Cubs Go Back to the Future by Winning 2015 World Series

This is the last Sports Line of 2014, so what better time to predict a Chicago Cubs world championship in the coming year?

That’s not exactly an original prognostication. In the 1989 movie “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) learns in 2015 that the Cubs have just won the World Series against Miami after starting the season with 100-to-1 odds.

Never mind that the Miami Marlins, who began play as the Florida Marlins in 1993, and Cubs are both in the National League, so they can’t meet in the World Series in 2015. But just how ludicrous is it to predict the Cubs will finally end their 107-year-long run as Major League Baseball’s lovable losers?

The real-life odds on the Cubs winning their first championship since 1908 were 40-1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook heading into this offseason. They narrowed to 25-1 when Joe Maddon was hired as manager after nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Cubs, who are coming off consecutive last-place finishes and haven’t even made the playoffs since 2008, had their odds shrink to 12-1 when they signed free-agent pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year, $145 million deal earlier this month.

The odds on the Cubs breaking the longest championship drought in MLB history have slipped a bit to 16-1 this week. But they’re still tied for eighth favorites among the 30 MLB clubs, ahead of teams such as the 27-time champion New York Yankees (20-1) and 2014 World Series opponents San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals (both also at 20-1).

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Fans of the San Francisco 49ers don’t have much to feel cheerful about this holiday season.

After three straight trips to the National Football Conference championship game, the 49ers won’t make the playoffs in 2014. The Niners couldn’t even post a winning record this season at their new $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium -- where fans pay the most of any venue in the NFL.

The Fan Cost Index that came out before this season found that attending a 49ers game costs an average of $641.50 for a family of four. That moved the 49ers past the Dallas Cowboys, now second at $634.80, into the most expensive spot.

Team Marketing Report, which publishes sports marketing and sponsorship information, bases its index on the cost of four average-priced tickets, two beers, four soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking, two game programs and two caps.

The 49ers’ index rose 39 percent in their first year after making the move from Candlestick Park, thanks mostly to a 40 percent increase in the average ticket price to $117 -- second only to the New England Patriots’ $122.

Of the seven most expensive teams, only one (the Patriots) had a winning record at home in 2014. After the 49ers, Cowboys and No. 3 Patriots, they include the Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, New York Giants (sixth at $582.76) and New York Jets (seventh at $553.63).

For the record, the NFL average is $479.11; the Jacksonville Jaguars are cheapest at $345.58.

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The U.S. Olympic Committee plans to decide early next year which of four cities -- Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington -- it will nominate for an American bid to host the 2024 Summer Games.

The USOC announced last week that it will present a bid. The International Olympic Committee’s executive board will pick the finalists in the spring of 2016, and the full IOC will vote on the host city in September 2017.

USOC Chairman Larry Probst, who plans to step down next week as executive chairman of Redwood City, California-based Electronic Arts Inc., told reporters there is no clear favorite among the four U.S. cities at this point.

The last U.S. city to host a Summer Olympics was Atlanta in 1996 (though Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Games). Chicago was a finalist to host the 2016 Games that went to Rio de Janeiro and New York City was a finalist for the 2012 Games that were held in London.

Los Angeles is the only one of the four potential bid cities to have hosted the Summer Games, in 1932 and 1984.

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- Serena Williams’s eponymous charitable foundation will partner with Beyond the Boroughs, a Katonah, New York-based philanthropic organization founded in 2007 by former National Football League offensive lineman Tutan Reyes, to provide college scholarships of up to $5,000 a year.

- This weekend will complete another season of disappointment for New York football fans. The Giants and the Jets are both missing the playoffs for the third straight year, the first time since 1994-96 that both teams have been shut out of the postseason in three consecutive seasons.

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