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National

Cubs Break 'Curse': Two Losing Teams Put On A Winning World Series

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I've held myself back as long as I possibly can. It's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Chicago River - cubby blue today. The Cubs and the Indians were the most watched World Series in a generation. The two most losing teams put on the most winning show. Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Oh, that's the voice of a winner, Scott Simon. Congratulations.

SIMON: Oh, yeah.

BRYANT: We've had this - been having this conversation since February - since spring training. Think like a winner, and now you are one.

SIMON: You predicted that the Cubs would prevail, and I had my lifelong Cubby fan anxiety about that.

BRYANT: Yeah. And there was - there was reason for it obviously because anxiety is irrational. But it's also something when you're - when you're a - when you're a fan, this is part of the - it's part of the game.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: But the Chicago Cubs, plain and simple, were the best team from start to finish this season. They were probably the best team in the league last year or getting close to it. You knew when they got swept by the Mets at the end of last season that this season was going to be different, that they were going to play with a purpose. They were going to play as frontrunners, as champions do. And at the end of the day, in addition to them finally finishing the deal after 108 years, baseball fans got one of the best World Series that they could have possibly had. It was a tremendous, tremendous series.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: Even though the Indians didn't win, I think it's going to be one of those series that was so good, almost like 2001 - the Yankees and the Diamondbacks - so good that the winners will remember who won, but nobody will be remembered as a loser.

SIMON: Yeah. I - that's true. The Indians played so valiantly and could have won at any moment and almost did, which brings this up. Five million people turned out to see the Cubs yesterday - 5 million. And, of course, they lauded Joe Maddon, the manager, but did Joe almost make what might have been an epic Cubby mistake in his use of Aroldis Chapman as closer?

BRYANT: Well, I think he did. And I think what was fascinating about all of that is that we think about these managers as infallible, as immune to the pressure. They're just as human as everybody else in these moments. And I think one of the great things about the sport itself, when you have that much pressure - baseball always reminds me of a - of a Western, my favorite genre of movie, in that nothing happens until something happens. And when you've got to make a decision, all of a sudden, everybody's watching. You can sit and watch the game, and you think it's boring, and nothing's going on. And then, all of a sudden, when all hell breaks loose, now we're wondering - how come you didn't keep your head? Or we laud the ones that do.

And I think it's just a fascinating story, in general, when you watch the Cubs. And the Cubs winning the championship obviously, to me, was finally an example of the organization going out and trying to win. And that includes going out and getting Joe Maddon...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Because once again, the managers, you had Dusty Baker and you had Lou Piniella and you've got Joe Maddon. You've got really, really good managers, and you put them together now with great players. And, gee, look at the result.

SIMON: I thought Joe made a veiled reference to the whole idea that he had overworked Aroldis Chapman yesterday at the rally in Grant Park when he said, you know, guys, in the end, the game belongs to the players.

BRYANT: Well, absolutely. The game belongs to the players, but it also belongs to the fans. And I think that one of the things that baseball - that always drives me crazy about baseball - is how much time it spends trying to be the NFL in not recognizing the thing that the NFL cannot compete with. Whenever you have these types of victories, whether it was the Phillies in 1980, whether - you know, they hadn't won in a hundred years when it was the Reds - when it was the Red Sox in 19 - in 2004 and the White Sox in 2005 - it's this caring. It's this connection to families. And when you have those 5 million people come out, what are they talking about? They're talking about their lives - baseball is the wallpaper to their lives - and connecting to grandparents and mothers and fathers, watching the game. And this is something that no other sport can compete with. It does pull you back generations, and it really is all about - at the end of the day, it's all about people, as it always is.

SIMON: Yeah. And, Howard, we hold a thought today for Darel Sterner a barber in West Liberty, Iowa - 85. We're told (laughter) that this week, he went to his eternal reward right after hearing that the Cubs had won the World Series. Howard Bryant, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.