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The worst was 1984. The 2003 NLCS sucked as well but '84 was the ultimate crusher. And that was despite the fact I never got anywhere near the action.
I will say this about the Cubs' loss to the San Diego Padres in the "first-to-three" National League Championship Series that year: at least it was available on free TV. (Why do we say "best-of-five or best-of-seven" when these series often go less than five or seven games? It is past time to switch to first-to-three or first-to-four.")
In 2016, the league championship series' aren't just on cable, they are on obscure cable. It's as though someone said, "Let's see if these fans are really fanatic and can find the games even if we put them on networks that most sports bars can't even find!"
Turner Broadcasting, which televised the ALCS, was an early cable pioneer, of course. But they are about 27th on the channel surfing fan's list of Most Likely To Televise A Playoff Game stations. And Fox Sports 1? I think I watched a soccer game there once.
Anyway, I know college students these days are streaming whatever programming they need whenever. but back in 1984 I was going to college outside of Philadelphia and I needed the games on networks I could access easily. And that was provided.
The Cubs romped to a 2-0 lead over the bad-ridiculous yellow-and-brown Padres and North Side fans were certain their team was going to charge into the World Series against the powerful and hugely successful (they had started the season 35-5) Detroit Tigers.
Except it didn't happen. The Padres posted one unlikely victory after another, including an awfully memorable Game 4 2-run walkoff homer by Steve Garvey in the bottom of the ninth against the Cubs' dominant closer, Lee Smith.
At that point in my life as a Chicago sports fan, I had never experienced a championship in any sport. The Bears had last won in '63, before I was born, the Hawks' drought went back to '61, and the Sox to '59. (I know they didn't win the Series that year but at least the Sox won the pennant and turned on the air raid sirens). I think you know how long it had been since the Cubs had been in the World Series.
In the aftermath of the '84 loss, I was bereft. Fortunately, a certain football team was soon rising and while it didn't do the job that year, the next one broke the championship drought. And Chicago's overall sports inferiority was forever obliterated by Michael Jordan and friends in the 1990s.
In 2003, I was living in Chicago and was able to attend a couple Cubs-Marlins matchups. I wasn't there for the Gonzalez Game but I took in Game 7 from my customary spot in the upper deck reserved. Don't believe me? I'm in the documentary Catching Hell about that fan who tipped a fly ball that Moises Alou probably wouldn't have caught in Game 6. What was his name again?
I'm not one of the guys screaming obscenities at that fan or throwing drinks at him. Like I said, I wasn't there until Game 7. I'm one of the guys who the camera lingered on the next night when we all knew the team was going down again.
A few thoughts on the NLCS before finishing the transition to the glorious World Series ahead: The Cubs just overwhelmed that sucker didn't they? They didn't just win, they posted three straight dominant victories to put it away magnificently. Top to bottom, inside and out, what a baseball team!
And finally, why in the world did the guys who selected the NLCS MVP force Javy Baez to share it with Jon Lester? Baez played great in all six of the series' games. The left-handed ace pitched well in two - but he was barely even the team's best starter. He tossed 13 innings, giving up two earned runs overall. Kyle Hendricks threw 12.2 innings and gave up one. Both pitchers were credited with a single victory. Hello?
If Baez had just been the Cubs' best hitter, sharing the award would have made some sense. But he was their best defender as well. Don't tell the young man (we need him to continue to be the carefree spirit who has infused this postseason with so much awesomeness) but he got jobbed.
One thing we can say to the most compelling figure in Chicago sports in multiple ways: Don't worry, Javy; just because the dimwits who voted on the MVP don't realize the extent of your wondrous ridiculousness doesn't mean the people who are paying attention don't.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
1. From Tim Willette:
What about the Sting! Their victory in 1981 was the first for Gen-X and somewhat known, but it's almost entirely forgotten that they won again in '84 literally in the middle of the Cubs-Padres series. (It didn't help that the '84 game wasn't on broadcast TV so practically no one saw it, including me.)
Coffman replies: I was an Arno Steffenhagen fan (best Chicago sports facial hair ever - better even than the best Hawks' playoff beards in the championship years the last decade)! and Franz Mathieu and of course the glamour guys, Pato Margetic and Karl-Heinz Granitza. I even attended the last game of the three-game semifinal series that year at Comiskey Park that the Sting won to make it to the Soccer Bowl. It didn't feel as big to me as the teams competing in the big four sports but hell, there were more than 39,000 fans at the game I went to so maybe I'm wrong.
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