A Cubs fan's confidence and anxiety heading into the postseason

There's a newsreel clip from the 1930s or '40s, where radio and television personality Bill Slater is voicing over black and white footage of baseball teams reporting to spring training. At one point, with a sparkle in his voice, he says, "And here come the Chicago Cubs! It's gonna be a hot race this year -- you're not going to win, but you don't know it yet."

More than 80 years later, the joke still holds. For so long it's been safe to assume that the Cubs are about as likely to win the World Series as Wile E. Coyote is to catch that damn roadrunner. Across all cities and all sports, the Cubs are the most famous losers that ever were.

But maybe, just maybe, by the end of this month they won't be losers anymore.

I've spent all season trying not to get ahead of myself. Just two years ago I was celebrating baby steps in the form of a record above .500. Last year the Cubs eked into the playoffs, scored a win over the Pirates and upset the rival Cardinals to advance to the NLCS. It didn't even hurt all that much when they were swept by the Mets. The impossibly young squad was playing with house money. They were at least a year ahead of schedule and their deep postseason run just served to get long-suffering Cubs fans excited for 2016.

So this year when they won 24 of their first 30 games, I tried my best to stay in the moment and enjoy the ride without looking too far ahead to what might be.

But now that the division has been clinched (by a whopping 17.5 games!), home-field advantage secured and 100 wins achieved, I have no choice but to face the music. It's October and all the home runs, shutouts, walk-offs and wins go out the window. No matter who the Cubs face in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday night, both teams will need three wins to advance.

Now, anything less than a World Series win will be a disappointment. There's incredible excitement heading into their opening series, but also a tremendous amount of anxiety. Just the other day my stomach dropped when I saw an ad featuring playoff footage from last year, fans going nuts at Wrigley waving rally towels. Oh god. It's here.

I'd like to rest easy knowing how good they've been all season, but I've already seen too many stats arguing that they might be too good. Only twice in the last 25 postseasons has the team with sole possession of baseball's best record gone on to win it all. And of the 15 teams that have won 100 or more games in the regular season since 2000, only one went on to win the World Series. I can feel my heart beating faster as I type this.

No matter what happens this October, the Cubs are on the right track. They're full of young talent, they've got a great manager and the mastermind behind it all, Theo Epstein, just signed a five-year contract extension. But even as I try to convince myself that a loss wouldn't be the end of the world, I know deep down "there's always next year" just doesn't feel right this time around.

So whenever my brain starts to fill up with worst-case scenarios, I have to remind myself that this team is not the Cubs of old. We can't saddle these guys with the struggles of their predecessors. There are no curses, just bad outings, sleepy bats and bungled double plays by Alex Gonzalez.

This time will be different. This is the year! I'm gonna embrace every second of October baseball with confidence and enthusiasm ... and a medic on standby.
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