The San Francisco Giants were eliminated from the 2016 postseason despite this being an even year. Despite fans claiming there was “Even Year Magic” and that the Giants were destined to win every other year, the Giants magic was finally revealed as just another trick.
This isn’t new. In 2002, Anaheim Angels fans believed in the “Rally Monkey.” For 86 years, the Boston Red Sox fans believed in “The Curse of the Bambino,” and for the last 71 years, Chicago Cubs fans have heard about “The Curse of the Billy Goat.” On a side note, Bill Murray, a lifelong Cubs fan, is one of many who don’t believe in that curse anymore as was made clear at Wrigley Field during the National League Division Series in the form of a classic T-Shirt.
Bill Murray “ain’t afraid of no goats” — https://t.co/8cYAvIkJJo#Cubs #CubsTalk pic.twitter.com/piswBGKtFw
— CSN Chicago (@CSNChicago) October 8, 2016
So why do fans torture themselves with these superstitions? Because as diehard fans, we need to justify why things are happening. It is easier to think that a team is cursed or that a team is destined for their success. It is much harder to face reality that a fan’s team just isn’t good enough or that their team made too many mistakes to win.
No matter what we believe, no matter what the players on the field believe, and no matter what anyone thinks, sports aren’t prewritten. There is no Hollywood script that has predetermined the outcome. Regardless of the decision a manager makes or the pitch a pitcher decides to throw or the approach a hitter takes to the plate, anything can happen.
You hear cliches all the time for why a team wins or loses. “It just wasn’t our night” or “they just seem to catch all the breaks” or “it just wasn’t meant to be.”
These cliches are cliches in the first place because of how often players use them as excuses for coming up short in big games. More importantly, they are coping mechanisms in the heat of the moment to deal with an unfair reality. That reality is that no matter how hard you’ve worked and no matter how badly you want something, you still might come up short.
That is what makes sports so great and also what makes sports so heart-wrenching. We love sports for their unpredictability and for their excitement. However, that comes at a price of pain and suffering for teams and for fans that come up short.
Yes, the Giants won World Series championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Yes, they made the postseason once again in 2016. Yes, a man with 31 career home runs who would not have started had the Giants’ everyday third baseman been healthy became just the next postseason hero in a long line of postseason heroes for the Giants. Every even year, a relative unknown seems to have all his best games in October for the Giants and none of them had the same level of success in any other year of their career. As he tripled in Game 3, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Conor Gillaspie was just the next October legend for the Giants. And yet, despite another unlikely hot bat in yet another even year, the even-year magic became just an illusion like we all knew it was.
The Chicago Cubs had different plans and outplayed the Giants in the best-of-five series. The Cubs are moving on to the National League Championship Series and many Giants fans woke up Wednesday morning confused as to how their team could lose in an even year. The number one reason is they were facing a 103- win Cubs team that was better than they were. They had a better lineup with a better defense and a pitching staff that was up to the challenge. They were better in all three phases of the game. And yet, instead of a sweep like in each of the American League Division Series, the Giants lost by a single run in two of the three games, the last of which saw them have a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning. The Giants could have easily forced a deciding fifth game, and for Cubs fans who have seen heartbreak for 108 straight seasons, that would have been just more cruel and unusual punishment. They even would have some personal context as the 1984 Cubs had the same thing happen to them in the playoffs.
The Cubs were the better team, and when you play in a five- or seven-game series, the better team usually wins. It doesn’t always happen, and the even year Giants had made a habit of beating the better teams. They had made such a habit of it that they set a major-league record for winning 10 games in a row in elimination games. Since 2012, the Giants had not lost in an elimination game, and Game 4 of the NLDS seemed like 11.
But now, the even year narrative is gone and the Giants head into an offseason with holes to fill and what-ifs to ponder over. Fans knew the even-year thing wasn’t real. They knew it wasn’t real because the team didn’t make the playoffs in 2008, 2006, or 2004 and lost in the World Series in 2002. For 52 years, no San Francisco Giants team had ever won a championship, and during the 2010 World Series parade in the streets of San Francisco, nobody mentioned anything about it being an even year.
As fans, we get invested in our favorite teams and we figuratively live and die with the results. Now that the Giants and Red Sox have been eliminated, we are guaranteed to see a fan base see a World Series drought finally end. The Toronto Blue Jays have had the most recent success, winning back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993. The Los Angeles Dodgers last won in 1988. The Cleveland Indians last won in 1948, and the Cubs’ drought has been well documented.
As we see the next champion crowned, we might hear fans talk about a superstition that worked or something the players did all year and that will bleed into next season as a rallying cry for the next pursuit of a championship. It is only natural. As fans, we prefer to justify our anger and our passions to try and make sense of our love for our teams. And when we finally win after decades or even a century of torture, we want to try and do all the same things we did last time to repeat that success. Unfortunately, for 29 teams every season, the last game usually ends in disappointment.
But I think it cam be summed up best by Noah Syndergaard, whose message after a gut-wrenching Wild Card game loss says everything about why we love the game and why losing on the biggest stages hurts so much.
Baseball has a way of ripping your ❤️ out, stabbing it, putting it back in your chest, then healing itself just in time for Spring Training.
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) October 6, 2016