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Scapegoats

By Randy Richardson

I am a goat, a hollow-horned ruminant of the genus Capra, a proud member of the family Bovidae.

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The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854.
I am also a victim. Humankind has not been kind to me and my kind. Your language is filled with unflattering references, verbal potshots if you will, aimed at goatdom. To be cast as a goat is to be a lecher, or a victim of ridicule or pranks. In literature, we are the billy goats gruff.

It is hurtful that you paint us in such a negative light. Sure we may look a little funny, and the females of our species could use a shave, but we're mostly good-natured, peace-loving creatures and undeserving of the cruel aspersions on our character. We give freely our milk and our wool. You drape yourselves in cashmere and angora, the wools of my kind, but won't associate with us because we smell a little differently than you do and are maybe a little less picky about what we eat.

We have stood by, on all fours, and chewed on weeds and gnawed on woody shrubs without so much as a complaint while you have hurled your offensive verbal assaults at our kind.

But now we are ready to butt heads. Because not only do you continue to slander us as a species, you are blaming us for the failures and misfortunes of a baseball team and, in turn, the pain and suffering its fans have endured. You have made us into, well, scapegoats.

Excuse me while I cough up some cud, but how am I supposed to swallow a story that one of my own species is responsible for the futility of a baseball team?

I am told that the Curse of the Billy Goat is a curse on the Chicago Cubs that was started in 1945, and here is where I begin to see a gaping hole in this whole wretched story, because the team in question has not won a World Series since 1908. Now I might not be the most intelligent animal on the planet, but even I know that the math doesn't add up. Your team had already inured 37 years of futility before the Curse of the Billy Goat came into play. Thirty-seven years. A period in history that began with the end of one Roosevelt in the White House and ended with the end of another Roosevelt in the White House. And in between there was Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

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Cubs Curse by Gina/Peace Lvr
I'll try as best I can to hold back my contempt as I spit this out. As the story goes, Billy Sianis, a Greek immigrant who owned a nearby tavern (the now-famous Billy Goat Tavern), had two $7.20 box seat tickets to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers, and decided to bring along his pet goat, Murphy (or Sinovia according to some references), which Sianis had restored to health when the goat had fallen off a truck and subsequently limped into his tavern. The goat wore a blanket with a sign pinned to it that read "We got Detroit's goat."

Okay, I must interject here, and state, unequivocally, on behalf of all goatdom, goats are not fans of baseball and, in fact, are morally opposed to the taking of a fellow ruminant's hide purely for sport.

So we're supposed to believe that the Greek and his goat are sitting in their box seats, eating popcorn and Cracker Jack, like any other fan. That's a picture I'd pay to see. Then it starts to rain. To me, nothing smells better than a wet goat. But apparently your kind doesn't share my sense of smell. Fans sitting in the vicinity of the Sianis goat raised a stink about the objectionable odor and the two of them got booted from the game. Sianis was outraged at the ejection and allegedly placed a curse upon the Cubs that they would never win another pennant or play in a World Series at Wrigley Field again because the Cubs organization had insulted his goat.

The Cubs lost Game 4 and eventually the 1945 World Series, prompting Sianis to write to Cubs' owner Philip K. Wrigley the immortal words, "Who stinks now?"

The rest, of course, is history. The Cubs haven't even been back to the World Series since that infamous day.

Here I plead my case against the Curse of the Billy Goat. In my defense I cite only three exhibits:

Exhibit 1: Brock for Broglio. This is sometimes referred to as the most lopsided trade ever in baseball. The year: 1964. The Cubs trade away struggling, disappointing outfielder Lou Brock for established starting pitcher Ernie Broglio, who'd won 20 games for the Cards in his second year and 18 in 1963. Brock makes an immediate impact, batting .348 for the Cardinals and leading them to winning the 1964 World Series. He goes on to lead the Cards to another championship in 1967 and is inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985. Ernie Broglio wins all of seven games for the Cubs and retires from baseball in 1967.

Exhibit 2: Eckersley for Leonette, Guinn and Wilder. The year: 1987. The Cubs trade veteran starter Dennis Eckersley to the Oakland A's for three minor leaguers, none of whom would ever make the major league roster. Eckersley, a verifiable drunk as a member of the Cubs starting rotation, finds new life in Oakland. When A's closer Jay Howell comes down with a sore arm, Eck converts to a reliever. He closes out each of the A's four wins in the 1988 American league Championship Series, and the final game of the A's sweep of the San Francisco Giants in the 1989 World Series. He is elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility.

Exhibit 3: Maddux to free agency. The year: 1993. The year after winning his first Cy Young Award with the Cubs, Greg Maddux signs as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves. He goes on to win the Cy Young Award the next three years, becoming the first pitcher in Major League history to win the Cy Young Award four consecutive years. He helps lead the Braves to their first World Series championship in 1995.

For 63 years, a goat has stood accused of causing all of the hardships that have fallen upon the Chicago Cubs. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I cite these three exhibits as proof that gross mismanagement and pure organizational stupidity are to blame for the failures of the Cubs since 1945, not a goat.

Goats, like Cubs' fans, have endured enough pain and suffering. It is time to put an end to this undue billy goat's grief, and clear Murphy's good name, and, in turn, that of all goats. We are goats, not scapegoats.

Randy Richardson, author of Wrigleyville murder-mystery Lost In The Ivy, is a Regular Loser. He is a frequent contributor to Chicago Parent magazine and his work has recently been anthologized in Chicken Soup for the Father and Son Soul and Humor for the Boomer's Heart. He serves as president of the Chicago Writers Association.

Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 09:07PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue in , | Comments13 Comments

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