In 1934, a plucky Greek immigrant named William Sianis bought the Lincoln Tavern in Chicago, Illinois for two hundred and five dollars. Foreshadowing the modern Greek financial situation, his check promptly bounced. But he made good, retaining ownership of the establishment by repaying the bank with the proceeds from the first weekend he was open, under the bar’s new name, The Billy Goat Tavern.
William “Billy Goat” Sianis was many things. He was a bar owner, a bartender, a pretty kick-ass nickname haver, a check bouncer, a purveyor of marginal cheeseburgers, an actual Billy goat owner, a marketing genius, and a visionary with the foresight to petition for the first liquor license on the moon, just in case any passing astronauts needed a burger and a beer. He was a man with a dream.
Unfortunately for the Chicago Cubs, Billy Sianis was apparently also a wizard. An evil, sports curse-applying wizard.
In game four of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field, Sianis and his pet Billy goat, Murphy, were ejected from the stadium due to Murphy’s foul stench. Since Murphy was a bar mascot, I would have to assume that he existed, like Sianis, on a strict diet of pickled eggs, greasy cheeseburgers, and beer. Hence the odor.
Also, like Sianis, I have to assume the goat was an angry drunk. History does not tell us how many twelve-dollar Miller Lites Billy and Murphy consumed that day, or how many Cubs executives Murphy rammed on his way out of the stadium that day, but we do know what Billy said to them. The very disgruntled goat owner hexed the entire organization as he and Murphy were being unceremoniously escorted from Wrigley Field.
“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”
The curse heard around the world.
Now, if you were a Cubs fan there on that fateful day when your Cubbies were up 2-1 in the series, you may have just shrugged it off as the rantings of a drunken, smelly tavern owner who was callous enough to bring drunken, smelly livestock to box seats at a baseball game.
And when the Cubs then blew the lead and lost the series four games to three, you may not have made the connection, chalking it up to bad luck.
But in the year 2015, when your beloved Cubbies haven’t won a World Series in a hundred and seven years, and have failed to even win a pennant and get into another World Series since that fateful goat-cursed year of 1945 - seventy years later - you simply can’t deny the wicked sorcery behind old Billy’s curse.
Many attempts to reverse the curse have been made by the desperate Cubs’ faithful over the years. Sam Sianis, Billy’s nephew, has walked a goat out onto Wrigley Field more than a few times in hopes of canceling out the bad juju.
A Greek Orthodox priest has sprayed holy water in the Cubs dugout, and multiple priests over the years have blessed the field, the dugout, and the entire stadium, to no avail.
Goats have sacrificed and been sacrificed in the effort as well. Two poor goats were made to travel all across the country – one even being made to walk all the way from Arizona to Chicago – in attempts to reverse the curse. If those goats thought they had it bad, the ones that have been killed and unceremoniously hung from a statue at Wrigley Field over the years would argue differently. Cubs fans take their baseball seriously.
My second favorite, albeit unsuccessful, attempt to break the curse of the Billy goat took place in September of last year when - and I’m not making this up - five guys ate an entire forty-pound goat in thirteen minutes at the undoubtedly five-star-rated Chicago eatery, Taco in a Bag. No one combines superstition with food and awesome restaurant names better than Cubs fans.
None of those perfectly sane curse reversal tactics worked, but this year they may have found the most powerful (and certainly my favorite) reversal magic yet - in the form of a T-shirt.
Here are the important elements of the scene:
- Legendary funnyman Bill Murray was the star of Ghostbusters, arguably the best movie about three college professors from New York starting a private business to catch ghosts that was ever made between 1983 and 1985.
- Bill Murray was born in Evanston, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago if you look at the map from really far away. He is a lifelong Cubs fan, and since he was born in 1950, he’s been subject to the curse his entire life.
- The art for the Ghostbusters movie poster was a cartoon ghost captured inside the international “no” symbol – the red circle with a diagonal line.
- The movie’s amazingly synthesized hit theme song by Ray Parker Jr. – who literally made an entire musical career out of that ONE AND ONLY song – has the famous line, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”
Now the stage is set. The 2016 Cubs are the winningest team in the baseball regular season. But they are facing my San Francisco Giants, a team that always wins the World Series in even years, if “always” is defined as “since 2010.” The Giants don’t have a curse, we have magic. Even year magic. We were all #beliEVEN. Until last night.
Last night the Giants inexplicably blew a three-run lead in the top of the ninth, as the Cubs pulled off the biggest ninth-inning come-from-behind rally in a postseason clinch game in the entire history of Major League Baseball. That not-so-small feat got them past my Giants and moving on to play for the National League pennant. If they can secure that, they’ll be in a World Series again. They certainly look good to do it.
I love the Giants, and I don’t care one way or the other about the Cubs, but if my Giants had to lose their even year magic, I certainly hope it was a result of the Billy goat curse finally being lifted. No baseball team or its fans deserve what the Cubs have gone through the last one hundred and eight years. Except for the Dodgers, obviously. The Dodgers deserve much worse.
The curse reversal magic that is probably making all of this possible? That comes in the form of a T-shirt that Bill Murray wore to the Cubs/Giants games at Wrigley Field. It was the Ghostbusters poster art, but the cartoon ghost was replaced by a cartoon goat, and the tagline underneath read, “I ain’t afraid of no goat.”
Think about how awesome that is for a second. Bill Murray from Chicago wearing a shirt referencing a Billy goat named Murphy, coopting the tagline and poster art from one of the best movies that he himself was ever in, to put a quadruple reverse hex on the curse.
If that is not simply the best sports curse/classic movie/comedic genius movie star T-shirt pun that has ever happened, I don’t know what is. That kind of comedy has powerful magic. Let’s hope it’s powerful enough. At least for the sake of my Giants, and all the unsuspecting goats in the greater Chicago area.
We will see soon enough, but for now, I think if we’ve learned anything here, it’s these three things:
1) Bill Murray is a national treasure.
2) People from Chicago are weird.
3) Never insult a wizard with a goat at a World Series game. Ever. No matter how drunk or smelly either happen to be.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen
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