Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 26, 2016)
Over the last century or so, the Chicago Cubs became synonymous with the word “futility”. And maybe “losers” as well, though I guess it depends on how one wants to interpret the latter.
The Boston Red Sox went 86 years between World Series titles, but they teased their fans in a way the Cubs never did. Before the Sox broke through in 2004, they got to the World Series occasionally but they always found new, creative ways to blow it.
On the other hand, the Cubs exemplified futility because they didn’t sniff a World Series championship for so long. In fact, between 1945 and 2015, the Cubs didn’t play in a single World Series.
And they rarely came close. Their nearest stab came during the 2003 playoffs, a series they probably should’ve won but the inadvertent intervention of poor Steve Bartman sent that possibility off the rails,
The Cubs’ 108-year run of futility finally ended in 2016, a feat documented in this 8-disc Blu-ray set called 2016 World Series Champions. It offers literal play-by-play documentation of the Cubs’ seven-game victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Each disc details a game, and by “detail”, I mean that Champions offers complete Fox broadcasts. Or mostly complete – we don’t get pre-game material and the games tend to start somewhat abruptly, as we get no title cards or introductions.
Instead, we enter the broadcasts right as the first batter comes to the plate. This isn’t a major issue, but it seems more abrupt than it should be – the package’s producers surely could’ve found a smoother way to launch the games. We do find post-game summaries from MLB Network analysts, though.
Transitions between half-innings can also be awkward. Sometimes the games cut to/from commercials in a smooth manner, but on other occasions, the games fade in/out in a strangely sudden way.
These “complaints” remain minor, though, as Champions does what it needs to do 99 percent of the time. The Blu-rays give us all the game action just as we would’ve seen it on TV, and that’s a fun way to re-experience the contests.
If you’re a big fan, that is. Let’s face it: even most of the Cubs faithful aren’t going to sit down and watch many hours of old baseball games, so Champions comes with limited appeal.
That said, I really like the concept. Sure, a highlight package or a documentary would offer a more efficient capsule, but it’d be less “honest”. Here we can experience every pitch and swing in real time and not be subject to choices made by others.
Champions offers a cool option that expands its versatility: multiple audio tracks. In addition to the default Fox TV announcers, we can listen to the local Cleveland and Chicago radio broadcasters. While they all comment on the same action, they offer differing perspectives and stories, so these audio additions boost the package’s value.
Fans certainly got an interesting World Series to receive the deluxe treatment. Of course, a Cubs victory would’ve been a big deal in any case, but the fact they came back from a three games to one deficit added to the drama.
As for the games themselves, they varied in terms of competition. The first two lacked much suspense: the Indians easily topped the Cubs in Game One, and then the Cubs shut down the Tribe with no trouble in Game Two.
Matters changed with the Indians’ super-tight 1-0 Game Three triumph, but Game Four went back to Blowout City, as Cleveland took down Chicago 7-2. Game Five gave the Cubs a narrow 3-2 win before we got another easy Chicago victory in Game Six.
Then came the dramatic Game Seven. The only 2016 World Series contest to go to extra innings, this one offered an slugfest and ended up with an 8-7 Cubs win. Throw in a rain delay and this nearly four and a half hour game became one for the ages.
Overall I don’t know if the 2016 World Series counts as one of the true greats, mainly because only three of the seven games boasted real suspense. The other four gave us such blowouts that they made the total level of competition less than enthralling. Compare with the legitimately legendary 1991 WS – where three of the seven games went to extra innings and an amazing five of the seven were decided by one run – and the 2016 WS can be a snoozer at times.
That won’t matter to Cubs fans, as they’ll enjoy the chance to relive their exceedingly long-in-the-making championship. Despite some minor quibbles, this package becomes a fun way to rewatch all seven games.