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October 4, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

It's been 1,072 days since Mike Piazza's fly ball to deep center landed in Bernie Williams's glove, sealing the Yankees' third consecutive championship. Do you remember how you felt that night? Happy, certainly, but how happy? Probably happier than the year before, because they had beaten the Mets, maybe more than in '98, when it was expected.

But it was nothing like 1996. And for someone in their late-30's to late 40's, '96 was nothing compared to 1977, was it? Your first World's Championship is always the best; the most pure, unadulterated joy you will ever experience in sports, because it's new. For me, there will never be anything like 1996. 19 years old, five years removed from becoming a hardcore fan of a team at the bottom of the American League. I never thought I'd see it happen. I cried.

Now, it's not the same. It's hardly even fun. Sure, if they win the World Series, I'll be happy, I'll float for weeks. But if they lose... they're not supposed to lose, just like they weren't supposed to win in 1996. Thursday night's game, as good a game as has been pitched by any Yankee in this postseason run, was not an exhilirating experience for me--not until the bottom of the seventh. I sat there watching, expecting the worst, waiting for the defense to blow the game. The win was relief, not joy.

After a while, winning does get boring. Oh, poor Yankees fan, you're thinking to yourself sarcastically--and rightfully so. I've experienced more joy in the past decade than the fan of any other baseball team has, because my team has been more successful in the postseason for past decade than any other baseball team. I'm lucky. But after awhile, the joy of winning lessens, because you start to expect it.

I cannot relate to a Cubs fan. Ninety-five years. This isn't the Red Sox, failures in the World Series for eighty-five years--this is the Cubbies, who haven't won a postseason series of any kind since 1908. And if a 19-year old kid had thought to touch second base, they might not have won that series either.

They're one game away from ending that streak. One game away from advancing to a higher postseason round for the first time ever. And for Cubs fans, that would be pure joy. Even if they lost the NLCS, even if they were swept, Cubs fans would finally have something to celebrate. It wouldn't be their fondest hope, but for this year, it would be good enough.

They've been here before, they've been painfully close before, and I'm sure that no Cubs fan is looking ahead to the Marlins or Giants. They know that there's still one more win to get.

I can't help but envy those Cubs fans, so close to something they've never experienced, a postseason series win. I can't help but feel guilty, pulling for a team that has won so much, and given me so much, to give me a little more. How selfish am I?

Ehh. But whaddya gonna do about it? Go Yanks!
(Go Cubbies!)