Breaking the Curse, Chicago Style

CHICAGO—They’re saying hell will freeze over if it happens, but Chicago is hoping it will. A Red Sox-Cubs World Series would mean death to the two most legendary curses in sports history. The Windy City doesn’t seem content with just one underdog; now that the Sox are battling it out with the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, Cubs fans have two teams to root for.

Cubs fans have been denied countless times, and nothing looked good last season when the team posted a 95-loss season. But this year, there is nothing wrong with being a Cubs fan. Storefronts throughout Chicago are crammed with Cubs gear, countless fans are wearing their blue hats. Bars are crammed for games and the newspapers are publishing more stories about a single game of baseball than they are about Iraq.

Like Boston, Chicago is a city devoted to its forlorn, cursed team. But unlike Boston, Cubs fans are far more gracious about expressing their support for other teams—especially the Red Sox. When I boarded the “L” from the airport, red signs with train information also all contained an extremely welcoming slogan, “Good Luck Cubs and Red Sox.” My Red Sox hat has been firmly planted on my head for the post-season, and so far, I haven’t been mugged.

In fact, on nearly every block I walk down in the center of the city, Cubs fans salute me. “Go Sox,” they say. I yell out, “Go Cubs.” People see my Sox hat and immediately start talking to me about their hope for the end of the world—the apocalypse series. Just as I visited a local bar to watch a Cubs game, Cubs fans were there Saturday, cheering on the Red Sox to the very end of the teeth-clenching 4-3 loss.

This past weekend, during the 40,000-strong Chicago Marathon, I joined in at mile 16 and ran behind two men: one dressed as Prior and the other dressed as Wood. In full gear, wearing baseball pants and carrying gloves, they finished the marathon slapping high fives along the way. Hundreds of other runners were wearing Cubs shirts, trading in their running jerseys to show team allegiance. And there was still plenty of support for Boston in the crowd. Spectators on the sidelines would shout “Go Red Sox” as I ran, and every now and then, someone passing me in Cubs gear would tap me on the back or shout, “We’ll see you in the Series.”

Boston has suffered a drought since 1918, and we Sox fans still curse ourselves for bringing the curse upon us: selling Babe might have been the greatest mistake ever for the city. But Chicago has been absent from the Series for a decade longer and ostensibly for a far more ridiculous reason. The Cubs’ drought has nothing to do with management decisions. Instead, they say it’s because a popular and powerful pub owner was not allowed to bring his goat in to Wrigley Field, even though the goat had a ticket. Furious, the man pronounced, “Never again shall a World Series game be played in Wrigley Field,” a curse which has prompted some Cubs fans to even talk about demolishing their historic ball park.

Cubs fans and Sox fans share a history of heartbreak. They also share the two greatest ball parks in America; despite being overrun with corporate influences, the parks are still small enough to provide a personal connection with the baseball on the field. We can only hope—Sox fans and Cubs fans—that the next two weeks deliver homers over the Green Monster at Fenway and the bushes at Wrigley. And we’re all for hell freezing over. After all, Chicago and Boston already have frigid winters.

—Nikki B. Usher was a senior editor in 2002