In Chicago, Cubs baseball fans dare to dream as playoffs begin

Fri Oct 9, 2015 7:40pm EDT
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By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Every Chicago Cubs fan can recite the bitter moments over decades past when they dared to hope their eternally doomed team would make the playoffs or even win a World Series, only to see catastrophe strike.

This year Cubs followers are shedding hardened layers of pessimism as the team - which has not won a World Series in more than a century and has not played in one since 1945 - heads into the post-season against arch-rivals the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ahead of Game One of their best-of-five series against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday evening, even hardened skeptics were swept away by the electricity in the air and the blue-and-white "W" for "win" flags being flown everywhere from sports bars to City Hall.

"I am allowing my pessimism to go away. I was out today and saw everyone wearing their Cubs shirts and I was like 'wow,'" said lifelong fan Rich Brown, 49, who grew up watching the team from the Wrigley Field bleachers, where rowdy fans gather in an area without assigned seats.

Fans are getting goosebumps over the talented, young team coached by manager Joe Maddon and led by pitching ace Jake Arrieta.

No other American pro sports team in baseball, football, hockey or basketball has had such a prolonged championship drought and the Cubs are the dubious record-holders of both the longest World Series drought and the longest division pennant drought in Major League Baseball.

Fans are still nursing their disappointment from 2003 when the Cubs were six outs away from going to the World Series. The team was swept by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2008 post-season.

Ground zero for Cubs gloominess is at the Billy Goat Tavern on Chicago's north side. In 1945, so the legend goes, the then-owner of the tavern put a curse on the team when ushers did not let his pet goat into Wrigley Field.   Continued...

Oct 9, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; A general view of Busch Stadium before game one of the NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports