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Chicago Cubs and the Curse of the Loyal Sports Fan


Stashed in: Baseball, Moneyball, #winning, Awesome, Chicago!, Freakonomics, University of Chicago

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Teams most likely to win are those with the most fickle fan bases.

The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, the longest such drought in any major American sport. 

At the time of that victory, crossword puzzles, sliced bread, and the state of Arizona had not been invented. Heroin was sold over the counter as a cough suppressant. Las Vegas, at last census, had a population of 22. The word drought may be a misnomer, as actual droughts (excepting one that supposedly felled Egypt’s Old Kingdom in the 22nd century b.c.) do not last this long.

Conventional wisdom has it that the Cubs are either cursed—by a billy goat, a black cat, a fan whose name we shall not speak—or, less cosmically, just plain unlucky. But are they really? A University of Chicago economist, Tobias Moskowitz, asked the same question a few years back and arrived at a startling conclusion: The main source of the Cubs’ curse was the fans themselves.

They are too loyal.

If this sounds like a terrible case of blaming the victim, I never said it wasn’t. But Moskowitz bleeds Cubs blue. He grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana, watching Cubs broadcasts and hearing over and over again that the Cubs were simply star-crossed, always finding a way to come up just short. Only years later, while researching his 2011 book, Scorecasting—a lively Moneyball-meets-Freakonomics collaboration with the sportswriter L. Jon Wertheim—did Moskowitz revisit this narrative and find that it didn’t hold up.

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