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Goat-to guys aren’t what Cubs franchise needs

P.J. Fisher (from left) Blake Ferrell Matt Gregory Philip Aldrich Kyle Townsend walked more than 1700 miles from MesAriz. Chicago

P.J. Fisher (from left), Blake Ferrell, Matt Gregory, Philip Aldrich and Kyle Townsend walked more than 1,700 miles from Mesa, Ariz., to Chicago with a goat named Wrigley to raise funds for cancer research. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 3, 2012 12:54PM



I’d like to state in no uncertain terms that I am all for cancer research. That means I am squarely in the camp against cancer. I’ve had cancer. There’s nothing good about it, except the survival part.

OK?

OK, so a guy and a goat were standing outside Wrigley Field on Tuesday. That’s either the beginning of a joke or all that’s wrong with the Cubs. Or both.

He, the guy, had helped raise more than $20,000 for cancer research, though I suppose the goat should get some props, too. The man and his four friends, pulling the goat in a wagon, had recently finished walking more than 1,700 miles from Mesa, Ariz., to Chicago to break the “Curse of the Billy Goat’’ and aid a worthy cause.

On any given day, you can go to Wrigley and see why the Cubs are the woebegone Cubs. One day, you might see a 12-game losing streak in progress. The next, you might see a team that can’t decide who its closer is. On any day, you can see a flag flying for the club’s last World Series title (1908).

This time, you saw a goat. That, friends, is what’s wrong with the Cubs — not the “curse’’ but a franchise that would embrace such a thing, even under the flag of raising money for charity.

If I were Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, I would’ve paid $20,000 for the billy goat to take a wrong turn somewhere in the Ozarks.

Instead, Ricketts made a donation of $1,764 to the charity before the game, shook hands with the five hiker Cubs fans on the field and let them sit in his seats near the team’s dugout. He or somebody else in the organization was smart enough not to allow in the goat, which had been available for photos outside the park before the game.

The men did hold up a blown-up photo of the goat. For a Cubs fan, that should have been like five Englishmen holding up a potato at a stadium in Ireland.

The curse was launched during the 1945 World Series when the Cubs wouldn’t allow the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern to bring his goat inside Wrigley. The owner put a hex on the club, and, as you might have heard, the Cubs haven’t been to a World Series since. A curse is not something you want to celebrate. It’s another silly thing from which the Cubs should want to distance themselves. Seventeen hundred miles wouldn’t be enough distance.

When Theo Epstein arrived here late last year to run the ballclub, he was going to show the Cubs how to win. I took that to mean he would eradicate all the loser stuff. I apparently took it wrong.

I know: The goat tradition is entertaining, goofy and no big deal. And I’m a buzz kill. Anytime you can have a Nigerian dwarf billy goat named Wrigley nibbling on reporters’ notebooks outside the park, it’s all good, right? It’s fun at the old ballpark.

Someday, the fun at the old ballpark will involve quality baseball on the field and not goats, Bartmans, black cats, seventh-inning-stretch singers or statues of broadcasters.

That day is far off.

Yes, I am crabby. It’s what happens when the paid attendance is 35,219 for an awful team on a nice afternoon in May. The years of losing have had very few punitive effects for the club. Sure, attendance is down from 10 years ago, but if you had stumbled upon the park for the first time, you might have thought a pep rally had broken out to celebrate badness.

In fact, it was Game 2 of the Battle of the Bad, the lowly Cubs against the lowly Padres. For the second consecutive day, the Cubs won, meaning San Diego now has the worst record in the National League. That’s where things stand.

Alongside a goat.

Acknowledging a goat doesn’t stoop to the level of president Crane Kenney’s idea to have a Greek priest sprinkle the Cubs’ dugout with holy water in 2008. But it does kneel down at the same altar of bad ideas.

I admit to some past leanings toward the curse, like a college kid who considers himself a Marxist for a day or two. But the century-plus of losing has to do with ineptitude, not the supernatural.

So, please, no more talk of the Big C (curse). And for the love of all that’s right in the world, lose the goat.



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