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The End of History… (Cubs ed.)

by Francis Fukuyama

 

In the course of watching Game 7 of the World Series, it was hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental was happening in world history. To read some of the recent articles posted after the game seems to point to the end of over a century’s worth of misery and the upcoming of spiritual “peace” throughout the hearts and minds of North Siders. Most of these analyses lack a certain macro-study of what is ultimately of merit and what is analytical rubbish, and thus laughably cursory.

And yet…

These articles nevertheless (poorly, by accident) point towards some grander conceptual apparatus at play, viewed through the praxis of the Cubs playoff run: first with the remnants of a once powerful San Francisco Giants team, then the tinseltown darlings Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally a revamped derelict named the Cleveland Indians that threatened the hopes and dreams of America’s Pastime with the apocalypse. But the beginning of the twentieth century has been bookended by the beginning of the twenty-first in very much the same fashion: the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

The triumph of Chicago, of the very idea of the North Side Cubbies, is not only evident in the final tally, the hoisting of the gold-clad trophy, or the deluge of tenth-rate bubbly, but it transcends into the highest form of Western excellence: consumer products. Lakeshore Drive Yuppies and Northwest Suburban Soccer Moms wearing T-shirts, caps, pajamas, and flags all doubled their original markups; post-college bros and dentists alike with their signed baseballs, bats, and jerseys for upwards to $4000; picture frames, bobbleheads, commemorative books or Blu-rays, you name it! found in Belmont as well as Boystown, or Albany, Norwood, and Lincoln Park, and “Go, Cubs! Go!” can be heard on radio waves all across the city; over $70 million dollars-worth of merchandise sold within the first full day alone from buyers all over the country (even the poor children of Laos, Sudan, Afghanistan, Honduras, Haiti, and more, who will wear the over-sized T-shirts intended for hulking adults paid exorbitant salaries so high the gap between the two is as imperceptible as the words “World Series Champions” and “Cleveland” or the beet-faced racist caricature smiling back at them, even these children are a sign of the overwhelming success of the Cubbies excellence).

What we maybe witnessing is not just the end of the century-plus epoch of misery for Cubs fans and thus the exuberance of fans and profiteers in an orgy of commodity exchange, but the millennium of peace and prosperity for all baseball fans at the behest of The Loveable [Winners] and ergo: THE END OF HISTORY.

I

Of course, the concept of the end of history is not original. No. It started over seventy years prior this essay with the deleterious Greek, William Sianis, and his filthy goat: Buckles. Upon being ejected from the World Series game in Wrigley Field on account of either his or his goat’s smell, he used his crypto-gypsy black magic (sacrificing Buckles outside the gates of the historic ballpark) to curse the Cubs, stating: “These Chicago Cubs, they ain’t gonna win. They’re a buncha bums. They ain’t gonna win the World Series. Because they insulted my goat. They ain’t never gonna win a World Series ever again, or my name ain’t William Sianis of 374 South Halsted Street! Mark my woods [sic]. It’s da end of history for d’em!”

Sianis was borrowing this concept of the end of history from a far superior German thinker: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich von Puff’n’Stuff Hegel: whose legacy has been tarnished a bit at the hands of Billy Goat-worshiping descendants of Sianis (and possibly closeted Satanists) who appropriated Hegel for their own anti-Cubbie rhetoric, he now has the misfortune of being seen mainly as a precursor of Sianis goat cursing.

However, there was a man from Wrigleyville who attempted to wrestle Hegel from the claws (or hooves) of the Goaters. He was Harry Carey, and he held a long and prosperous career as a baseball announcer for various clubs, including over a decade and  half with the Cubs until his death in 1998. One fateful day in fall, Carey made the astonishing claim: “…sure as God made green apples, the Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” he spoke of the key ingredients of their success that were already in place, even though the team had only finished in first place twice in a thirty-year period prior and achieved a winning record just five times in that span, went through twenty-two different managers, and would eventually lose ace pitcher Greg Maddux. To peers of Carey’s in 1991, comments calling for a new manager “maybe Jimmy Frey” (who had been fired five years previously) or “this is a veteran team, guys who are young but still are veteran,” must have seen like ramblings of a senile loon, trapped in a quixotic myopia that was the blind love of a perpetually tottering baseball club. To some now, he might seem prescient. But Carey was just a dogmatic Hegelian.

II

Hegel is key to understanding the Cubs triumph and the end of history.

To summarize Hegel’s idealist views in a few pithy sentences would be a disservice to the philosopher and only accentuate the intellectual pratfalls of this essay. But fuck it.

Hegel believed the “real” world could be impacted by the “ideal” world (not necessarily directly, but indirectly), so our historical consciouses guide our human action which influences world behaviors which influence our historical consciouses.

So, when Carey stated twenty-five years prior to the realization that the Cubs would win the World Series, he was merely speaking from the realm of consciousness that all Cubs fans had, and eventually that idea broke through the nebulous of ideas into the world of reality, bringing in the end of history.

III

“But,” some might ask, “are we really at the end of history?”

Well, are the Cubs the World Series champions? Can any other team in Major League Baseball win the 2016 World Series now? Can anyone buy merchandise that claims otherwise?

We need not ask every crackpot fanatic their answer to the above questions. It matters very little what supporters of the Colorado Rockies, or New York Yankees, San Diego Padres or Detroit Tigers have to say about matters for they are not important enough. No. We need only ask these questions from other like-minded Cubbies.

Previously, the two biggest challengers to Chicago Cubs world dominance were the St. Louis Cardinals and goat curses. But as 2016 has shown us, what we always knew would be the case from the start, the Cubs handled the Cardinals (starting back in the 2015 NLDS when they defeated them to advance to the NLCS, but then winning the head-to-head series in 2016 and finishing seventeen and a half games ahead of them in the Central Division), and eventually broke the back of the vicious curse (with the throw from Bryant to Rizzo to capture the last out of the season).

Some may point out the Cardinals were plagued by injuries, suspensions, and other setbacks, and in an already weak Central Division, the Cubs were able to move through an easy schedule, or that they benefitted from a Giants victory over the Mets (a team they had a combined record of 2-9 over the past eleven games) in the Wild Card game, or that if the Cleveland pitching staff and outfielders had not played with comical Little League bungling in Game 6 or were not overwhelmed by the weight of their own being Cleveland-ness in Game 7, the Cubs might not be World Series Champions, and others point out that there are particularly searing issues the clubhouse will have to face in the future (Chapman and Fowler might move on; Heyward was not the player they paid for; no team has won consecutive World Series championships since the New York Yankees at the turn of this century) to ensure the Chicago Cubs hegemony.

With all these accusations flying about like a cherished W, it is possible to forget a simple truth. In 1908, the Cubs won the World Series. The present world seems to have confirmed this fact and stayed relatively close to the fundamental principles that a baseball team should win the World Series, and even though it might have been 108 years between then and now before the Cubs won the championship again, no one can deny they did, in fact, win the World Series, thus not only breaking the curse but establishing the greatness and ubiquity of Cubbie-dom.

IV

What, then, does it mean to be at the end of history?

Ultimately, because the Cubs are World Series champions it means they will remain so for the foreseeable future and thus live at the end of history in their surfeit of celebratory goodies, parades, and glad tidings.

Clearly, teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Minnesota Twins still exist in the world, and thus in history, but for any team (or their fans) that want to experience the joy and wonder of being a champion, all they need to do is to stop being them and become a Chicago Cub.

Based off my connections with the front offices in Cleveland and even the South Side the intelligentsia is most likely already starting to make their moves northward.

V

The victory of the Cubs spells the death of the Billy Goat curse. Its passing means the growing “Common Cubbietization” of Major League Baseball, and the unlikely return of any other equal-measured competitor to rise from now till the Rapture.

This does not mean the end of all problems, per se, in Chicago. The river will still need to be dyed a natural color, Jay Cutler will still be the Bears quarterback, and millions of Chicagoans will continue to drink Old Style and eat a glorified bread bowl of meat, cheese, and red sauce they call “pizza”… which might compel one to wonder how significant a Cubs victory is, but… … …

Now and forever, the Cubs will remain the victors valiant, the heroes of the West(ern civilized world), there need not be another champion of the Major Leagues for there is no alternative now to the Chicago Cubs.

The end of history will be sad for many. The struggle for a new identity will be felt. Many Cubbies will have a hard time coming to terms with being winners. The willingness to get piss-drunk and risk arrest for a purely abstract goal of greatness by punching a Brewers fan in the face will be lost. The ethic of “Loveable Loserism”will be replaced by something less adhesive, some cold calculation of victory, an endless sea of championship paraphernalia.

All we will have to look forward to now is this boredom, and perhaps, one day, look back longingly at history.

Infinite City: Barker’s Pub on 67th and Underground (2016)

In that corner sits this guy, Vic or whatever, there every night, old dude, sixty-something, maybe worse, sits there in that beat-up wooden booth, the one with the mermaid carved into its face now stained black from the years of collected dirt, spilt drinks, greasy fingers, and panoply of other unknowns and forgottens, alongside her (Esmerelda some call her. Why? Who knows.) are dozens of different names of gals who apparently give great this or that, who have arrows that connect them to crude qualifiers: “slags” or “tarts” or whatever a “Hure” is, which are in the vicinity of other sordids: “fuck” “shit” “cocksucker””cunt” but surprisingly low on minority epithets (apparently in Barker’s the drunks and no-goods are rather disparaging, but maintain a general level of civility and order when considering the issues of race, religion, and orientation–or at least at that particular table), countless games of tic-tac-toe one scratched over the other, a couple swirling symbols, a yin-yang, and myriad indiscriminate etchings that criss-cross all over. Anyway, Vic sits there–no, Marv, it’s Marv–Marv usually sits there alone and remains silent. Goes to the bar, orders his drink: some kind of Mule or Twirler, Flip or Dog: and sits back down in his corner booth. Barely speaks to anyone. The most he says anything to is Paulie, the bartender, which is a surprise given Paulie is about as cordial as a bucket of piss, but it’s usually “How’s it going?” Paulie’ll grunt “Thanks,” he’ll say lifting the drink. Without fail. Every time you’re in here you’ll notice it.

Some say he was tortured in ‘Nam. Some say his wife literally castrated poor Marv before leaving him for good. Others think he’s just another ne’er-do-well. Most don’t think much of him at all.

Deloris thinks this is bullshit. She says so: “This is bullshit.” She’s pointing towards the television. Two anchors sit behind a plywood dais, the words: “Channel 5 Evening News” sprawled out across. Their mouths are moving, but the television is muted. Captions roll below: “…are 13, 25, 26, 40, 69… … … and 12 and we are already being informed that the winning numbers were purchased… … … at a local liquor store in Toppers’ Hill so someone is already having a very good night…” “Bullshit!” Deloris pounds the lacquered bar. “Aye!” Paulie shouts. Deloris tosses her tickets at him. “There’s your tip, Paulie. Goddamn waste.” Vic (this time it is Vic) pats her on the back. “Don’t worry, Lori. Take it easy.” Everyone calls her Lori. “I don’t even know why I try. Goddamned thing is rigged.” Vic nods his head. “Don’t worry about it. What can you do anyway?”

A few more drinks get ordered. The room starts to thin. The place is already pretty bare considering it is a Tuesday night.

Lori leans on Vic. A guy sits nearby and gets his glass filled by Paulie. Marv sits alone. A few other stragglers are about the bar or booths. Lori is still talking about the news of the lucky bastard who won in Toppers’ Hill. “It’s just not fair, you know. Damned thing is rigged.” “We know,” Vic consoles. “We know, you told us.” “It’s just not fair. Some pricks get it all.” “Hey now,” Vic says, “it’s good for that guy. We should be happy for him. Regardless. We still got our healths. That’s all that matters.” “Yeah… but $827 million dollars wouldn’t have hurt at all.” “I hear you.” “We all do,” Paulie bites. “Cram it,” Lori tells him. “I can kick you out.” “Oh shut it, Paulie, would ya?” Vic says. Feeling attitudes on the verge on mutiny, Paulie goes back to cleaning his steins. “Christ. Can you imagine winning that?” “I know, Lori. I know.” “I read somewhere about if someone were to win and split the money, everyone in the country could get something like six million.” “Oh wow. Is that true?” The guy sitting nearby, “That’s actually mathematically impossible.” Lori and Vic give him a glance. Then ignore him. “That’s a lot of money.” “That’s what I would do. I’d give a lot of it away.” “That’s nice.” “Well, because it’d help with the taxes, you see. Plus I’m not greedy.” “That’s very good of you, Lori. Very good.” “I betcha that scumbag in Posh Town won’t be givin’ it away. Goddamn unfair that some rich asshole gets all that money.” “That’s the way it goes, huh?” “If I had all that money. Man, if I had all that money,” Lori stares at the decades-old television perched above the shelves of liquor. The pale glow of the screen reflects off the glass bottles and casts the bar in faint sterilized day light. “Just think of it,” Vic agrees. Both start to picture their new selves experiencing all the beauty their affluence would garner. They now ascend the ranks, floating above the brick and mortars of their current dwellings, transcending all previous barriers (both real and feigned) to the steel and glass mile-highs of Posh Town in Toppers’ Hill. Oh the lives they would have! “Actually, you were right earlier,” the guy interjects again, crashing their reveries to the bar floor. “The odds are so stacked. Did you know more money was spent last year on tickets than all winnings combined since the invention in ’85? It’s such lies, man. They’re just trying to get us to believe we are partaking in the same system. But we’re not.” He quiets for a moment, stares at his drink. “It’s all a ruse.”

Vic looks at Lori. She back at him. “Who is this guy? Hey guy, who are you?”

“I have to take a leak,” the guy says.

Taking a piss out back because the one toilet is still broken, guy comes out from the back door, careful to make sure the chunk of brick keeps it wedged open. The alley smells rancid, days worth of human fluids hanging out back there. Apparently the street cleaners only get to this area every other week (or was it month–or never?). Best to just hold the breath for as long as possible, breath under the shirt, all the other techniques, try to focus the senses on something else. The guy is trying one of these when another blows through the door and slams into the opposite wall. The door shuts hard on both of them. “Shit.” The other wanders over to the guy, unzips, hauls it out, and pours. Exhales in relief as if he hadn’t done it in years. He turns his head to the guy, staring at him with this glazed indifference. The guy is trying to wrap it up as quickly and get back in. It’s cold out. The wind is blowing. The other one leans in and says sotto voce: “The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men.” The guy looks. It’s Marv. “Huh?” he says, stunned at the context of the moment. Marv stares at him, confused and saddened. Then he looks down. “Never mind. I pissed on my leg.” And he walks away. The guy is still standing there with his dick in his hand.