CHICAGO, USA – In the neighborhood around Chicago’s storied Wrigley Field, there is an aura of anticipation rarely sparked by the Cubs, baseball’s long-time lovable losers who are trying to end a 107-year jinx.
The Cubs have not reached the World Series since 1945 and have not won Major League Baseball’s championship series since 1908 – the longest title drought in North American sports history.
But as the Cubs prepare to open the best-of-seven National League final Saturday against the New York Mets, there’s a growing electricity among those living in “Wrigleyville” – a throwback to an era when ballparks were built in neighborhoods rather than outlying areas surrounded by parking lots.
“If they win this next series and they go to the World Series, it’s going to get crazier and crazier as it goes along and we’re going to see the madness around here,” said 27-year-old local resident Jason Patt.
“I’ve always pictured in my mind what they would do if they won the World Series and I just can’t imagine it. It would be so great. And I’m only 27 – think of all these fans that have been waiting so long for this to happen.”
The last time the Cubs won the World Series, the American president was Teddy Roosevelt, the US flag only had 46 stars, the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight had happened just five years before, World War I was still six years away and many US residents had never ridden in a car or seen a movie.
“I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was a little kid,” said 56-year-old dentist Greg Duffner, who talked his family into getting pictures taken in front of Wrigley Field on their dinner trip for pizza. “Grandma used to watch the Cubs on the big box.”
“This is crazy and it’s all a bunch of kids too, a young team. They don’t have the weight of that history on them,” he said.
Curse of the Billy Goat
Over the years, the Cubs have been plagued – if you believe in this sort of thing – by the Curse of the Billy Goat.
In 1945, the owner of the “Billy Goat Tavern” tried to bring a live goat into Wrigley Field for the World Series and was ejected. He cursed the Cubs, vowing they would not make the World Series again until they allowed goats into the ballpark.
In the Chinese Zodiac, 2015 is the Year of the Goat. So was 1907, the year the Cubs first won the World Series.
But then again, so was 2003, when the Cubs had a near-miss that had many supporters thinking there might be something to the curse.
That year, the Cubs were within five outs of reaching the World Series when a fan, Steve Bartman, deflected a ball as a Cubs outfielder tried to jump into the stands and make the catch.
The Cubs surrendered eight runs in the inning, went on to lose the game and didn’t make the Series. Bartman went into hiding and made a public apology.
“I went through 2003 when all that stuff happened with Bartman. That was brutal,” Patt said. “I don’t like to believe in that stuff, but every time I watch these games I’m just expecting the worst, like with Bartman.
“I just get really nervous before every game. I get really anxious. Maybe it’s just my Cubs optimism now but I think they can do it. These guys just feel different.”
There is some karma on the Cubs’ side.
Cubs general manager Theo Epstein assembled the Boston Red Sox squad that brought an end to that club’s 86-year title drought in 2004, ending the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” on the Red Sox for trading baseball legend Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees.
And the Cubs have paid tribute all season to their own icon, Ernie Banks, known as “Mr Cub,” who died in January at age 83. Banks played for the Cubs from 1953 to 1971 and all Cubs have worn a patch with his retired jersey number, 14, on their uniforms this season.
In order to punch their ticket for the World Series, the Cubs need to beat the Mets – a team they went 7-0 against this season.
Back to the Future for Cubs
The city is banding together. Dunkin Donuts is making square treats with white icing and a blue W in the shape of the “win” flags that fly at Wrigley Field when the Cubs are triumphant.
There’s also a lot of fan attention on the 1989 film “Back to the Future II,” in which the “future” of 2015 is shown with the Cubs winning that year’s World Series.
In the original Back to the Future movie, Michael J Fox’s character travels to October 21, 2015. The Cubs open up their NL championship series on Sunday, October 18 (Manila time) against the Mets at Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y.
Of course, win or lose, fans will still love the team.
“This is fantastic,” Duffner said.
“It’s what everybody has been waiting for and dreaming about. You’ve got a lot of loyal fans even when they’re terrible. Everybody loves the Cubs around here just because they’re the Cubs.” – Rappler.com
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