No matter who ends up winning baseball's World Series, the matchup between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians offers a vivid message that resonates in all sports:
It's hard to win a championship.
The Cubs last did it in 1908. The Indians last did it in 1948. That's a combined 176 years of futility – a super long time even in dog years.
Yes, a Series matchup of droughts that severe is an extreme example, but curse-busting has become a baseball theme in recent years, helping illustrate how difficult it is to "go all the way." The Kansas City Royals broke a 30-year Series title drought when they won last year. The San Francisco Giants broke a 56-year drought in 2010. The Boston Red Sox broke an 86-year drought in 2004.
The Indians or Cubs will join them soon (the Indians have a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 tonight), leaving the other to deal with the frustrating knowledge that their snarling, beastly title jinx survived while their opponents' snarling, beastly title jinx finally succumbed.
The losers will rightfully take solace in knowing they got close, which means you've done extremely well, just not quite extremely well enough.
But fans in Cleveland know the difference; know it all too well, in fact. They've watched their various teams come up just short of so many titles that someone finally made a movie about them. (I recommend it. It's called "Believeland.")
The lesson is clear: To go all the way – in any sport – you need some good timing, your stars in alignment and maybe a fortunate bounce or three as well as the requisite talent, coaching etc.
As Yogi Berra could have said, it often doesn't happen often.
In pro football, where the Ravens reside, getting to the top is an extreme challenge. For the past 51 years, the Super Bowl has determined who stands at the sport's pinnacle. Twelve of the NFL's 32 teams have never reached that pinnacle. That's 37.5 percent of the league.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls in two decades since they moved to Baltimore.
I know we're in the middle of a season that understandably has hands wringing, but while watching the Cubs and Indians fight to see whose famous curse finally dies, I find myself thinking about how fortunate Baltimore fans have been to see their football team hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy twice in the past 16 years.
The chances of that happening were crazy-off-the-charts long when Art Modell brought his franchise to Baltimore in 1996.
Only three other teams have won more than one Super Bowl in this century – the New York Giants, born in 1925; the Pittsburgh Steelers, born in 1933; and the New England Patriots, born in 1960. The Ravens are the child prodigy in that company. They just got out of their teens as a franchise.
But while more famous teams struggle, such as the Dallas Cowboys, who haven't won a Super Bowl in 21 years, or the San Francisco 49ers, who haven't won since 1994, the Ravens have twice gone all the way.
Doing it once casts you in a permanent glow of sorts, forever separating you from the teams that have not – a group that includes the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns and others who have been around a lot longer than the Ravens.
Doing it twice stamps you as bona fide, no matter how old (or young) you are.
The Ravens have won just 26 of 55 regular-season games since their last Super Bowl triumph in February 2013, frustrating an organization and a fan base accustomed to better. But those struggles illustrate the difficulty of what was achieved.
Just winning, period, is a hard habit to maintain. Look at what's happened to the 49ers. Winning enough to go all the way is a dream realized.
That dream seems to come relatively easily to a few franchises such as baseball's New York Yankees, who have won 27 World Series, or more recently, football's Patriots. But the vast majority wait years, sometimes decades. Baltimore's baseball drought stands at 33 years.
Against that backdrop, two Super Bowl titles in 16 years amounts to a gold rush. Under no circumstances can anyone suggest the Baltimore Ravens are cursed.