Scapegoats

I am a goat, a hollow-horned ruminant of the genus Capra, a proud member of the family Bovidae.

I am also a victim. Humankind has not been kind to me and my kind. Your language is filled with unflattering references, verbal potshots if you will, aimed at goatdom. To be cast as a goat is to be a lecher, or a victim of ridicule or pranks. In literature, we are the billy goats gruff.

It is hurtful that you paint us in such a negative light. Sure we may look a little funny, and the females of our species could use a shave, but we’re mostly good-natured, peace-loving creatures and undeserving of the cruel aspersions on our character. We give freely our milk and our wool. You drape yourselves in cashmere and angora, the wools of my kind, but won’t associate with us because we smell a little differently than you do and are maybe a little less picky about what we eat.

We have stood by, on all fours, and chewed on weeds and gnawed on woody shrubs without so much as a complaint while you have hurled your offensive verbal assaults at our kind.

But now we are ready to butt heads. Because not only do you continue to slander us as a species, you are blaming us for the failures and misfortunes of a baseball team and, in turn, the pain and suffering its fans have endured. You have made us into, well, scapegoats.

Excuse me while I cough up some cud, but how am I supposed to swallow a story that one of my own species is responsible for the failures of a baseball team? Okay, I must interject here, and state, unequivocally, on behalf of all goatdom, goats are not fans of baseball and, in fact, are morally opposed to the taking of a fellow ruminant’s hide purely for sport.

I am told that the Curse of the Billy Goat is a curse on the Chicago Cubs that was started in 1945.

I’ll try as best I can to hold back my contempt as I spit this out. As the story goes, Billy Sianis, a Greek immigrant who owned a nearby tavern (the now-famous Billy Goat Tavern), had two $7.20 box seat tickets to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers, and decided to bring along his pet goat, Murphy (or Sinovia according to some references), which Sianis had restored to health when the goat had fallen off a truck and subsequently limped into his tavern. The goat wore a blanket with a sign pinned to it that read “We got Detroit’s goat.”

So we’re supposed to believe that the Greek and his goat are sitting in their box seats, eating popcorn and Cracker Jack, like any other fan. That’s a picture I’d pay to see. Then it starts to rain. To me, nothing smells better than a wet goat. But apparently your kind doesn’t share my sense of smell. Fans sitting in the vicinity of the Sianis goat raised a stink about the objectionable odor and the two of them got booted from the game. Sianis was outraged at the ejection and allegedly placed a curse upon the Cubs that they would never win another pennant or play in a World Series at Wrigley Field again because the Cubs organization had insulted his goat.

The Cubs lost Game 4 and eventually the 1945 World Series, prompting Sianis to write to Cubs’ owner Philip K. Wrigley the immortal words, “Who stinks now?”

The rest, of course, is history. The Cubs haven’t even been back to the World Series since that infamous day.

For 63 years, a goat has stood accused of causing all of the hardships that have fallen upon the Chicago Cubs.  Here is where I see a gaping hole in this whole wretched story, because the team in question has not won a World Series since 1908. Now I might not be the most intelligent animal on the planet, but even I know that the math doesn’t add up. Your team had already inured 37 years of futility before the Curse of the Billy Goat came into play. Thirty-seven years. A period in history that began with the end of one Roosevelt in the White House and ended with the end of another Roosevelt in the White House. And in between there was Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

Goats, like Cubs’ fans, have endured enough pain and suffering. It is time to put an end to this undue billy goat’s grief, and clear Murphy’s good name, and, in turn, that of all goats. We are goats, not scapegoats.

Sidebar: Philadelphia-based folk singer-songwriter Chuck Brodsky retells the story of Billy Sianis and Murphy the goat in ”The Curse of the Billy Goat” on his 2006 album Tulips for Lunch. On Brodsky’s website, he has posted the lyrics and a downloadable MP3 clip of the song.

Brodsky is well known for his baseball story-songs. In 2002, he released The Baseball Ballads, a collection that included nine original baseball story-songs. Among the characters covered on this cd are Eddie Klepp (first white man to play in the Negro Leagues), Moe Berg (a catcher who also was a US spy just before WWII), Max Patkin (Clown Prince of Baseball), Dock Ellis (who pitched a no hitter under the influence of LSD), Richie Allen (booed by racist Philadelphia fans, he’d write “b-o-o” in the dirt in response), Fred Bonehead Merkle (whose baserunning error cost the NY Giants the pennant in 1908), and Eddie Waitkus (shot by a female stalker, his story was the basis for the movie “The Natural”).

Photo: The Goat That Tried To Kill Me / Linda Tanner / CC BY 2.0 / Alteration: cropped edges