Miguel Montero was talking about forgetting, an excellent coping strategy for anyone even remotely associated with the Cubs.
He was talking about a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, a loss that evened the series, but he could have been talking about heartbreak, team history and purported curses.
“I talk to my psychologist sometimes, and he says, ‘If you would have amnesia, you’d be a heck of a player because it’s easy to forget the bad times,’ ” the Cubs catcher said. “Our club is pretty good on that. I’ve seen the guys move on from a loss. They move on: OK, we lost, it’s all right, we’ll get it tomorrow. That’s a really mature attitude for a lot of young guys on this club.’’
That attitude might be a bit harder to embrace for veteran Cubs fans, who, as a group, have seen a nightmare or 100 over the years. There are a lot of scarred people who believe that the Billy Goat curse is real or that the team is jinxed in some way not involving hooved animals or, not quite as dramatic but just as dangerous, that the Cubs are predisposed toward bad things happening at the worst possible moments. Let’s call it the curse spectrum.
Those people might want to ring up Montero’s psychologist. They need to remember to forget. Not easy, I know, but necessary with three games coming up in Los Angeles, the first on Tuesday.
Cubs players have said over and over again they don’t care that a local tavern owner, angry with the team for kicking him and his smelly pet goat out of Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series, declared that the Cubs either would never again play for baseball’s ultimate prize or that they would never win a World Series game at Wrigley. And since then … hold it … still checking … I can confirm that the Cubs haven’t played in a World Series.
“Nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else, you know what I mean?’’ pitcher Jon Lester said of the team clubhouse. “It’s what you make of it. If we make a mistake, we’re not going to blame it on a curse or anything else like that. We’re going to blame it on ourselves.
“… I think we got too many young guys in there that don’t even know what that stuff is. So, it’s almost better to play naive and just go out and worry about us, worry about the Cubs and not anything else in the past or, like I said, any animals.’’
The players are right not to give a fig about a silly curse or a stinkin’ goat. They shouldn’t care about such nonsense. But they should care there are people in Chicago who care about it. Some of those people can’t help but send out bad vibes when things aren’t going well, no matter where the Cubs happen to be playing that day.
The players are human, and they have to deal with those vibes. We saw it in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, when Alex Gonzalez’ error on a groundball brought an eerie silence to Wrigley, sending unspoken messages of impending disaster to the players. And you know the horror story that followed.
Perhaps there has been some emotional growth with the team’s success the past two seasons. I didn’t sense doom and gloom as fans walked out of Wrigley after the loss Sunday night. I sensed a group of people that had just watched a great pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, shut down the Cubs. I sensed people doing the mental math as to when Kershaw would pitch again.
There is a curse but not the one commonly associated with the Cubs. It’s the Curse of the People Who Believe in the Billy Goat Curse. Those people can negatively affect the team with their Eeyore tendencies. There’s no way to prove it or to quantify it, but I believe it’s there in some measure.
The best thing to do now is take Montero’s advice. It’s time for everyone to forget everything, if that’s possible. Forget Game 2. Forget the 107-year drought. Forget the ghosts of playoffs past. Not realistic? OK. The next-best thing, though one also with a high degree of difficulty, would be for fans to suppress the urge to declare that the End Times are at hand at the first hint of trouble.
Go out and buy yourself some amnesia. Remember which team is the favorite.