I’m not much of a Cubs fan, so you tell me. Is this the worst moment in Cub history?
Moments in history are forks in time and space — subtle changes, slightly different choices can have profound, unpredictable results. Tonight, a Cubs fan snatched a crucial second out from the glove of left fielder Moises Alou. But if Alou had caught the ball, and Castillo had put some pine under his butt instead of first base under his feet (via a walk), would the Cubs have avoided a disastrous 8-run inning? If these blue-cap wearing fans along the left-field line had fought every ball-hungry instinct in their body and recoiled rather than reached for that little white orb of cowhide and yarn, would Cub fans the world over be celebrating a trip to the World Series tonight? If the people in those nice box seats were not also souvenir hounds by breeding, would more than a half-century of frustration been erased?
We have no way of knowing.
The pragmatists will argue that Mark Prior had every opportunity to get Luis Castillo out after the play, but failed. Or that it was clear that Prior was tiring, that his location was slipping and his curve ball had gone flat, and one moment in the game was not the real harbinger of doom. Maybe Dusty Baker should have lifted Prior sooner. How would things be different if not for a fielding error by Alex S. Gonzalez?
We’ll never know the answer to those questions either.
It’s clear, though, that a few fans doing what fans do naturally will become the moment in history no Cub fan ever forgets. The only way these fans will be saved from infamy is if the Cubs win tomorrow night. Otherwise these fans become the Bill Buckners, the Donnie Moores and the Fred Merkles of the 21st Century.
My sympathy is with these fans tonight, and all Cubs fans everywhere.