SHARUKO ON SATURDAY
IF you are an underdog, like our beloved Warriors, a neutral fascinated by the romance of a Cinderella tale or a fan of a team burdened by years of underachievement to the extent failure has become part of the DNA of that love affair, you certainly can’t resist the magic of the year 2016.
Leicester City defying 5000-1 odds this year to become champions of English football, the Cronulla Sharks ending 50 years of waiting to become Australian rugby league champions, the Western Bulldogs overcoming the weight of 62-years of failure and a raft of injuries to win the Aussie Rules football championship.
Golfer Danny Willet almost missing the Masters to be with his wife in England as they expected their first child, arriving at Augusta National at the last minute, battered by jet lag and somehow winning this year’s first golf Major title, after favourite Jordan Spieth self-destructed in the final stretch, including giving up six shots in four holes.
Or all the four golf Major championships this year, the Masters (won by Willet), the US Open (won by Dustin Johnson), the British Open (won by Henrik Stenson) and the US PGA (won by Jimmy Walker), all being won by golfers winning their first Major championship.
And, of course, the United States golfers this year ending eight years of European dominance to win the Ryder Cup, only their second triumph since the turn of the millennium.
This week, tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets of Bangladesh cities to celebrate the country’s FIRST victory over England in a Test match, ending a nine-match losing streak at the hands of the English since they began playing against each other in the longer format of the game.
Angelique Kerber and Garbin Muguruza both won their first Grand Slam titles in tennis this year and their breakthrough victories both coming at the expense of American superstar Serena Williams at the Australian and French Open.
The Cleveland Cavaliers stormed back from a 1-3 deficit, in the NBA finals, to win the last three games to beat defending champions Golden State Warriors for the franchise’s first basketball title in history and in the process, ending the city’s 52-year wait for a major sporting title across all disciplines with an estimated 1,3 million people attending the Cavs’ trophy parade.
But, the greatest tale of them all came on Wednesday night in the United States, a country that has been poisoned by the toxicity of the politics of a deeply divisive Presidential election race, when the Cubs ended 108 years of waiting to win baseball’s World Series after a dramatic Game Seven triumph over the Cleveland Indians.
If you are not a baseball fan and I know many of you who read this blog are football fanatics, don’t worry, this isn’t really about that game which looks like raka-raka, which we used to play as kids in our years of innocence.
In case you don’t know, a baseball has 108 stitches and for the Cubs, it took exactly 108 years to win the World Series.
It’s just a fascinating story of a sporting franchise finally winning the World Series after 108 years that had tested the love, support and patience of its fans in a city whose basketball team, the Chicago Bulls, have fallen from the grace of winning six NBA titles, thanks to the brilliance of Michael Jordan, with the Bulls’ last title coming in 1998.
But, it all ended on Wednesday night as the Cubs became the first team to overturn a 1-3 deficit in the World Series since 1985.
CURSE OF THE BILLY GOAT AND THAT VERY FRIGHTENING TWEET
As the Cubs waited, for more than a century, for the championship that seemingly would never come, some people even claimed the club was bewitched by the Curse of the Billy Goat.
Well, back in 1945, Billy Goat Tarven owner William Sianis was asked to leave the Cubs’ home ground, Wrigley Field, during Game 4 of that year’s World Series because other fans were unhappy with the odour of his pet goat which he used to bring as his companion to the ground.
Outraged by his treatment by the club he loved and rejection by his fellow fans, Sianis told them “THEM CLUBS, THEY AREN’T GONNA WIN NO MORE,” and they didn’t only lose that 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers, but they didn’t win another championship again, despite coming close on a number of occasions, until they ended that miserable run this year.
A number of fans and seasoned commentators, actually blamed it on the Curse of the Billy Goat for the club’s misery.
And, when it comes to the Cubs, the script is never ordinary and some will even say the team’s success story, after 108 years, was something written in the stars and, two years ago, someone who goes by the Twitter name @RayFanGio predicted on Twitter that the Cubs will finally win the World Series this year.
He, assuming he was male, even correctly predicted the Cubs will play the Indians in the final.
Interestingly, his prediction also correctly predicted the events that unfolded on Wednesday night — the fact that this World Series showdown would go into a Game Seven decider, the Cleveland comeback, the rain delay and the extra inning.
“2016 WORLD SERIES. CUBS vs INDIANS,” the tweet read. “AND THEN THE WORLD WILL END WITH THE SCORE TIED IN GAME SEVEN IN EXTRA INNINGS #APOCALYPSE.”
As the extra-ordinary events of Wednesday night unfolded, that tweet was re-tweeted more than 150 000 times with a huge global constituency even fearing the world would come to an end.
Of course, the world didn’t end.
But, just hold on, it’s worth noting that the last time the Cubs won the World Series in 1908, like they did on Wednesday night, America was electing its President and with incumbent Theodore Roosevelt having declined to run for a third term before the two-term limit came into effect, it paved the way for the nomination of eventual winner William Howard Taft.
Hillary Clinton and her supporters will be hoping the Cubs’ triumph isn’t a bad omen given that the last time the club won the World Series, a Republican won the battle to the White House.
Just hours after the Cubs sealed their triumph, United States President Barack Obama told a campaign rally in North Carolina that the future of the world was at risk if Donald Trump wins the race to the White House next week.
“The fate of the world is teetering,” he said. “And you, North Carolina, are going to have to make sure that we push it in the right direction.”
And Trump believes a Clinton victory will start World War III which, effectively, will mean the end of the world as we know it.
“You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” Trump told his supporters. “You’re not fighting Syria any more — you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right?”
Well, so, either way, it appears, that frightening tweet about the Cubs winning baseball’s World Series this year, after 108 years (which has come to pass), beating the Indians (which has come to pass), in Game Seven of the contest (which has come to pass), in an extra innings (which has come to pass), could also be right about its predictions that this is apocalyptic and the world will soon come to an end.
WHY THE CUBS REMIND ME OF MY BELOVED WARRIORS
The Cubs fans, just like those who support the Warriors, have had very little to celebrate for a long time, but incredibly, that hasn’t destroyed the special bond that exists between the supporters and their beloved team and the more the two teams have under-achieved, it appears, the stronger the bond has become.
For how do you explain that a Cubs team, which didn’t win a World Series title for 108 years, still had the drawing power to bring in not fewer than 32 000 fans for their home games, on average, since 1997, standing toe-to-toe, in terms of a support base with giants and serial winners like the New York Yankees, Dodgers and the Cardinals?
How do you explain the outpouring of support for the Warriors, given their history of under-achievement with only two Nations Cup finals appearances in 36 years and a third one on the way, they still draw more than 40 000 fans, on average, to their home matches and, at one stage, used to regularly fill the 60 000 capacity National Sports Stadium and in terms of numbers who come to the ground, were the best supported team on the continent?
The Cubs, given their popularity, are the only major baseball team with a long waiting list of fans who want to buy season tickets — even when they have been winning nothing for over a century — and given the huge demand, the club’s leadership have been cashing in on that and at about $51,33, they are the most expensive tickets in the league where the average is $20.
The Warriors’ fans still pay a little fortune, usually $5 for the cheapest ticket and as much as $50 to $100 for the VVIP tickets, to watch a team that usually fails to deliver, on the international front and has only two Nations Cup appearances and a third one on the way, to show for their troubles.
Our neighbours in South Africa — whose Bafana Bafana won the Nations Cup once, have come second once, come third once and have played at the World Cup finals three times — were outraged when the cheapest ticket was pegged at R80, about $4,70 and voted with their pockets by not going to watch the team in numbers.
The Cubs, interestingly, were the most profitable team in major league baseball four years ago, earning $32 million, even when that season they finished last with 101 losses.
The Warriors might not be the richest team on the continent, let alone in the region and that they were expelled from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers because their leaders failed to pay about $60 000 needed to offset the debt owed to former coach Valinhos illustrates their financial challenges, but what they lack in financial weight they make up for it in the boundless passion they generate among the people who believe in them.
And, in the year when perennial under-achievers like the Cubs and lightweights like Iceland have flexed their muscles, the Warriors have ended 10 years of waiting for a place at the Nations Cup finals and if this is the season of the underdogs, then we don’t have anything to fear when we take on the ultimate heavyweights — Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia — in Gabon.
The winds of change have swept across sport’s landscape, the Mighty Warriors played at the Olympics for the first time, why then should we tremble simply because we are about to take on the giants of African football?
Little Iceland didn’t and a country with just about 330 000 people, was rewarded with a victory over England and a place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, Portugal — the poorest country in Western Europe — didn’t and after years of under-achievement, they were rewarded with success at Euro 2016, even without Cristiano Ronaldo in the final against France and the Cubs didn’t and even after 108 years, they finally won the World Series.
The Cubs exorcised the curse of Billy the Goat and while Sunday Chidzambwa and Peter Ndlovu exorcised Ben Kouffie’s curse that, even if we hire a coach from the moon we would never succeed, by qualifying for the Nations Cup finals in 2003 and everywhere we cast our eyes, we can see stories — like the Cubs’ fairytale — which should provide us with the inspiration to take on the Goliaths of African football.
After all, Highlanders beat Dynamos in the league for the first time in 10 years and for good measure, completed a double over them, CAPS United beat the Glamour Boys in the league for the first time in seven years, a player about to turn 35 could be crowned Soccer Star of the Year and after 11 years of waiting, the Green Machine could be champions again.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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