I did everything I could think of. I knocked wood, I broke out the old t-shirts, I made certain the baby was watching, just like she had been during the Division Series.

I’ve even resisted writing about the Cubs this year, wary of a repeat of 2001, when my presumptious early August newspaper column seemed to trigger the Cubs slide back to the middle of the standings (that’s what we deserved for getting stoked about Fred McGriff).

But this year it all came together. It was gonna be. No more next year.

Now, though, it’s Thursday morning. Sammy’s starting to pack for his yearly migration to the Dominican. A little later than usual, but not late enough.

Where we once had only the dull ache of decades of what-ifs, now we have a face for our misery.

Steve Bartman.

I can’t really blame him, I guess. If the ball was coming to me, I’d have probably been locked in to it, too. But I would have already thought a lot about my seat. That close to the field, you gotta have a plan. I’d have already thought about how not to lose my head in case of one of those blistering foul balls. The one that was in play would have been an easy choice: get out of the way.

I know he’s heartbroken too, especially since he no longer has any friends, most likely, and half of Chicago wants him dead. But he had the headphones on. Radio listeners know the game better — that’s a fact. So, logically, he should have known better.

But he didn’t. It wasn’t his fault. It was Gonzo’s, for booting Pudge’s grouder. It was Dusty’s, for leaving Prior and Wood in for so much longer than necessary (especially considering one of the league’s best LONG relievers, Remlinger, sat in the bullpen). It was Kerry’s, it was Mark’s, and it all doesn’t matter.

It IS over.

The blame game isn’t nearly as much fun as an October ballgame. We know that now.

So, yet again, though we hoped we wouldn’t have to say it:

Wait til Next Year.

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