Saturday, September 30, 2017

Review of "The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse"

It is common to find many books about a popular team in any sport after it wins a championship.  The 2016 Chicago Cubs are no different, and this book not only looks back at that team, but also the entire history of the franchise through the eyes of a lifetime fan trying to figure out how the recently-broken "curse" started.  Here is my review of Rich Cohen's book on the Cubs.

“The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse” by Rich Cohen
Baseball, professional, Cubs, championship, memoir
Publish date:
October 3, 2017

288 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)
Nearly every person, baseball fan or not, knows about the Chicago Cubs ending their 108-year “curse” by winning the 2016 World Series.  Much has been written and said about the curse, the team and their magical season. Now comes a book that not only talks about 2016, but the author’s odyssey into discovering why there was such a curse and why he, as a Cubs fan, was so engrossed in finding the cause.

Rich Cohen’s fandom for the Cubs began when he was eight years old and continued strong. In this book that is part memoir, part storytelling and part reporter, he tells of his times at Wrigley Field, about the history of the Cubs from their very successful early years to the various experiences that proved the franchise was cursed (the billy goat in 1945, the black cat at Shea Stadium in 1969, the ground ball through Leon Durham’s legs in 1984, Steve Bartman in 2003 and so on…) and just what it is like to be a Cubs fan.

The book is chock full of humorous lines and passages.  He compares the current general manager, Theo Epstein, to a mountain climber.  After Epstein led the Cubs to the championship after leading the Boston Red Sox to end their own curse in 2004, Cohen said that Epstein moved to Chicago “as a climber will move from Everest to K2.” Also, the new video boards at Wrigley Field that tamed the famous swirling winds are “Thorazine for Wrigley’s schizophrenia.” Lines like these kept me chuckling through the book.

As for fandom, he states that being a Cubs fan makes one “different, special, better” and that other teams’ fans were “shallow.”  He also doesn’t believe a Cubs fan will only talk about 1908 or 2016.  He states that the typical Cubs’ fan experience is illustrated in a game during the 1979 season in which the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Cubs 23-22 on a windy May afternoon.  There was a throw that hit a batboy, who was knocked out, or so the legend states.  Whether or not it was true, Cohen uses that game and story to illustrate what it is like to be a fan.

Of course, the book’s high point for the reader is the 2016 World Series and this section is written much like how an excited fan (albeit a fan with a press pass and who is writing a separate article on the actor Chris Pratt) would write.  The reader who wants just the facts and highlights of the games will come away less than satisfied, but the reader who wants to “feel” the experience will enjoy this portion the best.  Especially if that reader is a Cubs fan.

This is an entertaining book that any Cubs fan will want to add to his or her library.  Even if the reader is a fan of one of the other 29 teams, or even not a baseball fan, it is worth the time to read for entertainment purposes as the book will do that as well.

I wish to thank Farrar, Straus and Giraux for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

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