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article imageCurses foiled: Cubs manager says fans' burden lifted

By Jim Slater (AFP)     Nov 3, 2016 in World

At long last, for the first time since 1908, the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

So say goodbye to the "Curse of the Billy Goat," Cubs fans. No more worrying about black cats crossing in front of the dugout like in 1969 at New York. And forget about Steve Bartman, the unfortunate fan who foiled Cubs outfielder Moises Alou's attempt to grab a key foul ball in the 2003 National League championship series.

That was the message from Cubs manager Joe Maddon after Chicago edged the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings early Thursday morning to capture Major League Baseball's best-of-seven final 4-3, ending America's record-longest title drought.

Chicago Cubs fans celebrate their team's 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland in...
Chicago Cubs fans celebrate their team's 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland in game seven of the 2016 World Series, outside Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois early on November 3, 2016
Tasos Katopodis, AFP

"It has nothing to do with curses, superstition. That has nothing to do with what's happening today, nothing," Maddon said. "If you want to believe in that kind of stuff, it's going to hold you back for a long time.

"I love tradition. I think tradition is worth time mentally and tradition is worth being upheld, but curses and superstitions are not."

- Epstein the Curse Killer -

For decades, the Cubs have been known as "Lovable Losers" and nothing symbolized it better than the "Billy Goat" curse. Tavern owner Bill Sianis and his pet goat were ejected from a 1945 World Series game and he vowed the Cubs wouldn't win again.

Even after a goat was allowed back into Wrigley Field years later, the Cubs hadn't made it back to the World Series. Until this year, when Maddon made ending the hoodoo and embracing the challenge a focus from pre-season workouts.

Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs hits a RBI double in the 10th inning against the Cleveland Indians i...
Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs hits a RBI double in the 10th inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series
Ezra Shaw, Getty/AFP

"There has been a lot of burden placed, and I think, quite frankly, it's misplaced," Maddon said. "The fact is that it's today. It's now. It's present tense. And I totally respect what has happened in the past and I totally respect our fan base. But if you just want to carry the burden with you all the time, tonight would never happen.

"So for me, it was about in spring training trying to define this whole thing. That's where really running towards expectations and pressure was really important as opposed to running away from it."

It doesn't hurt that the Cubs have their own "Curse Killer" in baseball operations president Theo Epstein. He was the Boston Red Sox general manager when they won the 2004 World Series to end an 86-year title drought some say was caused by the "Curse of the Bambino" -- the trading of beloved Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs (R) forces out Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians at firs...
Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs (R) forces out Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians at first base to end the seventh inning
Ezra Shaw, Getty/AFP

- 'Now we can move forward' -

It's time for some of the Cubs fans who by the thousands stayed to cheer in the stands after the victory, even in a heavy downpour, to let go of history and embrace a young team that might win a few more titles.

"The burden has been lifted," Maddon said. "It should have never been there in the first place, I don't think, but now we can move forward.

"It's really great for our entire Cub-dom to get beyond that moment and continue to move forward, because now based on the young players we have in this organization, we have an opportunity to be good for a long time, and without any constraints, without any of the negative dialogue."

The Cubs didn't make it easy on fans, squandering a 5-1 lead and being taken to extra innings by a Cleveland squad that would have matched the greatest game seven comeback in World Series history had they won.

Javier Baez (C) of the Chicago Cubs forces out Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians at second base ...
Javier Baez (C) of the Chicago Cubs forces out Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians at second base before throwing to first base for the double play to end the eighth inning
Jamie Squire, Getty/AFP

"Everybody was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And you've got to expect something good to happen as opposed to that," Maddon said. "I know even tonight, I'm certain people would be doubtful the way it all played out, but that's baseball."

Indians fans might take Maddon's words to heart. With the Cubs winning, the burden of baseball's longest title drought now falls upon their team.

Cleveland last won the World Series in 1948.

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