queasy.

The true measure is that in spite of losing three out of four and guards dropping like flies, fans keep thinking that the tailspin will end NEXT week. Oh my God! Its happening here! What have I done?

As much as I want to help, I dont know if I can. And after last weeks awful home loss to the Seahawks I have a familiar feeling on how this is going to end up and its as messy as my front porch was earlier this week. For the second year in a row.

We want to analyze and theorize everything that happens, but some things in this life are just going to happen, due much to forces beyond our control or understanding. I look at where this Bears season is heading and where its come from and I want to close my eyes and yell Lookout! There has been a force unleashed here that shows no mercy and takes no prisoners.

By taking sides against my former hometown with my current one, I have obviously transferred the lifetime of suffering on an unsuspecting metropolis. It wasnt my intent, but then it never is. All I wanted was to be a part of something here. Unfortunately, its part of something where rabbits are running around without heads and pro teams are ripping out hearts.

I didnt mean for this to happen.

Im sorry Chicago.

My bad!

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?