"You heard it about Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim. How they had never won the big one. We find ourselves in that mode. We've never won. But if you win, then you can go another 50 years without winning and it's all right because at least you won one."
Winning at least once is what's important. As Deshaies says, "Going 1-for-50 is significantly better than going 0-for-50."
One in a hundred, though? That's another story.
A Tale of One City, Two Teams and Few World Series
"I really feel for Red Sox fans," my friend Dan Lepse said in an e-mail last fall when so much was written about how Boston had not won the World Series since 1918. "Ask an inmate what would be worse to have their prison sentence or to have their prison sentence PLUS another 10 years."
You'll have to forgive Dan. He's a Cubs fan.
His team has gone 97 years without winning the Series and 62 years since playing in it. While Red Sox fans dreamed of winning the World Series, just reaching it would satisfy Cubs fans, who have seen their team fail so often that there once was something called the "Ex-Cub Factor" that was used to uncannily predict who would lose the World Series each fall.
The Cubs rarely play well enough to be a contender but even when they do, their inevitable horrific finish is enough to silence the Windy City more than Oprah's walking outside in a thong. In 1969, they blew a 9½ game lead to the Mets. In 1984, they blew a two-games-to-zero lead to the Padres in the best-of-5 NLCS and watched the pennant roll between Leon Durham's legs in the clinching game. And then, horribly, there was 2003, when the Cubs were five outs from the World Series and disaster struck in the infamous Bartman game.
The Cubs have lost so many times that their identity is as baseball's lovable losers.
Indeed, they seem so resigned to their fate that after the Bartman game fans chose to blame an innocent fan in the stands rather than the $5.8 million shortstop who later botched what should have been an inning-ending double play. Boston fans would have driven Alex Gonzalez from town with pitchforks and torches, but Cubs fans forgave his error and looked elsewhere for the cause of their pain. As Cubs CEO Andy MacPhail says, "They chose to blame fate rather than the player."
Well, you get that way when you go a century between championships (though their anger at Sammy Sosa suggests that even their patience is at an end).
At least Cubs fans can take some solace that an entire nation recognizes their pain and sympathizes. Few remember or know that the White Sox have been just as much of a disaster. The White Sox have played in fewer World Series (one) since the Great Depression than the Cubs (five). The last time they played in the World Series, Ted Williams not only wasn't frozen, he was still playing left field for Boston.
How bad has it been for the White Sox? The last time they won the pennant, in 1959 at the height of the Cold War, frightened people ran into the streets in a panic because the city sounded the air-raid sirens to celebrate and many people thought Chicago was being attacked by the Soviets.
When winning the pennant inspires fear, you know a team is cursed.
And yet, George Will never writes about their suffering.
Roger Bossard has been on the White Sox's grounds crew since 1967 but he's been around W. 35th Street since long before then. His father, Gene, was the head groundskeeper before him, and he can remember lugging water hoses around the field as a kid. He's been around so long he can remember when his father and Sox manager Eddie Stanky would freeze baseballs to cut down on the opposing team's offense. "I would ask my dad, 'What's going on?' And he'd say, 'Don't worry about it, son.'"
He ordered 700 yards of replacement sod overnight after Disco Demolition night in 1979 ("In 39 years, I've only had one day I wasn't happy to go to work and that was after Disco Demolition"), mowed the outfield grass on both sides of 35th Street, watched the Sox wear those shorts pants and today's near bell-bottoms, saw them win ugly in 1983 and lose ugly many other years but he's still waiting to paint a World Series logo behind home plate.