The Cubs are as on the brink of elimination as they can be. That the E hasn’t been posted next to their name in the Wild Card standings entering the penultimate game of the season is bittersweet. This officially official do-or-die moment comes at an earlier point than I could have imagined three weeks ago yet much later than I could have imagined three months ago.
The Cubs need to win twice with two games remaining, AND they need the Marlins to lose thrice with 2.074 games remaining. The Cubs need more to go right in the next two days than has gone right in the last two weeks. As Paul Hollywood told Steph after seeing her twice-baked Stilton Souffle technical challenge in the Season 10 finale of The British Baking Show, it looks bad, you’ve done well, here’s a hug.
Here’s the thing about baseball: when there’s even a small chance, anything can happen. In this case, that small chance of which I speak is the gossamer thread of hope that all 4.074 games go their way. Compared to where the Cubs were as the trade deadline loomed, the prospects are downright cheery.
We have this tendency as Cubs fans . . . hell, as people, to protect ourselves from pain when the likelihood of heartbreak becomes too great. For those of us who are just recently abandoning our Cubs playoff aspirations, it’s too little too late. The pain of this season’s final act has already hit us between the eyes.
But for the team, it ain’t over until it’s over. And it ain’t over. As much as we may want to protect ourselves from further pain by refusing to believe a wildcard berth is possible, it’s still possible. There is reason to hope. There is definitely still reason to play. Is believing in this particular miracle just an exercise in masochism? Probably. But is it worth the risk?
I’ll say this. The role of baseball in our lives wavers between an escape from reality and an inspiration to face it. At this point, the Cubs have failed to provide us an escape. Loss after loss, meltdown after meltdown, setback after setback, and heartbreak after flyball-dropping, lead-blowing heartbreak have made the end of September much more of a metaphor for real life than an escape from it. But at this point, it still serves as an inspiration.
I don’t know if the Cubs have given up yet. It very well may not matter. But I think not giving up is worth it in life and as a fan. At least it can be. Yeah, it does make us vulnerable to little extra shots of pain. But pain? It’s underrated.
No, I can’t tell you what to do. But my suggestion is . . . don’t give up. Maybe this team and this beautiful dumb life will break your heart AGAIN. Or maybe, just maybe, this shit will get ridiculous. In a good way. Again.