Constable: Once haunting, Cubs' memories now inspire

Last season, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon had his team prepared to make it through the playoffs, seven games of a World Series, a rain delay and an extra inning to win a championship. We fans weren't quite as free and easy.

During the previous 71 years without so much as a trip to the World Series, fans had accumulated a lot of postseason baggage. We had bundles of black cats and billy goats, files of foul balls and infamous fans, a spilled Gatorade and crying over a missed groundball. As confident as Cubs fans might have seemed at the start of last year's playoffs, we had suitcases filled with anxiety at the ready.

With the San Francisco Giants' Johnny Cueto throwing a two-hit shutout going into the eighth inning of that first 2016 playoff game in Wrigley Field, Cubs fans had historical evidence that things might not go well. We could reach into our bag of misery and pull out the 2015 playoff series against the New York Mets, when ace pitchers mowed down the Cubs hitters in a four-game sweep.

Then Javy Baez hit a home run and closer Aroldis Chapman got through the ninth inning to give the Cubs and pitcher Jon Lester the win that started it all.

But fans weren't off the hook. In Game 4 of the National League division series, the Cubs were behind 5-2 going into the ninth inning in San Francisco, with the likelihood of coming back to Wrigley Field to face a determined Cueto in the climactic game. Fans carrying memories of 1984's crushing loss after being up two games to none to the San Diego Padres knew how quickly a series lead could get away from the Cubs.

Then Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Willson Contreras and Baez pounced again to deliver the Cubs a 6-5 win and propel them to the next round against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, hailed by announcer Joe Buck as an immortal wizard from a better planet, pitched a two-hit shutout to beat the Cubs 1-0 at Wrigley Field, teammate Rich Hill followed with another shutout back in L.A., and the Cubs were down two games to one, knowing they'd have to face Kershaw again. Some Cubs fans probably remembered how the Cubs had the best record in the National League in 2008 only to see the team shut down by the Dodgers in a three-game sweep from the playoffs.

Then the slumping Rizzo and Addison Russell hit homers to tie up the series. That pair drove in runs the next game before the Cubs won the pennant behind a two-hit shutout from Kyle Hendricks and more homers from Rizzo and Contreras.

Cubs fans unloaded their remaining remnants from 1969, 1989, 1998 and 2007 during an emotional World Series that saw the Cubs fall behind three games to one to the Cleveland Indians. When the Cubs were just four outs away from winning Game 7, memories of the Cubs' 2003 collapse poured out as Chapman gave up a game-tying homer to Cleveland's Rajai Davis.

Then the heavens opened up and the Cubs stormed back to take a lead, hold on, win the World Series and forever drive a stake through the myth of myriad curses and memories of misery.

If things take a bad turn this year, the modern Cubs fan can just open a fanny-pack filled with examples of how last year's Cubs team rallied from likely defeats, beat other teams' aces and never gave up. It's nice to be able to travel light.

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