The Billy Goat Curse: A Logical Fallacy

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As the Cubs get ready to begin the 2016 World Series and compete for their first MLB championship in 108 years commentators and analysts seemingly cannot help but refer to “the curse”. Specifically, the Curse of the Billy Goat. This curse was supposedly placed on the Chicago Cubs in 1945 by Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis. Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley field because the odor of his pet goat, Murphy, was bothering other fans. Outraged, Sianis allegedly declared “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. This statement has been interpreted to mean that either the Cubs would never win another National League Pennant or that they would never again win a World Series. However, on the 46th anniversary of Sianis’ death the Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the 2016 National League Championship and advance to the World Series. But the curse is not yet fully broken, and the legend does not end there.

Steve Bartman is thrown around in newspaper articles and by MLB analysts as if the specter of his presence at a game 13 years ago somehow influences the current Cubs playoff run. Game broadcasts not-so-subtly pan over his former seat just beyond left field. If you squint hard enough you can still see him reaching for that foul ball. Especially as the sports networks insist on replaying that footage and showing documentaries chronicling that one moment.

Except there is no curse. Those words dedicated to the efforts of the Cubs to “break the curse” are almost always tongue-in-cheek. It’s simply easier to ascribe over a century of futility to something supernatural rather than face the fact that the team has just been bad. For their part the current Cubs team doesn’t believe in or care about any curse. And they’re good. They are historically good. There have been numerous attempts to break the curse over the years, but to no avail. Because the Cubs weren’t that good. And the MLB playoffs are a crapshoot. The best team in the regular season doesn’t always win the World Series. This year the Cubs were the best regular season team. And they’re more than that. They’re built to win the World Series. They’re favored to win the World Series.

But imagine for a second that none of that matters. Actions by individuals decades ago influence games in 2016. The playoffs are a crapshoot and the Cubs are cursed. The Cubs have had their chances to win the National League Championship and the World Series since 1945 and inexplicably have not. In all probability the Cubs should have won a World Series at some point over those 107 years. The elusiveness of that victory is almost inexplicable. And yet, it cannot be a curse.

The Cubs are favored to beat the Cleveland Indians and win their first World Series in 108 years, but it’s far from guaranteed. If the Cubs do win, however, it will have nothing to do with breaking any curse, for one simple reason. Some purposeful action must be taken in order to break a curse. The Chicago Cubs must do something in order to break a curse which has been placed upon them. Even if they do not believe in the curse this does not mean it does not exist and something must be done in order to break that curse. But there is no evidence something has been done. If the Cubs do not believe in the curse, as they claim, it is highly unlikely they would have undertaken some action to break the curse “just in case”. If the Cubs win the World Series and break the curse this would mean all the Cubs had to do in order to break the curse was play good baseball. This claim undercuts the whole logic of the curse.

In other words, if the Cubs have done nothing to break the curse short of playing good baseball the entire logic of the curse is broken. There is no curse because the Cubs won the World Series without breaking said curse. They’re simply better than every other baseball team.

Or maybe the Cubs are cursed.

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