Since casinos first began accepting bets on sporting events, they haven’t yet had to pay out for a Cubs pennant or World Series winner. And yet, year after year, Cubs fans who find themselves in Vegas plunk down something on the off chance that maybe this will finally be the long-awaited Next Year. So far, it’s been a one-way stream of money for the casinos: money coming in from sad-sack Cubs fans, but never, ever going out to pay for what every Cubs fan wants to see.
Yes, the Cubs have won a few division titles over the years. But the thrill is clearly gone in that regard. A division title means nothing, unless it’s followed up by success in the postseason. And in this post-2005 world (when that other team in town has already won a title), that means only one thing. Is that fair? Probably not. But I’ve been a Cubs fan for thirty-five years and haven’t yet seen them play in the World Series. That’s certainly not fair, either.
I bring all this up because I opened up a birthday card from my in-laws this evening. My birthday is still a few days away, and I already have an idea for what to write on that day. It will be good, I hope. Inside the card was a bet slip, for $5.00 that the Cubs would win the World Series this year. The bet was apparently made in February, when optimism ruled the day. Theo was on board, Kerry Wood had been re-signed, and somebody would want Soriano, wouldn’t they?
And now it’s four months after the money changed hands at the Mirage sports book. Wood has retired, Soriano is still around, and none of Theo’s moves have paid off very well. That $5 bet slip is now just as worthless as can be. I could almost hear it laughing at me as I opened up the envelope. It was taunting me, sending out its vibes of failure and futility. Wait until Next Year, sucker.
But the casino took the bet, and why not? They might have to pay out for an Angels win, or an Indians win, or a win by almost any other team in the majors. But the Cubs are a different story. They can set the odds as low as they want to, and it won’t deter Cubs fans from making the same bet again Next Year. Next Year is all we have, and the casinos know this better than anyone else.
The Cubs lost again tonight, drawing them ever closer to the first DoubleTriple in professional sports history. Rather than getting too upset about it, I will highlight this bet, instead. It was made not out of common sense, but out of hope. And yes, that hope turned out to be as fleeting as Marlon Byrd on the Cubs’ roster this year, but what else is new? There’s always Next Year, after all.