On Newsstands Friday: ESPN The Magazine’s Cubs Issue
To download cover: http://bit.ly/2ddxN89
For far too long, Cubs fans have feared goats, ghosts and Gatorade. Now that they’ve clinched the NL Central, it is time to acknowledge the architects who built the team, the players who have dominated the league, the faithful who bleed blue despite 108 years in the desert. Their fear hasn’t been unwarranted: Just as the Cubs are built on Wrigley and the ivy and the lovable losing, their identity is equally intertwined with bizarre tales of woe. The smelly goat whose eviction cursed the team in 1945. The black cat who crossed their paths in ’69. The Gatorade that spilled on Leon Durham’s glove in the ’84 NLCS. The guy in glasses—we dare not speak his name—who reached for a foul ball in 2003. No wonder some fans have been haunting Wrigley dressed as the 1908 Cubs, winners of the franchise’s last title. Nice idea, but if—when—Cubs fans do get to celebrate, it won’t be because Tinker and Evers and Chance reappeared. It’ll be because Russell and Zobrist and Rizzo granted their wish.
As the Cubs attempt to win their first World Series since 1908, find daily features and analysis at ESPN.com/mlb.
ON THE COVER: When Jon Lester was with the Red Sox, he met a young ballplayer who was fighting cancer and wanted to meet Lester, a star who had beaten the disease. That player was Anthony Rizzo, now Lester’s teammate with the Cubs. They bonded over their health struggles, and the bond has only gotten stronger as they attempt to break Chicago’s title drought. By Robert Sanchez
DON’T MISS: In “Reaching Cuba,” Josh Basile, who is quadriplegic, has taken on adaptive sports like hang gliding and indoor skydiving and created a nonprofit that helps others with spinal cord injuries experience what he calls “rehabilitative adventures.” This year Basile and a couple of friends took an adventure of their own, sailing on a specially outfitted catamaran from Florida to Cuba, and found out what it takes to navigate Havana by wheelchair. By Eric Nusbaum, Presented in collaboration with Vice Sports http://es.pn/2cYeyfS
Issue highlights and features:
How former Red Sox wonder boy Theo Epstein saved the Cubs—and himself. When Epstein left the Red Sox after leading them to a title, he could have taken any job in baseball. He chose the Cubs, the one team whose history and fate seemed to make winning a World Series an even more daunting challenge than the one he faced in Boston. But if he can bring the Cubs to glory too, he will not only become the hero of two fan bases, he will perhaps unquestionably be anointed the best executive in baseball history. The Mag examines what makes Theo tick—and how he succeeds at these high-stress jobs. By Wright Thompson
Ahead of spring training, manager Joe Maddon filled a white board with his goals and guidelines for the season. We asked him to speak to whether they’ve been met. No. 1 on the list? “Embrace the Target”—the target, of course, being a World Series win. By Steve Wulf
The Party Animals
Goats and ghosts, jinxes and hexes? Don’t tell this fun-loving bunch. The Mag’s Tim Keown spent a week inside the Cubs’ clubhouse, viewing the mood, atmosphere and camaraderie of a team under more pressure than most can even imagine. Turns out they’re not having much trouble staying loose—they even have a “party room” in the clubhouse, where they celebrate every win for 10 minutes after the game. We examine the effects of the season on these young players as they brace for the postseason. By Tim Keown
The Mag went to Wrigley Field in search of Cubs fans from 9 to 95 and asked them to talk about their fandom—and what an October run would mean. What do they all have in common? Heartbreak. By Sean Morrison
Additional issue highlights and features:
Truth: In his latest column, Howard Bryant addresses how baseball’s silence on race speaks volumes. http://es.pn/2cDEelg
Ezekiel Elliott has stumbled as a Dallas Cowboys rookie. So where does he go from here? By Elizabeth Merrill
Thomas Johnson seemed on his way to being a star receiver for Texas A&M. As a freshman in 2012, he was catching big catches from Johnny Manziel and was key in the Aggies’ stunning upset over Alabama. But that game was the last he’d ever play: for reasons unknown, he left campus after the win, leading to a three-year spiral that ended in Dallas with the random murder of an innocent jogger. How did so many people miss the warning signs? By Shaun Assael and Jean-Jacques Taylor, presented in collaboration with a special edition of Outside the Lines scheduled to air Sunday, Sept. 25.
Esports: The Mag previews this year’s League of Legends World Championship, which runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 29 in four cities across the United States. We break down the teams from the seven regions—Europe, North America, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil and Russia—highlighting players and storylines to watch, as well as each team’s chances to win.