"Really?" I hear you asking. "The Cubs lose every year. What makes this year different?"
This year makes this year different. Let me explain.
At the end of "Back to the Future III", Marty finally backs down from a stupid challenge to drag race, and thus avoids a car accident that would have wrecked his hand and ruined his musical career (covering Huey Lewis songs is lucrative, I guess?). Jennifer looks at the pink slip she snagged from future-Marty, and the text on it disappears. Doc explains to her that the future is unwritten, and this seems to be what the series is all about.
We see this numerous times throughout the movies. In fact, it's pretty much a staple of time travel stories in any medium. It is the rare story that shows timelines as fixed events, unchangeable, regardless of what you do in the past, as this is depressing. "Terminator 3" did this, simply by existing (then they kinda said it in the movie). After the second movie, you think they've stopped the war, but nope, a decade later, more terminators coming back to kill John Connor and revealing that they didn't stop anything - the war is inevitable. Interestingly, the message in the first two movies of that franchise was "the future is unwritten", but then the third crapped all over that idea, and then it crapped all over the first two movies, and then itself.
Okay, back to "Back to the Future". In the first movie, Marty goes from 1985 to 1955 and interferes with his parents' timeline, causing them not to meet, not to fall in love, and not to bone at least three times to make Marty exist in the first place, causing him to fade...from existence! 1955 Doc realizes what is happening, and helps Marty make things right before sending him back...to the future! (Doc likes...the dramatic pause!) Upon arriving in the future, we see things are the same. Well, mostly. The name of the mall has changed, Doc took Marty's advice and defended himself against the Libyans, and Marty's family has gone from being middle class schlubs to being middle class socialites. Also, the car is no longer totalled, and Marty owns the big, black
All of this because Marty, disguised as a guy named Calvin, taught George to respect and believe himself. Also because George punched Biff (who also changes from the seedy bully into the subservient lackey). Without trying, Marty changed the future. Then, in trying to set things right, changed it again.
In Part II, Doc brings Marty and Jennifer into the future to save their kids (I'll come back to this in a minute), giving them a glimpse of life in 2015. They see flying cars (after the ridiculous line about not having enough road to get to 88mph, even though Doc just used that exact same road, but I digress), hoverboards, holo-billboards, self-tying shoes, automated waiters, and "Jaws 19". Truly, a wondrous vision of the future. Marty sees a headline about a sporting event, and gets a brainstorm to make some money by purchasing a 20th century sports almanac and bringing it back to 1985 with him. Doc takes umbrage with this and tosses the book in the trash, but old Biff overhears, steals the book and the DeLorean and gives the book to his younger self in 1955, then returns the DeLorean to 2015, because stranding Doc and Marty in 2015, thus guaranteeing they wouldn't be able to foil his plot just...made too much sense? I guess? At least Old Biff warned Young Biff that Doc and Marty might come snooping around, so that's something. He doesn't warn him about George punching his lights out at the dance, Marty running around 1955 causing problems, or anything else, so Biff is just kinda dumb, I guess? And then he has a heart attack. Or something. It's never really explained. Old Biff just kinda dies. Right next to the DeLorean. And no one notices. Moving on.
When Doc and Marty finish in 2015 and return to 1985, they find it vastly different. The high school has burnt down. Marty's neighborhood is still there, but in ruins, and some other family lives in his house. The Doc Brown of this era is dead, as is George McFly, killed by Biff, who then married Lorraine (after she'd had the three kids). Biff also basically rules Hill Valley, if not more, as he's made Scrooge McDuck-levels of money from making massive long shot bets that he knew would hit because the almanac told him so.
Doc explains to Marty that this timeline is an offshoot of their 1985. A branch, stemming back in 1955 when Biff gave Biff the almanac. They go back and fix that, and 1985 springs back to normal. Unfortunately, a bolt of lightning says, "Sucks to be you guys!" and zaps Doc back to 1885, because that date was punched into the time circuit, for some reason. Might want to redesign that, Doc.
Anyway, Part III, Doc and Marty traipse around the Old West, saving a schoolteacher, humiliating Biff's ancestor, inspiring Clint Eastwood, and wrecking a train to get Marty back to 1985 so that he can resist the challenge to drag race I mentioned earlier. The DeLorean is wrecked, and Marty thinks the Doc is stranded in 1885, doomed to live out the rest of his life with a woman he's fallen in love with, and the ability to invent things like the computer and the hoverboard, and become the greatest inventor of ALL TIME. Sounds horrible.
Instead, Doc builds another time machine, in a train this time, and comes back to 1985 to tell Marty he's okay, and introduce him to his kids, Jules and Verne, who take nearly being burned at the stake for witchcraft with way less pants-wetting terror than meeting Marty McFly. Maybe they've already been to the future and have seen how world-famous Marty's Huey Lewis and the News cover band becomes. Also, the train flies. [Off topic, but wait, Doc built a flying train in 1885, that's also a time machine? The first movie devotes ample time to letting us know that Doc is a terrible inventor. The only thing he's ever made that works right is the Flux Capacitor, and even that has some major flaws (power consumption, vehicle needs to be moving at 88mph, re-entry can be a bitch). And this was with modern technology. I'd always assumed he'd taken the DeLorean to a shop in 2015 to have it modified for flying. This guy builds a flying time machine train in 1885? Seriously? Sorry, back to it.]
So, what does all of this have to do with the Cubs? In Part II, the sports headline that spurs Marty to buy the almanac is that the Cubs won the World Series, in a sweep. Even if you're not a sports fan, you're probably generally aware of the Cubs and their massive World Series drought, mostly because their fans simply will not shut up about it. In the 80's, nothing indicated the drought would end any time soon (though, they did actually make the playoffs the year Part II was released, losing in the NLCS to the Giants). They came close in 2003, but lost in the NLCS. While they were up and down over the next few years, they were never a real threat to win it all. In late 2011, they revamped their front office, but nothing much changed. And then 2015 rolled around, and the Cubs surged, making the playoffs.
Could the Cubs actually win the World Series for the first time in 107 years? And could they do it in the year predicted by a movie? And, if so, what does that mean about the movie?
First off, the scene in question occurs on October 21st, 2015. Now, due to the changes in the MLB playoff format, there's no chance Game 4 of the World Series would be on October 21st, 2015, so right off the bat (no pun intended), things look grim. Second, they are supposed to sweep the Miami Gators. There is a Miami Marlins in MLB, but they're in the NL, as are the Cubs. They can't meet in the World Series. Stirke two (pun intended). Third, it's a movie. Very little of what's shown in their vision of 2015 came to pass. No mass-produced hoverboards. No flying cars. No self-tying shoes. No "Jaws 19" (unless you count all of the SyFy Channel copycat variants). That's...a whole lot of strikes there.
What did happen was actually almost as strange as if they'd won. The Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs - swept, even - on October 21st, 2015. The same day they were supposed to win it all. Okay, this is less strange, and more coincidental, but it got me thinking.
What if "Back to the Future II" doesn't just show us a crazy possibility of the future? What if the movie shows us an alternate future?
Let's think about this. At the start of the first movie, we have 1985 Prime, which is the same timeline as the audience. Marty goes to 1955 then comes back to what he thinks in 1985 Prime, but is, in fact 1985A. The timeline has been altered. The movie doesn't even try to hide it. The mall, the McFly's (McFlies?), Biff, Doc. All different. In Part II, Doc takes them to the future, Biff sneaks away, and when they come back, they find 1985 changed. Doc is right that the timeline shifted in 1955, but what he's wrong about is that they aren't in 1985A, they're in 1985B, the second altered timeline.
So, when they go into the future, they're not seeing our 2015. It is not 2015 Prime. If it was, that headline would be that the Cubs had been swept (or were on the verge, depending on when the game was played and what time of day it is). Instead, they're in 2015A, a timeline that clearly progressed much differently than our own Prime timeline. I don't think it's far-fetched to claim that the tech we see in 2015A might have been inspired by a successful sci-fi author. Hey, who in 1985A is a successful sci-fi author? Oh, right, George.
In 1985 Prime, George and Biff worked for...some company. George was supposed to finish some reports for Biff. Nicely non-specific, movie! Let's play what if. What if they worked for some sort of investment firm? What if that firm did business with Wayne Huizenga and his company, Waste Management, Inc? In the Prime timeline, Huizenga made a bunch of money, which allowed him to bring baseball to Miami. In timeline A, George and Biff no longer work for this company. What if their replacements changed the way the company invested, and instead of Waste Management growing into an empire, it collapsed, and Huizenga lost all of his money? What if that caused Major League Baseball to develop differently, and more slowly?
I'm not saying that any of this happened, but it's just one example of how this change in George and Biff, that's passed off as nothing major in the movie, could have an impact that would be felt for years.
Here's the thing - Marty never gets back to 1985 Prime. At the end of Part 3, he's probably not even back in 1985 A, but some other timeline, let's call it 1985 C (it's clearly not timeline B). It is very similar to the timeline A, and all we see that we know is different is that a ravine has changed names from "Clayton Ravine" to "Eastwood Ravine", due to Doc and Marty's actions in 1885. No one acknowledges any of this, though, and in the end, Doc and his family fly off to have more adventures in time, even though they've seen that everything they do can have drastic effects. Strangely, a man who had been adamant that he not know too much about his own future is now excited to know whatever he discovers in his adventures.
Let's look at the incident that sets up Part 2. Doc comes back from the future and demands that Marty and Jennifer come with him to 2015 to do save their kids. Right away, this makes no sense. It is just patently illogical. Doc believes that the future isn't written, so how is it logical in any way to bring someone to the future to fix something? Just tell them to avoid certain things, and be done with it. Also, if you're going to have Marty intervene to save their son while knocking Jennifer out and leaving her in a trash heap, why bother insisting that she come? That's a simple answer - so that she doesn't change anything in her timeline.
Doc brings Marty to 2015 to show him how the timeline can be changed. The incident in which Marty intervenes is ridiculous. Doc has Marty pretend to be his own son and say, "No" to Biff's grandson. Yeah, there's a chase, but basically, Marty's son said yes, Marty says no, the front page of USA Today changes, and everything's right with the future. Seriously, what would be the point of that? How does that accomplish anything to actually save Marty Jr?
It doesn't, but that's not the point. Doc's intention was for Marty to see that newspaper, and to see it change after his intervention. Doc is trying to illustrate to Marty that the future is written, but it can be changed. It can always be altered. My guess is that Doc saw Marty of 2015 A, saw him a broken, beaten man, unable to play Huey Lewis cover tunes on the guitar, working some crappy job, getting fired by fax, and decided to help Marty help himself. He doesn't count on Biff throwing a wrench in the works and giving Marty a full-scale example of this, but it works.
Things go to hell, and Marty makes them better. Nothing is quite the way it was, but things are good. For most people, things are better. Marty's family is happy, Doc has a family and is happy. Hell, even Biff seems happier as a lackey than he did as a bully. Herein is where we find the point of this trilogy. Doc's line, "Your future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. Your future is what you make it." doesn't mean that the future is a blank slate, waiting for us to etch our lives into it. The future is there. It is always there, and always will be. Otherwise, Doc wouldn't be able to travel to it. No, what he means is that the choices we make determine how our futures play out, and we're going to make mistakes, but these mistakes, while not entirely reversible, are also not entirely irreversible, unless we allow them to be so.
That's the key - we have the power to change our lives. Even if we've screwed something up: a relationship, a job, a driving record, we can still affect positive change in our lives. That doesn't mean everything will go back to normal. In fact, nothing ever returns to the way it was (you could say that possibility has been erased...from existence! ahem, sorry). However, if we work at it, sometimes we can make things better. We just have to believe in ourselves, respect ourselves, and put our minds to it.