2003 will not leave me alone

There was an Alex Gonzalez playing shortstop at Wrigley Field tonight. No, not the Alex Gonzalez who was the Cubs shortstop in 2003. He was the one who booted a double play ball, and opened up the floodgates that washed away the World Series dreams of me and millions of Cubs fans. If he had made the play cleanly, it’s entirely possible that we’d never even have learned that fan’s identity (and I can’t bring myself to say the name here, but you know who it is). That whole incident could have been an amusing bump on the road to the World Series. But it was not to be.

The Alex Gonzalez playing shortstop for the Braves tonight was actually the other Alex Gonzalez, who played for the Florida Marlins that year. Both teams in that series had a shortstop named Alex Gonzalez. I suppose I had blocked that out of my mind until tonight. I googled his name when I heard it tonight, to make sure that it wasn’t the former Cubs’ Gonzalez on the field. It was a relief to learn that it wasn’t actually him.

Nearly eight years after that fateful series, I still can’t seem to shake its painful memories. ESPN will be airing a documentary about that unfortunate fan, and it has come out that two of the Cubs players in 2003–Moises Alou and Aramis Ramirez–booked flights home to the Dominican Republic after the loss in Game 6. I knew that it was over before Game 7 was played–and I think a lot of others knew it too–but to hear that the players also knew it was very unsettling. At least play the game first, and if you lose, then you buy the ticket home. That’s how I would do it, anyway.

It’s now been 66 years since the Cubs even played in the World Series. Anyone alive who can remember it is now collecting Social Security and hoping they will live to see the Cubs in the World Series again. Some Cubs fans, like Steve Goodman, who wrote “Go Cubs Go” and “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” lived their whole lives and never saw their team in the World Series. Cubs fans like this are dying off every year, with the one thing they wanted having been denied them. And the Florida Marlins have already won it twice. It’s difficult to think about sometimes.

I know that I’ll watch the documentary when it’s shown on ESPN. I should either avoid it if I can’t deal with what happened, or make my peace with it and move on with my life. Perhaps the only way to truly expunge these feelings is to see the Cubs to win the whole thing. After all, Bill Buckner’s standing in Boston has now been restored for that very reason. And I’d like to think that the Cubs can also win in my lifetime. My optimism about many other things in life should carry over to my baseball team too, shouldn’t it?

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