<
>

Next 100 years offer no hope for Cubs

As Major League Baseball celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Sony/Time-Warner/Fox/Geiko Global Championships Sponsored by Microsoft with Funding from the Northern California State Lottery (better known as the old STWFGGCSMFNCSL, or as baseball purists stubbornly insist on calling it, "the World Series''), there is one team that is less excited than the others.

The Chicago Cubs.

Their "World Series'' drought is at 158 years -- they haven't played in it since the end of WWII, two entire world wars ago -- and Cubs fans still blame their misery on the Billy Sianis billy-goat curse,* as well as the poor guy who interfered with a foul ball for their near-miss in 2003.

In fact, it has been a Cubs tradition for decades to egg the south Florida home of 126-year-old Steve Bartman each opening day.

"You know, I thought it was a great thing when they developed the immortality pill in the 2020s,'' Bartman said. "But I never would have gone to the trouble of convincing my HMO that I needed it if I knew living forever would also mean listening to those pathetic losers for the rest of my life.''

What makes the Cubs plight especially sad is that the postseason has changed to a 64-team tournament and they still haven't reached the final. The 130 major league teams now play all over the world, in as many distant locales as Asia, South America and New Halliburton (formerly known as Iraq). Even though old-timers complain that expansion has diluted the quality of baseball overall (they say there is never enough pitching), the Cubs have been unable to reach their ultimate goal.

Heck, even the loveable New York Yankees, the longtime doormat of the American League Central Northeast Division, have been to the "World Series'' as recently as 66 years ago.

But not the Cubs. Every year when the 154-game regular-season schedule runs down in mid-September, fans gather to watch the tournament selection ceremony at the Cubby Bear Bar (one of the few bars to stay in business after smoking, drinking, eating, listening to loud music or speaking above a whisper were banned by law from public areas). On those rare occasions when the Cubs actually receive a tournament bid, they are seeded so low in the toughest bracket that they're usually eliminated by early to mid-October, weeks before the finale.

Oh, there were a couple of close calls. There was the 2031 season when the Cubs had the best record in baseball, but the World Series was canceled due to the hugely unpopular agents strike. And then there was 2057 when the Cubs again had the best record only to have the entire postseason cancelled due to global flooding after the polar ice caps melted.

The worst moment of all, however, was in 2074 when the Cubs actually won the pennant but had the "World Series'' canceled after the J-Lo3147 asteroid struck the earth, knocking out the earth's power grid and rendering the QuesTec mechanical umpires inoperable.

Other than that, it's just been a long miserable 158 years of misery.

"If only we could get to the big dance in Minnesota just once,'' Ballard High School basketball coach Sammy Lepse III said. "It would make my great, great grandfather so happy.''

Minnesota has been the official host of the "World Series'' since global warming gave that state the world's best winter climate. Just as they do every year, fans will pack the venerable Metrodome this week for the December Classic. Most will be rooting against the team viewed as baseball's Evil Empire, the dynasty that has won the "World Series'' more times than anyone else, the franchise whose very name has come to mean global domination.

The Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox ended their own "World Series'' curse in 2035 when center fielder Johnny Damon-Affleck and Jennifer Hamm-Garciaparra, the major league's first woman All-Star, arrived in Boston. Of course, the Sox dynasty truly began when they acquired exclusive rights to the celebrated Ted Williams DNA. Fielding an entire team of clones each season, the Sox have won 58 of the past 84 championships.

With batting champ Ted Williams (who hit .406) leading the offense, shortstop Ted Williams anchoring the best defense in the majors and with baseball's best eight-man rotation of Ted Williams, Ted Williams, Ted Williams, Ted Williams, Ted Williams, Ted Williams, Ted Williams and Jesse Orosco, the Sox are overwhelming favorites to win again.

But the Expos, still playing each game on the road while searching for a buyer, are going to give them stiff competition. Staff ace Darren Baker is 104 years old, but he has been nearly unhittable since he underwent Dontrelle Willis Surgery and had both of the Hall of Famer's arms attached to his body.

Whoever wins, it should be a great series, even with the inconvenient afternoon starting times.

Of course, Chicago fans might disagree.

"Actually, being vilified by Cubs fans isn't that bad, really,'' Bartman said. "I mean, I don't like going out of the house much anymore anyway since the ozone layer disappeared.''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

(* -- now extinct, the goat was once a semi-domesticated farm animal)