By Michael Battista
After the crazy ride that was Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, my father and I were finishing a conversation we had been having throughout that entire day. He wanted the Cleveland Indians to win because he felt if Chicago won, the Cubs would lose some of their appeal as the Lovable Losers.
As he texted me at 12:53 that morning: “they r not the cubbies anymore.”
While I see what he means, he should understand the feeling of wanting success after failure, especially since he’s been a New York Rangers fan for decades. For me, growing up a Rangers fan born in 1996, I can’t help but feel an understanding to the plight of Chicago Cubs fans going into the playoffs this year, as well.
Rangers have historically held the longest Stanley Cup drought with a 54-year gap between 1940 and 1994. People like my father grew up as Ranger fans seeing the team make it to the playoffs, and sometimes make it to the Cup — for my father, this happened two times in 1972 and 1979 — only to see them fall.
The Cubs made it to the playoffs a few times in their 108-year drought, but weren’t able to make it to another World Series for 71 years after 1945. Those fans endured year after year, heartbreak after heartbreak, only to hear the phrase, “Wait till next year.”
Waiting until next year sucks, especially when your neighbors take the top spot in your wake.
Chicago may have forgotten in all their Cub celebrations, but the Chicago White Sox were able to bring a World Series to the Windy City not once, but twice — 1917 and 2005 — since the Cubs last won in 1908. Imagine a Cubs fan in 2005, only two years after the infamous 2003 National League Championship Series, seeing your crosstown rival hold up the trophy your team couldn’t have.
The Rangers had to witness the pinnacle of New York Islander hockey in the early 1980s as the team brought four Stanley Cups to the island borough between 1980 and 1983. Their fans, who only had to wait eight years before they won a cup, chanted “1940” whenever they played the Rangers because they felt like gloating. To this day, my father will never be happy if the Islanders are in the playoffs or doing well.
I’m not trying to say the Rangers had to deal with more misery, but there are similarities, especially in how the misery came to an end.
Both championship series came down to two teams with little success to their name, with the Cubs and Indians totalling 176 years of playoff misery and the 1994 Stanley Cup pitting the 1940 cursed Rangers against a Vancouver Canuck team that, since its inception in 1970, had never, and still hasn’t, won its first Stanley Cup.
Both finals had back and forth series, both went to a deciding Game 7 and both were decided by just a single point differential. In my opinion, both games are some of the greatest playoff games in the history of their respective sports.
For me, these stories of the triumph of the 1994 Rangers are just that — stories. I’m still waiting for my chance to see my team raise the trophy instead of a crosstown rival — thanks Devils.
But for people like my dad who had years of heartbreak end in one night as confetti rained down from Madison Square Garden, it felt like redemption.
This is what Cubs fans feel. Late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray said, “Sure as God made green apples, someday, the Chicago Cubs are gonna be in the World Series,” but he never got to see that. Generations of fans didn’t get to see that.
But finally, like God made green apples, it happened. I hope, and I’m pretty sure in his heart, my dad understands that.
When the clock struck zero on June 14, 1994, Sam Rosen famously called, “The waiting is over — the New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup Champions! And this one will last a lifetime!”
And for Cubs fans, so will Wednesday, Nov. 2. For Cubs fans, a famous sign held up during the 1994 Stanley Cup celebration will ring true.
“Now I can die in peace.”